I thought it was impossible. Here are my hard-learned adaptations.
In this article, you will learn principles for bringing people together regardless of the context. Near the end, you will learn some hacks for COVID human connection.
My name is Jacques. Before the pandemic, I travelled the world with a giant speaker. I started singalongs, group hugs, dance parties, and huddles among strangers. Sometimes on planes.
In the last three years, I discovered my life purpose: to advance public health by normalizing new forms of socialization, particularly ecstatic celebration.
I feel an electricity through my veins when I bring people together. If you want to feel this too, read on. I will show you how.
On the news, they called me a self-proclaimed party expert. Although I go by The Party Scientist internationally, the principles of bringing people together through parties apply to most gatherings.
The importance of greeting. Having an opening ceremony. Priming your guests. Role-modeling vulnerability. Introducing people to one another. Creating space for people to be seen. To name a few.
“We, as young people, need to learn how to socialize differently” This is my favourite quote from the segment. It explains why I am stoked to write this article. How we currently socialize is way too unstructured. We bring people together passively and expect magic to happen. Typically it doesn’t.
It doesn’t happen because hosts are too chill. Priya Parker talks about this in her book. Chill hosts don’t want to intrude. They are afraid of bothering people. So what do they do? They let the gathering evolve organically. They wait for magic to happen instead of making it happen.
And then they call themselves spiritual: “I don’t apply force, I surrender to the flow of my gathering.” Really, their kicking themselves in the shin. If the thousands of rituals I’ve facilitated for others has taught me anything, it’s that epic experiences require active curation.
I am going to show you how to make magic happen. Not to wait for it. But how to actively curate magic in your gatherings. If you would prefer to be a passive host, then stop right here. These principles are not going to work for you.
Ready to learn how to be a VYVACIOUS host, as I like to call it?
Vyvacious (adj):// active in unleashing energy and vulnerability in the human interactions at a gathering.
Principles of Bringing People Together
How do chill hosts and vyvacious hosts differ? For all these principles, I will contrast the two styles of bringing people together.
Chill hosts say a minimal hello or do not notice when someone arrives.
Vyvacious hosts get everyone in the room to welcome them with applause. They introduce the newcomer to others. They embrace the newcomer!
Recommendation: Welcome people enthusiastically when they arrive. Make them feel seen and loved.
Chill hosts name a time and place for people to show up.
Vyvacious hosts describe the purpose of the gathering, encourage their attendees to set an intention, outline what they need to bring, and build anticipation for the gathering.
Here is an example of a script I wrote for one of my gatherings.
ATTN: Covid 1 Year Anniversary Troops!!
This is one of your Chief Commanders here. You have been selected for this secret mission of spreading joy through the streets of Vancouver on this monumental day that entered us into unprecedented times.
Your mission is to elevate the mental health of all of those we encounter. Below is some vital information to make this mission a success:
Recommendation: Prepare and build excitement for your gathering. Spend some time creating a video or letter for your guests to watch before they show up.
ROLE MODEL VULNERABILITY
Chill hosts are straight-faced and formal.
Throughout priming, greeting, and the opening ritual, vyvacious hosts laugh at themselves and express themselves. No formality here! They are vibrant and alive. They may stutter, they may dance, they may joke. They are their goofy authentic selves.
Recommendation: Exaggerate your emotional expression. Vulnerability begins with full emotional expression.
FOCUS THEIR ATTENTION
Chill hosts never bring the group together. There is never focused attention on a shared activity or person. This means there are no rituals, because rituals require shared attention and intention.
Vyvacious hosts focus the attention of the group on a single person or activity. This is what I am doing when I get everyone to line up and participate in a crowdsurf train. Everyone is working together to create an epic experience for the crowdsurfer.
Out of all the rituals, the most important ritual is…. Bazinga! The opening ceremony.
Recommendation: Design rituals for your gathering. Do a toast. Make a speech. Tell a story. Bring the group together through shared attention.
Chill hosts don’t start a gathering. The gathering just fumbles its way forward. There’s no start gun. There’s no official welcome. It’s just BLEH.
Vyvacious hosts begin their events by activating prosociality. This is twofold. They first ground their participants. Then, they get people connecting.
There’s a diversity of methods to accomplish these objectives. Meditation, silence, and eye-gazing are a few for the first. Dancing, singing, and think-pair-sharing are a few for the second.
The bottom line is that the opening ceremony has the objective of activating prosociality (for social events) and of reminding people of the purpose of the gathering. We want people to be peaceful and joyful. This neurophysiological state enables relationships to form.
Before all my U-HAUL Missions, I give a speech at the beginning. Then I invite everyone else to share with the group what they’d like to give to strangers.
Recommendation: Form a circle at the beginning, say a few words, and then do something together as a group that puts people into a state of peace and joy.
Let’s now discuss COVID. Here are some COVID modifications for real-life gatherings, because… let’s be real, that’s what we crave.
Choose an iconic, majestic location.
For the Hike Rave, we chose the lookout above Vancouver.
Incorporate an activity that everyone can do.
Don’t make conversation the activity. People will get bored, and they won’t physical distance. Some examples of activity I have incorporate: biking, hiking, dancing, games.
Remind people about consent.
There are different levels of COVID comfort. Some people hug. Some people wear masks. Others kiss. Whenever my participants arrive, I remind people to be conscious of others safety levels. As an event organizer, I have researched the risk levels, and it’s still very low without distancing.
Host an experience, not a hangout.
Talking creates aerosols. Especially when people face one another and talk toward one another for long periods of time, the risk of transmission goes up. By designing an experience involving exploration, physical activity, and novelty, the risk goes down. Movement reduces transmission. Conversation increases it.
Are you still a chill host? Or have you become a VYVACIOUS host? I hope I have given you the tools to step into your power and start leading your participants to unity and exhilaration.
Most social gatherings are unstructured. Drizzling a little structure onto them through your leadership can amplify the benefits that your participants reap.
It may be edgy, but may we continue bringing people together in this bizarre time!
— The Party Scientist
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