The Emergent Moment Before You Speak

It is the moment before you speak.

A circle of people sits, waiting. (They could also be standing).

You are about to launch into the Opening Circle.

You are the facilitator of an Open Space Event…

One facilitator told me: “I have no idea exactly what I am going to say, until that moment. I improvise. Of course I know I am going to introduce the event and describe the process, but I don’t prepare exactly what I am going to say in advance.”

Another told me he has a kind of script that has “served him well”. It lasts for about 30 minutes and is really the kind of stuff you might put into cue cards. It includes a brief history of O.S and outlines the exact process.

At a recent Open Space I attended as a participant, the facilitator walked the circle and looked into the eyes of every participant, making authentic contact. It was done very well, and I don’t think anyone felt stared at. It felt utterly genuine to me. And it also felt valuable.

But why do that?

One reason could simply be to build a bridge between facilitator and participants. Often the participants will be encountering the facilitator for the first time, and so a bit of connection can surely only do good.

I think something even more useful is to be gained from that moment of silence before the first words of welcome and introduction are spoken, whether there is eye contact or not.

Walking the circle (some do it anti-clockwise for reasons beyond this article), there is an opportunity for emergence, even at this very late stage, in the moment’s breath before it all begins.

Look around the room, reach with open attention and take in the people. Listen to the silence without ego. Allow the spacelessness where potential resides to sound forth. And it might just do!

In that moment, with your own ego wilfullness laid aside for a moment, listen with an inner impulse to serve the needs of the community. And, out of the silence, it might all come beautifully crashing down. Or you might just get a big thumbs up to proceed as planned.

In that moment you may well entirely change what you were about to say, or how you were about to say it. You won’t speak TO the group, but OUT OF the group.

Timing and timescale, tempo and pace may change.

The number of words uttered may change utterly.

Mood, pitch and stance may shift.

The amount of explanation of Open Space may shift, as may the content and style.

The silence may tell you what to do next. And it may not be what you had been “converging” towards. Emergence may change what happens, and the day may well be different, and better. Or you might just discover that your original script is still just what is needed!

That is the emergent moment.

Walk the circle, reach out selflessly and let the circle impress itself upon you, in the present moment. Watch it rearrange the past into a new timeline, a response to a welcome and insistent greeting Potential, which is waving at you from the future.

You are also the Open Space.


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