When organising an event, participant comfort is critical. If you wish people to learn and grow, the environment should feel comfortable for them. This applies to everything from food, water and air conditioning to social status perception and a feeling of belonging.
This can be especially challenging when attempting to bring together different social groups. As comfort zones differ greatly. You should challenge them with the process, and learning and new experiences require “Stepping out of your comfort zone”, however at the same time, you should aim to make people as comfortable as possible as you lead them into a new experience.
Today was a prime example of that. I invited a Nubian Felucca captain, a young man of vision and ideas to the Business Planning Canvas event. He nearly left halfway through as the space was uncomfortable to him, the formality, the hotel space he would normally be barred from (due to local prejudices), the way he thought others would judge his idea. Other participants I believe may not even have shown up for precisely these reasons. The feeling that they wouldn’t belong here (the isis hotel in Aswan).
Thankfully we were able to keep him talking up until his presentation. I threw him off at the deep end of the pool and he swam. He succeeded, and people have now gathered around his project.
As I write, he is co-creating with him team on his motorboat. A space where he feels comfortable.
But we should consider always the context of learning, the perception of formal spaces, of entrenched cultural stereotypes, and creating a comfortable emotional space for all. It’s not just about having coffee available. It’s about how we feel when we are together.