It was exactly one month ago I attended the Art of Hosting conference.
The next three blog posts are about my “harvests” – a term used to describe your takeaways. It’s more than just that though. Think of all the work a farmer puts into the field before he can harvest the food – The Art of Harvesting is a way to bring the Art of Hosting into its fruition.
With a lot of conferences, the vibe and feelings from the conference last only so long… but this one (as you can tell by the number of posts dedicated to it) is still fresh.
For most people, the Art of Hosting conference is a deep, almost soul-searching experience. All of us who went to Karlskrona entered into a creative space with amazing intelligent young leaders from all over Europe, authentic mentors, and a feeling of openness that you just can’t find in most places. And most of us left with in high spirits, a feeling of renewed passion, deep connections, and a clearer vision for a way forward.
I wasn’t quite the same.
I’m going to break this “harvest” down into 3 posts as it would make for an extremely loooong post. #2 & #3 will focus more on the statement above.
As I mentioned earlier, I attended the conference so that I could better understand the tools needed to properly “host”. Making people feel comfortable in opening up and discussing topics that are important to them is no easy feat – I’ve tried. From how you organize the tables, to what voice you use, to the way you give the instructions and the timing of it all…. it truly is an art.
My harvest on the “Art”
This was my harvest at the end of the conference which we presented to the whole group:
I want you to look into this space in front of you. Look into it, look up, look around, on the walls. This is our learning space. It was co-created for us, and by us. You came here, likely, because you want to create this space for others.
We walk away with many tools (world café, open space technology, etc.) But these “tools” can be damaged if used in the wrong way. There’s a reason it’s called “the art of hosting”
- ART OF PLACE…
- The conference was held in a large round room with plenty of windows overlooking the water in Karlskrona (tip of Sweden). Lots of sunshine, space for decorating with papers, and the fact that we could easily do a giant circle played a big factor in making this space work for us.
- ART OF ORGANIZING…
- ART OF CREATIVITY…
- We had lots of paper (coloured, giant rolls, scrap), huge markers, charcoal, tape – everything we needed so that when we had a thought, idea, we could display it.
- Music, instruments, all added to the creative environment
- ART OF TIMING…
- We had a gentle bell that rang and a xylophone when time was up. (I once used a whistle to do this. Big mistake. That pisses people off 😉
- The hosts would also allow for silence. If we just discussed something heavy, Toke (a founder of AoH) would say “Let’s just take a minute of silence here” to allow us to distil the flow of info
- In reverse, we’d also be given “1 minute to present your idea”
- Slow down to go fast…
- ART OF GENTLENESS…
- The calm voices of the hosts, the bells/xylophones, the flexibility in the agenda – all allowed us to just breathe – and not feel the anxiety of go go go (although, I’ll touch on this in the next post.)
- ART OF LISTENING…
- Suspending judgment, listening with an open heart … there were times when I’d forget that I was lost in my thoughts – the art of listening keeps you present
- ART OF SENSING THE ROOM…
- What are the people feeling? If there’s a negative vibe going on in the room, call it.
- Ex. Sometimes people can feel awkward doing this stuff. It can be too “hippy”, or “not for real business”. If that’s the case, the host should just say “ I know you may be feeling like XYZ, and that this won’t work etc. I get it. I know how you feel… but, this has worked with companies, European Commission (and state your ground).
- ART OF AUTHENTICITY…
- Most importantly, you can’t “host” if you’re not fully present. “Be” there 100%.
- Understand yourself. How can you engage people in having meaningful conversations if you’re not meaningful to yourself?
- There’s no room for fakeness.
Part 2: My harvests on my own leadership