Monday, 4 March 2013

My experience of running Death Cafes by Merilynne Rush

Merilynne Rush has now offered 4 Death Cafes in Ann Arbor, with the 5th due on the 15th March. I asked her how she was finding running Death Cafes and her reply was great. She kindly gave permission to share it so here it is:

"I have found it wonderful to host the Death Cafe. I look forward to it each time. It's been really helpful to have a regular date and time set up well in advance. It's just something I do every month. I don't have to think about it too much. Although, the wonderful tea shop where we have been meeting is closing! We have to find a new place. It was so central, quiet, not crowded - I'm not sure what we will do next. Oooo, I just thought of a place that would be great. Will call them...

"Anyway, I send out an email once an month to all my different listings of people I've gathered over the years who come to my other presentations, etc. I list the DC as one of my events. Then early in the week I send out a reminder to just those who have come to past DC's or expressed interest. I don't ask for RSVP anymore because the numbers have not been increasing. Interestingly enough, only about 3 or 4 people have ever come to more than one DC, even though they all say they will see me next month when they are there :)

"I also send in a free calendar listing to the local monthly that lists events. That is due the 10th of each month, so easy to remember. Each month there are about an equal mix of people I have never met before and people who know me or have come to a previous event. The numbers have ranged from 7 to 12 people, not including me.

"A few days before the DC, put a post on FB and on my blog. I start thinking about if I want to do something different. I read over the evals from the previous one to get ideas and see what they liked. Not much info there except "It was great!" The night before or morning of I make the new handout from the template of the month before (attached). It includes the basic info about what DC is, the guidelines, a short description, future dates and new quotes. I print that out and also the eval and we are good to go. A friend who comes to each one has made little table stands that we put on the tables.

"I haven't been very good about getting there early. Sometimes people are there talking when I walk in not a minute too soon. It's hard to get out the door on a Saturday morning!

"I find the event itself very easy to manage, ever since the first one. In a group of 8 people it works well to start with going around and introducing ourselves and why we came. This generates good conversation. I give a little intro with guidelines and letting people know they can just listen if they want. It takes off. Larger groups I start with small groups for the first half, then we come together and share.

"We usually get started with the intros around 10:15 (every there and has their tea) and wind down around 11:30 or 11:45, when I wrap up and talk about future ideas and ask everyone to blog (which no-one ever does!). They do evals and some stay and talk longer.

"I don't do much moderating or facilitating. I just participate and speak up when the spirit moves me, being careful not to speak too much. I don't share my personal stories much. I respond to peoples individual concerns a little and guide the conversation there. I give resources sometimes. I write down ideas and take notes. This kind of things comes easily to me. I'm gregarious and a good listener.

"I love it. It seems to meet everyone's needs, including mine."

Merilynne's next Death Cafe is on Saturday March 16th, 10am till noon, 214 S. Fourth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI. 

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