What we’ve learned from literally hundreds of events.
Here are some logistical recommendations for making your campus event both enjoyable and impactful.
1. Create plans with your host that feel good to you all. Even though your host clearly has a lot to say about what happens with the event, this is your event too—so make it something you both feel good about! Make it clear to your host what you would like to see most, along with any relevant insights we’ve learned from other speaking events (see below and the ‘ten tips’ doc). Some hosts will be veterans and others have very little experience and are still learning. Negotiate event details that will make this most likely to be enjoyable and positive for everyone, including you!
2. Establish some basic guidelines with your audience. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is the value of talking-about-the-talking—and having a “conversation about the conversation” before diving in. This means proposing and establishing some basic guidelines with your audience. If we had to pick just recommendation, we’d suggest going with the “No Team Clapping” rule—discouraging that thing where people cheer for comments that align with their own views.
3. Consider introducing each other at the beginning. This helps immediately create a more intimate feel and demonstrate the respect you have towards each other. Don’t do a dull bio rundown, though; help each other’s humanity shine through! This can help deflect hostility from the audience as well.
4. Remember this isn’t really about “debate.” It’s easy to fall into the idea that an exploration of serious disagreements means we’re modeling a debate. That’s obviously not necessarily the case – especially when each person is so open to learning, understanding and asking questions about someone else’s experience. That’s what doesn’t happen in debate, where people are out to “score” or “win.” Respect + Rebellion is about modeling what it’s like to deeply disagree with empathy and even affection for our ideological opposites. This vibrant disagreement is essential to a healthy democracy, and let’s be honest: none of us see enough of it these days!
5. Be prepared to teach your audience about “dialogue.” We’d encourage you to be ready to clarify confusions about dialogue by drawing on your own experience together, and share how this practice has felt and played out. In addition to basic curiosity, respect and decency, we’d encourage you to introduce the value of “sitting with your discomfort” to students at some point during the presentation too.