Talkaoke Hosting- The Basics

Part of the Take Control of the Hole series to help you become a Talkaoke Host

The agenda is that there is no agenda

One of the key elements to Talkaoke is that there is “no agenda”. With a subtly shifting subject, there is no requirement to defend an entrenched position. Participants more easily make new and different connections. This doesn’t mean that your Talkaoke event cannot have a theme or context. It always will. Don’t limit the discussion to what you think is important. Follow the law of attraction and go where the participants want to go, and you will discover how your ideas look to them.

It’s essential to be tangential

This is one of our maxims at The People Speak. What it means is that the most obvious and direct question is rarely the most constructive. Each statement made is full of assumptions that a speaker expects everyone to agree with. What’s the most irevealing assumption that a person has just made?

Smaller the question, bigger the answer

Remember the child’s game where they ask “why” to every answer. Get into the frame of mind where you know very little and are really keen to learn. Try to think of questions (not just “why”) that will open up the discussion rather than close it down. Many questions tacitly assume exactly what the answer will be. Try to avoid these.

Look around

Hearing about 17th Century Jersey politics

Try to continually look at everybody around the table, not just the speaker

This is the one single most important piece of advice for Talkaoke. Talkaoke has a 360 degree architecture. Make sure you keep looking around to see how people are reacting to what the person on the mic is saying. Do they look bored, interested, annoyed, excited? Your job is to maximise engagement. The reason why people don’t naturally have conversations with more than five people at once, is that they don’t get enough feedback from every participant. It is your job in the middle to amplify that feedback.

Look intently at the person speaking when they begin speaking, but then look around too. That’s a lot of looking but it is so important to keep everybody on the table engaged. Looking at participants in the eyes will keep them hooked, and reassure them that you are not ignoring them. A quick glance is normally enough to prevent side conversations forming around the table. Looking at participants around the table will encourage them to sit down and/or take part. This requires practice because it’s not what you normally do in a conversation.

Occasionally you will overdo the looking away and a sensitive speaker may feel offended by the fact you are not looking at them enough. If this happens you must reassure them that you are doing it because you want more people to hear what they have to say.

When you are summing up the conversation (see Getting the flow going) it is also important to look at everybody around the table. The flickering or blankness of people’s faces will tell you what aspect of the conversation is stimulating them.

One of the important reasons to keep looking around is that it tells you who is interested. Look at people when they’re listening to other people. It’s amazing how honest their expressions are! Bored people look really really bored, even if they’re too polite to say so. Take advantage of this. If someone is talking and everyone looks bored, get the mic moving again.

I have no opinion

The Talkaoke host aspires to be as neutral as possible, providing none of their own opinions, facts or information. It is natural and good to have opinions and a few juicy facts to throw into the discussion. Think about how to turn these thoughts into the kind of open question that might elicit that very same response from someone else. Ask the participants. You will get your fact or opinion back, but with the advantage of a participant proudly owning it instead of you; or you might get something better.

Got your head around that? Move on to the next page “Getting the flow going!”

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