Having just spent three days in Slovenia exploring the art of hosting, I thought I’d write a little about what hosting means to me.

Basically, every time you invite somebody to be a part of something, you’re assuming the role of host. Whether it’s a meeting, a conference, a project, a party, a lecture or a night out with the boys: Any time you gather people, you assume the role of host. So what makes the concept of hosting so interesting?

To me, the answer lies in freedom. I believe (as do many other schools of thought), that freedom is a basic condition of life. We are free to choose. This is explored in depth in the book Freedom and Accountability at work (which I’ll review very soon), and if you haven’t seen Matrix Reloaded yet, that film has a lot to say on that subject to.

Nobody can tell you what to do. Nobody can tell you what to think. Every time somebody gives you an order, you decide whether to do it or not. You make the choice.

However it is also true, that people utilize their freedom differently. Some people are very aware of their own freedom to choose, while others constantly make their choices based on other considerations eg. based on social norms, peer pressure, orders, habits, etc. One quote states that “Nobody is free to do someting they can’t think of.” Therefore, being free also means expanding your realm of what’s possible – what youre able to think of.

So the goal should be to fully realize your own freedom, but also to enable others to do the same. Which of course carries a built in paradox, because you can’t simply order people to “be free”. You can only invite them to participate, and the create circumstances which makes it easire for people to see and live their own essential freedom. This is the essence of hosting.

Good hosting is:
Carefully prepared
Preparation is essential, and here the key is to prepare “just enough”. Do as little as possible to make it work, but leave as much as possible to the participants themselves. Every time you do something for them, you potentially take some of the responsibility and fun from them.

A good host lets everybody contribute, especially to the point of sharing the duties of host with the participants. Which brings to mind the old Lao Tzu quote about good leaders. Good hosts create good hosts every where they go.

If the gathering has a purpose, then keep that focus in mind. Allow people to stray, but a totally unfocused gathering is rarely a satisfying experience.

You can’t control a gathering of people, and if you try, the results you get are not indicative of what the people really wanted, and in all probability the quality of the results will also suffer. The very best meetings flow in strange and unpredictable ways, according to the mood, energy level and will of the people present.

To me, many roles in daily contain the role of the host at their core, and I’d like to mention a few:
Leaders are hosts
If you accept, that people are free, and that nobody can give anybody orders, then any order becomes instead an invitation. “Do this” is then the same as “I invite you to do this, but you choose whether or not to do it”. And this means that the leader is now a host, whose invited somebody to work towards some goal.

Facilitators are hosts
This is so obvious it hardly needs stating, but a facilitator’s role is to shape a gathering towards some purpose. To me, that has hosting written all over it.

Teachers are hosts
You cannot order somebody to learn something. You can invite them to study, but they create their own learning. Therefore teaching and hosting are very close to each other.

The reason why it is important to realize that these roles contain hosting at their core, is that in order to be a good leader, facilitator or teacher, you need to be good host.

I believe hosting to be an essentil skill for any aspect of life. Many things happen, when people gather for a purpose, and every gathering requires hosts. I’ve been talking to my good friend Carsten, who shares many of these beliefs, and we’ll arrange a seminar in hosting at Arena soon. Stay tuned.

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