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Global Flipchart


December 2016
| Issue #6

Stimulating conversation: How to get people talking

By Jeffer London

We all strive for meaningful conversations with people around us, but there are also the lack-lustre, talk-about-the-weather moments. As facilitators, we have the ability to transform moments from the mundane to the magical. How do we do it?

We gathered forty facilitators at the #IAFEMINA16 conference to share their practices in an investigation into how to get people talking. Here are some of their ideas:

Get in the Zone

Before you are immersed in the energy of a group, it helps to get in touch with your own self. Get to the venue early, make sure the practical arrangements are in place, and then get yourself ready. Three ways to do this:

  • Relaxation. Take deep, slow breaths while reminding yourself of pleasant things. Stretch. Drink herbal tea, talk a walk or do some yoga.
  • Intention. Writing or verbalizing the wishes, desires and intentions of what is about to happen gets you on track. Write or say out loud what is about to happen - if there are two of you, say them to each other.
  • Visualisation. Close your eyes, imagine the place where the conversation will happen, imagine your mentors are there, imagine the people arriving and all the positive things that will happen. See yourself introducing the subject, and the people’s positive reaction. Envisage the type of energy you want to have present and the way you will embody it.

Set the Tone

It is up to us to create the atmosphere that is conducive to conversation. When you embody the event, people sense your intention and begin to envisage how it will come to fruition. Now that you are in the zone, how can you bring them in there too?

  • Invitation. Make the place as inviting as possible. Think feng shui. Energy goes where the eye does, so it’s worth making the place attractive. Open, clean, cared for. Whether you are welcoming people to your home or meeting in a public space, the physical environment influences the quality of our conversations.: When your guests arrive, will there be music, flowers or candles? Can you set up the chairs to make it cozier? You are creating the vessel to hold precious moments, so make it worthy of what you want to happen there.
  • Introduction. Your opening words set the tone. Remind everyone of the context and the intention: help them leave their everyday concerns behind. Let them know what will happen, but also why and how. If you have to convey ground rules, do this in a light manner.
  • Interaction. Keep your opening words to a few minutes, then use some form of icebreaker - short exchanges or activities. The bigger the group, the more you will need a mechanism to let people connect.

The insights from this and other Dialogue Experiments facilitated by Jeffer London are now being poured into a book called STIMULATING CONVERSATION, enriched with gems from IAF members.

Contact Jeffer London if you would like to host a dialogue experiment or be part of the #stimulatingconversation project.