5 Ways to Make Meaningful Connections During Chicago Ideas Week

At Chicago Ideas, we’re all about making meaningful connections. It’s why we start every one of our programs with a question to jump-start conversation with someone in the audience that we’ve never met before. 

In the spirit of one of our favorite traditions, we’re giving you some tips on how to make the most out of the potential that Chicago Ideas Week holds for meeting someone new and forging unforeseen bonds with other members of this community of curiosity. Our ninth annual festival is bigger than ever, which means more opportunities to meet someone you haven’t met before and turn that into a collaboration that can change your life (and maybe even the city). 

Here are five ways to make meaningful connections during Chicago Ideas Week.

Talk to someone you don’t know.

Yes, it can be a little nerve-wracking to strike up conversation with someone you don’t know at all. And, yes, it’s easy to sit in the audience waiting for the big show to start.

But the best part about Chicago Ideas Week is that it brings people together from every corner of the city to think about prescient topics and learn about the big ideas that are shaping the world. Don’t be overwhelmed by what or who you don’t know (that’s why you’re here in the first place—curiosity about the unknown). Everyone at each program is there for a reason. You have that in common. That’s enough to at least say, “Hi!”

Ask about the program.

Conversations start with curiosity, and curiosity is piqued by good, simple questions. You and you’re new (potential) best friend chose this program for a reason. Find out why! “What made you interested in this program?” “Do you know anything about the topic?” “What are you hoping to learn from the speakers today?”

Start with the basics and let it go from there. Be open to learning something new—you never know what you’ll discover along the way.

Share what you know (and what you don’t).

We hear countless stories about people who met their next boss or found their true calling at Chicago Ideas programs. It always starts with someone sharing a little bit about who they are and why they’re here.

Be open to sharing your knowledge (or your lack of it). This is a community of curiosity, and that means people want to leave knowing something they didn’t when they showed up. Trust that your story is interesting and important—because it is. You never know who you might end up setting on a path to self-discovery. If you don’t know much about what your new friend is sharing, feed your curiosity. The world is bigger than we can see sometimes.

Keep the conversation going.

Don’t let your introductions stop when the curtain goes up and the speakers take the stage. Chicago Ideas is all about turning big ideas into powerful action. Get contact information or social handles or a LinkedIn profile.

Follow up after the show to keep your conversation going. Use the action items from the post-event emails to find ways to turn your inspiration into change in your community. If we are going to truly make Chicago into a more joyous place for everyone, it’s going to take a village.

Share your experience on social media.

Take the conversations you’re having IRL and share them with the world. Make it so that people who were not able to be in the room can be inspired by your inspiration.

Hear a quote that changed your perspective? Tweet it to impact someone else. Meet someone new who opened your eyes to something you didn’t know? Take a selfie together so you never forget that moment. Anything you post from Chicago Ideas Week, tag us @chicagoideas / #chicagoideas—we care about your connections and want to share them with the community at large.


As the saying goes, change is made by those who show up. Chicago Ideas Week is an opportunity like no other to meet new people and forge powerful bonds that have the potential to remake the city. You’ve already showed up. The hard part’s over. Follow these four tips and you just might end up making the change you want to see in the world.

At the very least, you could make a new friend.

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