Hosting and Facilitating a Kitchen Table Conversation

Before the Conversation

  • Set a meeting date, time and venue.
  • Invite up to nine friends, family, colleagues, or neighbours to your home or another suitable venue for a couple of hours of discussion.
  • Organise some drinks and light snacks.
  • Carefully read the document provided by your Core Group (and print off copies for your conversation group if required)
  • Appoint a scribe who can track the discussion and capture it in as much detail as is practically and reasonably possible. It is important that your scribe accepts the need to try and represent the conversation fairly and in as much detail as possible and not be selective.

At the Beginning of the Conversation

  • Welcome everyone to the conversation and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land you are gathered on.
  • Encourage quick introductions around the table.
  • Draw attention to the ground rules and get agreement from people that they will follow them. Throughout the conversation, you can refer to the ground rules if you feel that they aren’t being followed.
  • Collect demographic information of conversation participants.
  • Do a short icebreaker activity then pose key questions to the group for discussion.

 Throughout the Conversation

  • The role of host is to facilitate and moderate the conversation, and to make sure that all the discussion questions are focussed on. This does not have to be done in order.
  • Ensure inclusiveness. All participants should get to have their say and feel included, valued and respected by the host and each other.
  • Encourage everyone to bring their “best selves.” There’s no room for nastiness or disrespect towards others.
  • Ensure the conversation is flowing, wide-ranging and honest. The group does not have to reach consensus! What is important is that people feel as though they have been able to contribute their ideas and opinions—and for these to be recorded faithfully.
  • Make sure you allocate enough time for each of the key questions or conversation starters.
  • Judge the energy of the group. If you can sense that a question has been well and truly covered and energy is starting to wane, move the conversation on to another area.
  • The conversation can go into other areas, but you should balance how far away from the questions the discussion can drift before bringing it back under control.
  • Don’t be afraid to call people into the conversation. For example, “Pam, what do you think?”
  • Invite participants to become further involved in the process by providing details of how to contact VoTE.
  • Create a positive ripple - suggest that participants talk about their discussions and the ideas that emerged with other people at work, home and in their community.
  • Thank everyone for their time and their contributions.

After the Conversation

  • Sit down with your scribe straight after the meeting and flesh out the meeting’s content as much as you can while you both have it foremost in your minds. Then, develop the written summary by referring to the discussion questions. Naturally, if there happened to be additional discussion beyond the agreed discussion questions, it is important to capture this as well.
  • As soon as possible after the conversation ends (we recommend immediately but no longer than 24 hours) the host should reflect on the conversation and make some notes on their observations and takeaways, including the context, the process, the issues that arose, the atmosphere and any other insights.
  • Send your notes to VoTE within 48 hours of the conversation.

VoTE thanks the Victorian Women’s Trust and Voices for Cowper for generously sharing their resources.