Art of Hosting Snap

I know I’m a bit late but I just have to refer back to weekend two weeks ago, when I had my first Art of Hosting (AoH) experience. The atmosphere, the people, the surroundings, the thoughts…just amazing! Information flow was huge, and it’s impossible to say I caught everything. However, the experience was great.

So, what actually happened?

Around forty people gathered together for three days to learn hosting methods, to share experiences and just to hang out. We went through World Cafe, Open Space and Pro Action Café methods. Moreover, we got information about check-in and check-out practices and visual facilitation/harvesting. During two hours knowledge expedition there were also many sneak peeks into different areas, such as red-green-blue thinking, handling chaos-and-order, how to use circles and powerful questions etc. I couldn’t participate in all the interesting sessions because there wasn’t enough time during those hours, but oh well…next time then. Both evenings had a nice dinner and a sauna opportunity. The other night included also some evening program generated by participants. So, no doubt there was a possibility to get bored. Overall the set was that there were no static hosts that will host all the things. Participants had an opportunity to host different things (methods, check-ins, check-outs etc.), whatever they wanted to.

Art of Hosting Evening

Even though there was a possibility to host the methods we used, I wanted to be a participant this time because I haven’t done that before. At first, during the World Café (which was the first method), I was a little disappointed to my choice to be only participant. However, when (during the Open Space and Pro Action Café methods) I took an attitude that I want to be really active and take everything out from the “participant side”, I was pretty happy with my choice. I saw how the methods were carried out and as a participant, during Open Space and Pro Action Cafe, I had a chance to present questions that were bothered me. During the discussions around my questions I got many new viewpoints about things. Now I can say that those discussions really help my thinking forward.

Art of Hosting Pro Action Cafe

I experienced many great things but one of the most memorable moments was to figure out a term “inner smile”, during Pro Action Café . Everything started form the question “how to make a journey from divergence to convergence more playful”. I wanted to know how we can enhance fun atmosphere during meetings. However, quite fast I have to explain why I wanted to get more humor in game. It wasn’t an easy task to explain that. Eventually I ended up by saying that I thought it would make more relaxed atmosphere and everybody would feel working much more enjoyable. But then there was a thought (or a question) that what is really the way to get people feel more relaxed. Smiling is important, but how it should be generated. Should it be created with a simple joke that is meant to be fun or should it be something totally different? So eventually, the question was: what is behind the smile?

Art Of Hosting, inner smile

After presenting that question (in Pro Action Café’s second phase) there was a lot of talk around the whole process life cycle of a hosting event, from pre-arrangements to harvesting phase. We tried to find out that what is the most critical step generating the smile and good atmosphere during (and after) the event. There wasn’t a clear answer because so many factors (invitation, hosts, the nature of participants, different skill levels of participants -> different needs, surroundings etc.) affect to it. Suddenly when talking about engagement and good feelings the term “inner smile” popped up. People don’t always show smiley-face even though they have a good and relaxed feeling inside. We are different, and we express our feelings differently. Not everyone is showing their emotions outward (I think I’m one good example of that kind of emotionless person, at least sometimes). But everyone feel good feelings inside, if there is a real reason for that. And that good feeling, that inner smile, is something to reach for when having hosting situations.

Too bad the time ran out, and we couldn’t really get into how we can enhance the appearance of inner smile. I’m quite sure that there could be a lot of potential to build even a whole theory or business model around that term and things related to that.

Some thoughts and questions that were left floating around were:

  • The beginning and pre-arrangements are important, aren’t them? -> Strong engagement from the beginning.
  • We have to offer a flow experience to all people, regardless of the individual skill level.
  • Are there really need for some new techniques, because methods (such as Open Space and World Cafe) work well and generate the inner smile naturally?
  • Do we need to try to be funny and create humorous actions? -> should we do something really crazy? Does that help, or does it just make things worst?
  • Is the aim to get the participants to create the inner smile by themselves? -> How to make that happen while people have preconceptions and don’t trust to the process?
  • Are there any particular (concrete) actions we can do to enhance the relaxed atmosphere and the inner smile without losing participants trust to the process, but boosting it?

That was a long story about my own question, but there were a lot of other interesting topics as well. And I’m sure that in our Art of Hosting gang we had the inner smile at the end of the workshop. The energy and the engagement of all the people were awesome!

Picture below represents our three day journey (doodled by Kuvitellen)

Art of Hosting Harvesting

Personally I haven’t so much expectation for the AoH because I didn’t know what is coming. Of course I hoped I would get value for the money, because for a student these events are always quite expensive. During the event it was difficult to notice all of the benefits and gains, but now when I have done recalling and harvesting by myself, I think I got a lot from AoH. I want to thank everyone for interesting discussions during the days. I would definitely recommend the event for everyone interested in hosting, learning and hosting of learning.

There was a list of things you should have packed with you for the AoH days…yeah, woollen stockings, a towel, notepads and other things are nice, but I would say, that if you leave out preconceptions and pack in courage and curiosity, you are more than ready to go!

And yeah, here is another great harvesting post from the event.

And if you have something to add to those thoughts about the inner smile, please share them.