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Love these! This is exactly what I find myself thinking every time I end up in a church listening to a sermon or a classroom listening to a professor. For me, the point of bringing people together is something like finding the serendipitous connections amongst them. It's such a frustrating shame to go to all the trouble of bringing people together face to face only to squander such a precious moment with a flat, wooden wall of words.

I'd actually go one step further with the first point and suggest asking questions, not just soliciting them. In my experience some questions flop and you have to be quick on your feet to find another one. Really it's like improvisation in music, I find. It's not unstructured but it's definitely real time. And in fact, the more I prepare (as bravura recommends), the better the "conversation" goes, in my experience. Unfortunately, interactivity doesn't scale beyond a small audience.

On the third point I find that one of the most fruitful questions is "Why?"--and a particular kind of why: What are the experiences in your life that lead you to hold that belief? There's a personal story behind every proposition, and to my mind the story is way more interesting than the proposition alone. The story is the content of the proposition, even.

Example: At drinks recently a philosopher friend announced his contempt for what Dostoevsky(?) called "men of nature and the world"--brutish, unreflecting politicians and captains of industry, these sort. Taken aback by his tone, I asked who he had in mind. "You know, George Bush ..." yawn "... and my ex-girlfriend's dad." Oic. NOW we're getting somewhere. :^)

I suppose this goes back to the idea of emotional connection that you mention. For all our vaunted rationality, I don't think that it exhausts us.

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