We're so glad you want to host a conversation!
What will your conversation look like?
You have a topic, now it’s time to get a group together! This is your chance to invite people with a wide range of thought and experience into your conversation – give it some mindful consideration.
The people you invite into your conversation each bring their own unique understanding and experience to the topic you’ve chosen. As a host, you are asking others to share that uniqueness with people they may not know. Keep that in mind as you think of who to reach out to and how to do it.
Why did this person come to mind for you? Explain how this person’s uniqueness could enhance your conversation. For example, “I would like to understand [topic] better and I think your experience as [a law enforcement officer, social worker, immigrant, etc] is important to hear.”
Clear is Kind
Make sure the people you invite know what they can expect. This is not an average conversation. You are not getting people together to debate or convince others. Living Room Conversations designs guides to help you be curious about others and explore topics together. Stating this in your invitation is always a good idea and will get those you invite into the right frame of mind before you gather. You may also consider sharing the Conversation Agreements or a few questions from the topic guide you have chosen.
Network if you have to
If you don’t know the right people, maybe your friends do! Consider asking people in your circle who you should be talking to and ask for an introduction. Make sure those you are asking for referrals understand the nature and intent of the conversation as well.
Adjust to fit your personality and tone
Hello there! I am trying to organize a Living Room Conversation to talk about [topic and why it might appeal to this person]. It would be so valuable to have you there!
Living Room Conversations use conversation guides with a structured format to help people with different viewpoints and experiences build understanding. There will be 4-6 other people in our group. It is not a debate and the goal is not to change one another’s opinion. There are Conversation Agreements like “Listen and Be Curious” and “Show Respect and Suspend Judgement” that create the framework for diving into the questions. The questions are designed to draw out our personal experiences rather than opinions around the topic. The overall purpose is to learn more about the experiences others have around [topic] and build a sense of community.
Your perspective would be a great addition to the conversation. I’d be happy to talk through any other details and I hope you can join us.
- Keep the Conversation Agreements in mind. If you know people who are “experts” on a topic, will they also be willing to honor agreements like suspending judgment and sharing speaking time? Look at our page on Unpacking The Conversation Agreements.
- Be intentional about inviting voices different than your own. Living Room Conversations welcomes diversity and we realize that term holds different meaning for different individuals and groups. We use it to indicate a spectrum of differences of thought and experience i.e. political, ideological, socio-economic, gender, racial, ethnic, and intergenerational differences. Our guide questions are designed to draw out diversity of experience inherent in the differences listed. As you organize your own conversation, be mindful of what kind of diversity you would like to invite.
- Group size affects time. 4-6 people is the ideal number. If you choose to have a larger or smaller group than that, you need to consider how that affects the length of the conversation. A good estimate for how long your conversation will take can be calculated by planning for 15-20 minutes of total speaking time per person (i.e. a 6 person conversation will likely take 90-120 minutes). This estimate includes time for introductions, conversation agreements, and the question rounds.
- Give yourself options. Having backup options can be helpful if some of your original guests are unable to attend.
- Give yourself and your invitees time. Make sure you extend invitations with enough notice (we recommend two weeks) and plan on contacting everyone more than once, especially as your conversation draws near.
- Decide how you want to coordinate everyone’s schedules. As host you can make scheduling collaborative by using an online tool like Doodle or When2Meet, or you can give everyone two options that work for you and ask which works best for most people.