A Host's Wisdom: Including an Audience and Audience Participation

A Host's Wisdom: Including an Audience and Audience Participation
Drawing by fellow Interintellect Julia Racsko

By Scott Davies

Interintellect Salons have rightly gained their reputation as one of the most open and accessible places to have intellectually stimulating conversations on the Internet, and much of this is because of the remarkable work put in by each and every host to make the Salons this way. Ensuring everyone feels valued and comfortable to speak is a core principle we as I.I hosts strive to uphold. 

One of the trickiest aspects of being a Host for the Interintellect is ensuring each person is able to feel comfortable contributing to the discussion and has the confidence to do so. For a smaller Salon of 6 to 8 people, this is relatively straightforward. In these events, over the course of three hours, people generally feel confident enough at some point to speak up. However, when 15, 20, even 30 people show up to an event, the dynamics around this quickly change. In these scenarios, it can often be the case where the more extroverted people in the room speak more than others. This can at times lead to a handful of people dominating a conversation inadvertently. Preventing the conversation from drifting into this dynamic, while tricky, is an essential part of being an Interintellect Host. 

One of the best ways to help facilitate an environment where all participants speak is to keep an eye of the body language of all the participants, not just those talking. This is of course easier said than done, especially in the flow of a complex conversation. However, paying attention to subtle cues that people may have a thought that just arose, such as a subtle raising of hands, or a noticeable, sudden change in facial expression is a great way of taking the first step to potentially including otherwise overlooked participants into the conversation. 

Keeping an eye on the chat is another important aspect of this. Sometimes, people may not feel comfortable speaking up right away but may post a response to the overall conversation in the chat as a way to take a first step into the conversation. I have witnessed this happen first-hand in a Salon I hosted some time ago. At first, there were a couple attendees who, while engaged, seemed a bit reserved in terms of speaking up. But by doing the things I mentioned above, toward the end of the Salon they came to life, suddenly giving spirited and lengthy responses to questions I raised. Their responses were also among the most insightful things said in a Salon full of insightful comments and anecdotes. Being able to do this rates among the best moments in my entire time as an Interintellect member, both as a host and attendee. 

Doing these things in a subtle way so as not to make anyone feel embarrassed or put on the spot is also important. These are difficult skills to master, and even after hosting 4 Salons and co-hosting other events within the Interintellect, I am still working to improve in this area. The work I have put into this, however, has repaid itself many times over in terms of improving the inclusiveness of the events which I have hosted.