Do you ever find yourself day-dreaming of hosting your very own Self-Care Social Hour event? Maybe you close your eyes and hear a gentle yet hard-driving 80s rock ballad. You picture yourself high-fiving your friends over the triumph of good health as you have super-deep and incredibly fun conversations. Well, you’re in luck because today I’m going to share some of the basics of how to host (and you can include high-fives and any kind of music you enjoy).
There are 5 key components to creating and hosting a social hour. Here’s a cheat-sheet graphic for you to check out when you’re planning and hosting:
Key components of pulling off a successful social hour:
#1 The People:
The How: Invite people who don’t suck. I’m kidding of course, but not really. It’s more nuanced than just that bit of advice. Sucking is a subjective term. There are all kinds of people who can participate in the social hour. Bottom line: involve people who can listen to another person and who are open to the topic in some way.
When thinking of who to invite: do you want friends or people who aren’t that familiar with each other? I’ve had more meet-ups with a mixed crowd of people knowing each other and it’s been really rewarding/engaging. I’ve learned a lot. But there is something nice to have with the comfort of friends.
If you have a mixed group or a group that’s just starting it can be helpful to have a designated “leader(s)” who helps set up the event, activities, and keeps the conversation moving. This “leader” should help people feel comfortable by having a welcoming attitude and keeping attuned to people’s comfort and interest levels in order to more effectively frame the conversation.
The Why: The people are what make this thing work. The attitude and openness of those involved can make or break it. That’s not to say everyone has to be super interested in self-care (or even really know what it’s about). In fact, I love having people involved who are open to the idea of talking, but maybe not 100% sold on it all. I love skeptics and smart-asses. It makes things interesting and real. Skepticism and humor doesn’t mean that people have to be rude.The most meaningful conversations I’ve had (with friends and otherwise) were with people unsure or struggling.
The facilitators/leaders of the conversations have an important role in setting a tone (welcoming, fun, honest, empathetic, etc.). They also are crucial when it comes to picking up on group dynamics and responding by shifting when things get tired, weird, or one-sided. Humor can be a wonderful tool to guide conversations in a fun way.
#2. The Environment/Space:
The How: People want to feel comfortable and they want to feel inspired. The feeling of a space can really affect how people feel. Don’t believe me, check out this bit of research.
Quick tips: Find a spot that makes you want to hang out and talk. Think of how the lighting, sound, privacy, and available amenities will impact the participants. What’s the seating like?
The why: In my former life I worked in the arts/arts education field and it opened up a new world for me. It taught me the magic and importance of the experience of things. The whole sensory event unfolding around you. From the sights to sounds, textures, smells, tastes, and emotional undercurrents. There was the people watching and how the art was introduced to me and how I felt when I left the venue. These things matter. They are not extra. It all comes together to make the entire experience something to remember.
#3: The Activities:
The Why: You can have amazing people come together in a beautiful space, but it still doesn’t equal the perfect recipe for meaningful conversation. Yes, those things help when it comes to real talk, but even people who can naturally pull of good conversations can find themselves coming to the meet-up stressed, “off”, or just not in the mood to talk deeply. Other times, the event itself can at first feel forced, weird, or just plain awkward.
Using pre-planned activities takes the pressure off and can help people feel at ease as they begin. It also helps navigate the conversation towards more intentional topics.
The How: Here are some quick tips to make it work:
- Be prepared with supplies. Some general ideas include: pens, paper, snacks, and tactile items for people to pick up and use. Fidget items can be helpful for focus or to relax.
- Utilize different types of activities to increase overall interest and to meet different tastes and preferences. Some people may like something more visual like videos or photos and others may like traditional games like: cards, dice, or a spinner game-board. Some may even enjoy activities that get them up and moving like: “darts” or improvisational games. Utilizing humor and playfulness can increase engagement.
- Follow the leader. Designate someone to be a leader of an activity. Stress the optional levels of sharing, but don’t be afraid to direct questions to people who are quieter. They may have great things to share but need a little help jumping in.
#4: The Flexibility:
The Why: Flexibility is the willingness to change or compromise. This is an important factor in the social hour because it works best when it’s real and organically unfolding.
The group as a whole benefits if there is some flexibility with activities and topics of conversation. Facilitators/leaders of the social hour can definitely encourage such flexibility by modeling it themselves.
The How: Here are a few quick tips to put flexibility into action:
- Pay attention to each other. Be aware of how people are responding to topics and activities. Gracefully guide the talkers towards more listening and to the listeners to talk more.
- Plan quality activities but let the activity go if it isn’t working. By paying attention to others you will have a good sense of whether or not something isn’t working. You can always ask people what they think of it … sometimes people may enjoy what’s going on, but are still trying to figure it out and it won’t flow as naturally as it will later on.
- Have back up activities. Bringing a simple activity or topic can be helpful to jump to if the initial activity flops.
- Keep it going if it’s flowing. If you have more than one activity planned and the first one is really getting people talking than keep going until it feels like it reaches it natural conclusion or the time runs out. You can always keep that extra activity for later.
#5: The Support:
The Why: My favorite groups are the ones where not everyone knows each other well. I love having people come together who are different from each other. There have been so many people who have told me that one of their favorite parts of the social hour is learning from each other – both strangers and old friends. This happens only if there’s a sense of people supporting each other. So, what does it mean to support someone in the process?
The How: To be supportive means to encourage and to have empathy. This doesn’t mean that it’s a hollow cheer-leading session. Differences can and should exist since self-care is very personal and changes from one person to the next. Spaces of disagreement can exist, but need to start out from a place of “positive intent” – assume someone is coming from a place of positive intention (instead of thinking they’re just being a jerk). You don’t have to agree, but you will be more likely to listen differently and communicate more calmly and with curiosity.