Help the session feel like home. Making a place and arrangements comfortable for everyone supports accomplishment of the group's work. Attend to the well-being of each person and the whole.
To offer our attention to the tasks that a session is convened to address, our basic needs for well-being need to be met first. This is most obvious on a physical level, details like comfortable seating (and at an event lasting more than one day, places to sleep nearby), nourishing food to eat, a setting quiet enough to hear each other without straining, natural light, and so on. On a deeper level, being well hosted also means fostering a sense of belonging, helping each person present feel cared for as an individual.
Examples of ways to do this include:
- taking the time to connect on a personal level before diving into business
- meeting in a location with easy access to the outdoors
- having snacks available
- taking an occasional break for a fun activity, or better yet integrating lively, fun activities into the work at hand
The essence of hosting is personal, not institutional. It means offering a generous spirit in response to the varied needs for hospitality that each participant brings. This often starts with asking people in advance about persnickety items like food allergies, and who snores too loud to have a roommate. Then if something unforeseen arises, we hope that a host can meet it with gracious accommodation and as little fuss as possible. A calm, low-stress attitude makes the difference between participants getting distracted with feeling annoyed (if their needs aren't met) or embarrassed (if their needs are met but it seemed like a big inconvenience to the person meeting them) vs. being able to peacefully settle into whatever they are supposed to be focusing on.
Hosting includes taking care of practical considerations, such as...
- Blank spaces: Make sure there is wall space or other space if you have objects that participants will be working with, or are doing graphic facilitation/recording. If there isn't enough space on the walls you can make up for it with several easels.
- Technology: Network connectivity (wifi), when you want it or need it, but not if it will be a distraction. If computers are called for, make sure there are sufficient power outlets / extension cords. Extra computers for those who won't have one? Will you want printers or projectors, and do you have any necessary cables and adapters?
The term Hosting is also sometimes used much more broadly (in the World Cafe and Art of Hosting, for example) to refer to a softer and more integrated way of facilitating. Another word often used in this context is Convening.
Cautions & Caveats
As with any of the more personal, high contact patterns, something to be careful about with hosting is to strive for cultural sensitivity. Depending on the country and subculture, a welcome may or may not include a hug, for example.
The World Cafe method, more than most others, places great emphasis on physical set-up and creating a cozy atmosphere; "Create a Hospitable Space" is one of its core principles. This is typically done by making the physical space attractive with artwork, plants, or table settings; putting out check tablecoths on all the small group tables; playing nice background music; and other means.
The Art of Hosting is more about facilitation than hospitality, but it does include the importance of relationship and human connection in establishing a container to work together.