A nice little piece here from Chris Corrigan that we are including in a workbook for an open-enrollment training. Chris speaks something very important here for me. I have noticed in many events that there is a tendancy to think of the invitation as a checklist item. "Just get it done so that we can get on with planning an event." The invitation actually is one of the first doorways into planning an event. When done well, it brings all of the planners into a deeper sense of possibility. It opens the creative space with each other. I particularly like the reference below to beginning with a conversation on the need, on the purpose. It is also my experience that this focus helps get to the real juice of why this meeting matters and what possibility it holds. It helps move the process from one of "selling" to one of "attracting in" because people share the basic sense of need and don't want to miss it. This feels particularly important in the meeting-full context in which many of us live.
Reflections on Invitation
When we think of invitation, the first thing that usually comes to mind Is simply a notcie sent out by email or appearing on a buletin board. Invitation as a THING,
Over the years I have come to realize that invitation is not a thing but a process, a lifestyle and a practice. When we host the call of inspiration, we do well to pay attention to how it generates the urge to invite others. Invitation is a process that brings us alive. Compared to compulsion, invitation results in people choosing to show up and being open, curious and enthusiastic. Compulsion results in closed, defensive, judgemental and apathetci participation.
In our work, developing invitations to gatherings is becoming more and more of an art. And the process starts well before the formal “invitation” is issued. As a design principle, it pays to remember that the meeting begins long before the invitation is issued.
The goal of invitation is to attract people fully to the event. So invitation begins very early on in the planning process and continues to build up to the event and beyond. Typically when I am working with a group, we follow something like this workplan:
* Work through the chaordic stepping stones and harvest the need, purpose and people. This becomes the basis for the invitation process.
* Create an invitation list of people who are needed for the meeting
* Begin contacting these people and hosting little conversations to find out what quality of invitation would attract them to this gathering.
* As the design progress, issue small invitations to the growing list of inviitees. Let them know when the dates are chosen, where the location will be, the clarity of the need and purpose as it arises.
* Try to send out more than one invitation. The more important and deep the gathering is, the more information I like to send out before hand. With some communities, setting up a web site, blog, forum, or wiki before hand can begin the converstions before the participants arrive. The more engaged you are with the participants before the meeting, the more engagement arises in the face to face space.
* Within the meeting itself, frame everything as an invitation. Using language that invites people to choose to participate so they participants are aware that the quality of the experience is up to them.
* Support follow up by inviiting participants to connect to one another and continue to find each other. Keep websites in place, send out follow ups and invite connection until the energy wanes and the project moves on.
It's a lot of work, but it is essential because the quality of any gathering depends largely on how the participants show up. Be creative, be dilligent and make sure the invitation process works well.