Holding space for an event is something every teacher, every minister, every event organizer has a lot of experience with. Here, the targets of the space holding are both a “thing”, the purpose of the event, and also a group of people, namely the participants of the event. Possibly, more targets of space holding are also co-planners before and helpers during and after the event. Plus yourself, as the space holder for the event, and also as whatever other practical roles you might play to fulfil the purpose of the event.
So here we have an array of different “stakeholders” with slightly (or very) different reasons for being there. And it’s important to consciously weigh the various interests against each other, so that the overall (and possibly agreed) goal of the event can be met – while at the same time meeting “every” individual’s expectation.
Characteristics of a space holder holding space for an EVENT:
- Same as the characteristics for holding space for a PERSON – because every time you engage with someone who is an important part of fulfilling the purpose of the event, you need to be really present with them and listen. So that you can embrace their willingness for contribution, and facilitate them weaving their talents and actions into the bigger picture – or help them see why not to.
- However, when holding space for an event, you need to be able to tune into the purpose of the event no matter who you are speaking to. No one person should be more important than the purpose of the event itself. So you need at least a “triple”, not only double, awareness when engaging with others: The awareness of self, the awareness of other (the person you’re engaging with) AND the awareness of the event purpose.
- When you engage with more than one person at a time, you also need to be aware of the group dynamics, especially if they can pose a threat to the event. Which means that you also need to be able to intelligently deal with such group dynamics, in order to deflate potential threats and enhance the potential for co-creation.
- So you need to be able to hold space for a co-creative, trusting atmosphere, where people feel called to chip in and contribute with their talents, when these are in line with the event purpose. Also an atmosphere where people are willing to take a hint and back off, if they have an idea which is not helpful at present for the bigger field.
- During the event, you need to provide an atmosphere conducive to the purpose of the event, both physically, emotionally and possibly spiritually (depending on the type of event).
- Of course you as a space holder needn’t have to possess all skills yourself, but if you don’t, you need the maturity and self-knowledge to be aware of this – and the courage and insight to invite the relevant others to fill up the spaces you cannot fill out yourself. You might even want to divide up the role of holding space to more people, each with their focus and theme.
Suggestions as to how you might train and embody these characteristics of space holding:
- Holding space for the purpose of an event is to my understanding something you use your “wholeness” to pull off…
-> You both need to understand the rationality behind the purpose as well as towards carrying it out. If you as a spaceholder do not have these skills yourself, someone else needs to – of course depending on the size and type of event. Rational “business logic” skills such as planning, resourcing, communication, etc. And probably including the understanding of financial measurements so that a budget can be met (especially if it’s an event you would like to repeat at a later date and funds are not unlimited!).
-> But you also need to use your emotional intelligence and your communication skills, in order to explain the purpose to others and motivate them to chip in. Whether it is for them to aid with their talents and resources in order to make the event happen. Or whether it’s the participants of the event, so that they show up and support the event with their presence and resources (including possibly their money, depending on the type of event).
-> And then you probably need to use your more subtle energy “skills” in order to intuitively sense into what kind of atmosphere the event requires and how to provide it. This is probably obvious if it’s a kind of spiritual gathering, but also in business events and other types of events, this is needed – it’s just not something we’re used to talking a lot about or to be aware of. But in next-stage organizations they are at least partially aware of this and sometimes establish simple routines in order to create space for it. It can be simple stuff like leaving a chair empty at the event planning meeting – and at some point ask someone to take that seat and speak as he / she IS the event, to check that the event purpose is fulfilled. It can also be to use structured processes to invite in other types of energies – which is for example done when using Theory U processes (see an example here, the case clinic process in writing and as an online video facilitation, from minute 18).
-> In short, you need to be able to embody wholeness at least as a vast array of intelligences and probably also as a vast array of types. And then combine this understanding of wholeness with what the purpose of the event calls for. Read more about intelligences and types in the integral analysis.
- This calls for not only a “double” but a “triple” awareness – to be able to hold the perspectives of both the event purpose, yourself and any stakeholder you’re communicating with in any given moment.
-> I gave a suggestion of how to practice double awareness on the person page, for example practicing being a detached witness (look for “double awareness”).
-> But also toggling exercises are helpful. Here, you toggle your detached attention between different topics in order to practice giving a specific topic your full attention for a while. And then letting it go completely, in order to focus on something else. And in between, zooming out and being aware of “everything” – without a special focus, and without judgement, cynicism or fear…
-> If you are used to meditating (?) I have in another context recorded a 30 minute toggle exercise inspired by Ken Wilber’s “Full Body Mindfulness” course. The purpose of the meditation is to integrate the “infrared development level”, practicing “letting-go-attention” on hunger and thirst, respectively. It’s not for beginners but it might give you an idea about toggling… I have also recorded a 20 minute toggling exercise regarding tensions in the body, inspired by the same course.
- The next thing is to be aware of group dynamics, both in the resource group planning and preparing the event, but possibly also at the event itself. Being knowlegdeable about group dynamics is of course not something I can explain in brief or teach you via a web site 🙂
-> To really dive into it, you probably need to work as a process consultant and project manager for years. So that you can sense into a room full of people and to what that room needs right now, in order to embrace and fulfil the given purpose as best as possible.
-> This is usually a task requiring use of multiple intelligences, types and possibly even states of consciousness. Read more about intelligences, types and states on the page integral analysis.
- And then you need to be able to create a creative space of trust, especially during the preparation phase, so that the whole team helping out feels invited to chip in with all their talents and resources in order to support the event’s purpose. But probably also during the event itself, so that the participants’ support the event purpose as best as possible.
-> This is difficult to describe “how to” in a couple of sentences, let alone in multiple paragraphs… It certainly requires you to be authentic and present and aware, but that is not all…
-> If creating a safe space of trust doesn’t come natural for you, I have two, no three, suggestions: 1) Hook up with some one who does! 2) Read more via this link about Safe Space to the wiki about Reinventing Organizations (the book by Frederic Laloux). And 3) establish an Integral Life Practice, so that you can find out where your “holes” are. If you do not read Danish, so that you cannot read my web site Integral-Lifestyle.dk, I suggest you read the book Integral Life Practice by Ken Wilber et al.
- And then you need to be very good at assessing what types of resources are needed in order to serve the event, and how to provide them.
-> This requires all kinds of skills and talents, as I was touching upon earlier, see also above when I mention wholeness and the purpose of the event.
-> You might also find inspiration on my web site about Integral Project Management (however, just parts of it is translated into English).
-> But two of the talents you need are probably also to be both assertive and humble. So that you can boldly acknowledge where your own strengths and weaknesses are. And use your strengths where they benefit the purpose of the event, as well as ask for help where you have weaknesses.
Go back to Spaceholder.dk