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Host a Pop-Up Conversation

A short guide for organizing quick pop-up conversations with students.

Remember old-fashioned, in-person conversations? Let’s have one of those.

Having and hosting conversations with people of diverse religious or nonreligious backgrounds is essential to interfaith organizing. If interfaith cooperation is all about building relationships rooted in valuing others’ traditions and philosophies, then it’s going to be a real doozy to find those values if we don’t talk about them.

This might sound daunting. Worry not, friend. This doesn’t have to be awkward as long as we create spaces where people can chat with ease. Lucky for you, that’s precisely the purpose for which this resource exists! Read more to discover fun ways to get folks to comfortably discuss their values.

Events that Help People Comfortably Discuss their Values
Because not every event has to be a dialogue or panel discussion!

  • Ever hear of a conversation couch? Have people take a breather between classes and—you guessed it—have a conversation on the conversation couch! It won’t be just any old conversation; it will be a conversation about values. Also, plop that puppy on the quad. A couch outdoors is fun.
  • Nobody move until you’re friends! Interfaith organizers at St. Edward’s University made a sign with the image of two hands, and two strangers planted one of their hands on it and couldn’t move until they weren’t strangers any longer.
  • College students love food. We all know this. Rather than have a spread where individuals can immediately have at the smorgasbord willy-nilly, tell them the catch is that they must take two food items and offer one to a conversation partner. Cookies and cake were meant to be enjoyed with good company.
  • Everyone loves a ball pit. I’ll go ahead and let this video do most of the talking for me. Basically, though, a fun idea to break the ice for conversations is to write conversation starters on some of the balls in a ball pit, and folks can find one and let the rest take care of itself! It’s a fun twist on the ol’ conversation.
  • And who doesn’t adore a bouncy castle? Especially one where you gain access not by ticket, but by meeting someone new and learning something about how they see the world.

Pro Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Be present and engaging. Yes, it’s tempting to sit in a chair doing your homework with the hope that people will inherently be interested in your event. That’s unlikely, though. Stand up and look alive!
  • Prepare ways to keep newcomers in the loop. You’ve tapped into a new audience; make sure you let them know how to get more involved. Do you have upcoming events? A regular meeting schedule with your group? Throw it on a handout, and be ready to pass that puppy along to all who cross your path.
  • Whatever you do, make it eye-catching. It’s always good to pique people’s interest with something outside the norm. Take a page out of University of Southern California’s book. They had folks take pictures with a life-size cutout of Pope Francis.
  • Be strategic. What’s the busiest time of day to set up shop so you’ll see the most people? Where’s the best place? Lunch hours near the dining hall tend to work swimmingly, for example.

Well there you have it, folks! Getting out from behind our phones and computer screens doesn’t have to be all that bad. In fact, we just might learn something about one another if we set up a comfortable and fun space for meaningful interactions. So get out there and get to know one another—differences and all!