Increasingly, research is moving towards more interdisciplinary endeavours. Effective collaboration between people from different disciplines is necessary to maximise the potential benefits of interdisciplinarity for future research activity. This paper analyses an approach to fostering the skills required for successful cross-disciplinary collaboration from the perspective of an interdisciplinary group of early-career researchers. Our reflection on how specially-designed encounters can help to shape future interdisciplinary research initiatives draws on the discussion of a four-day workshop, a post-event survey, and a review of other experiences. We conclude that interdisciplinary encounters are an effective means to support the development of future interdisciplinary researchers, with a major advantage of this approach being the opportunity for open communication. Depending on the organiser's aim, we distinguish between “cultivation” and “development” encounters. Among the multiple factors that produce successful interdisciplinary encounters, we found that selection of a theme, participants and location need to be tailored to the encounter's particular objectives. We recommend that funding bodies and other members of the research community should take note of the effectiveness of encounters to foster interdisciplinarity and generate space to develop more innovative and high-impact research that delivers solutions to the challenges facing humanity in the future.