How to Host a Think & Drink in Your Community

A Toolkit

Why Think & Drink?

At Oregon Humanities, we believe in the power of people in rooms listening, learning and struggling together. Think & Drink is one of the ways we make that happen.

Think & Drink events bring people together to engage with ideas outside of the formal settings of lecture halls and meeting chambers. The events in our Portland series take the form of onstage conversations, but a Think & Drink could also be an interview, a panel discussion, or a lecture. The main point is to explore diverse perspectives and challenging questions with people in a comfortable, inviting setting.

How to Hold a Think & Drink Event

Choose a topic

  • Choose a topic for your Think & Drink conversation that is timely, complex, and meaningful to your community. Subjects of broad interest tend to be successful. 

  • Topics for past Oregon Humanities Think & Drink events have included the future of war, religion and civic life, immigration, the refugee crisis, and food insecurity.

Choose a format

  • There is no one right format for Think & Drink. Oregon Humanities Think & Drink events last ninety minutes, with one hour of conversation followed by thirty minutes of audience Q&A, and have featured one guest in conversation with an interviewer; two guests in conversation with one interviewer; and a panel of three or four speakers and a moderator. 

  • Your event could be longer or shorter, but we find ninety minutes is a good fit for most audiences and speakers. Your conversation may have as many participants as you think the topic deserves, but a large panel is more difficult to moderate than an intimate conversation.

  • It is important for people to feel engaged with the event. Be sure to leave time for audience members to ask questions during Think & Drink and for conversation to continue after the event.

  • When choosing a time of day for your event, consider your audience and venue. Will people be able to reach the venue in time? Will they face problems with traffic or weather conditions? If the event is close to a mealtime, will there be food available?

Choose your guests

  • Choose guests who are knowledgeable in the subject of the conversation, either through personal or professional experience. They should complement each other by bringing different perspectives or experiences to the conversation. 

  • The comfort and enthusiasm of your guests is what makes a great Think & Drink. If they are happy to be there, your audience will be, too. If they are made uneasy, so will everyone else. Giving your guests some time to become familiar with one another before the event will help them be more comfortable on stage.

  • Consider having a moderator or interviewer to help guide onstage conversation. This person needn’t know your guests personally, but should be sufficiently familiar with their work and the interests and concerns of your community to ask relevant questions.

Find a venue

  • Choosing the right venue is vital to presenting a successful Think & Drink event. Depending on the size and topic of your event, pubs, cafes, winery and brewery tasting rooms, music venues, theaters, and community spaces can all make good venues for Think & Drink.

  • The venue should share your enthusiasm for the event, the topic, and your goals, and be willing to help promote the event.

  • You should be able to take over the entire venue or at least an entire room. If regular business is going on during your event, your participants will have difficulty focusing on the conversation.

  • The venue should have a stage and sound system adequate to the size of the event. If you expect twenty people to attend, you may not need a stage; if you expect one hundred, a stage and individual microphones for each speaker will make it possible for everyone to see and hear the conversation. Hearing can be difficult even in small spaces, so amplification is recommended.

  • Think & Drink is a great opportunity to use visual components, such as photography or short films, to kick off conversation. If your venue has a screen and projector, consider what visuals might complement the event.

  • The venue should have dedicated wait staff for the event or easy access to food and drink. If your venue is not licensed to serve alcohol and you plan to have alcohol available at your event, please consult the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s requirements for special event licensing. Information about special event licensing is available at oregon.gov/olcc/LIC.

Promote the event

  • Reach out to community organizations, clubs, civic groups, and educational institutions in your area that have an interest in the chosen topic, and invite their members to attend. Oregon Humanities encourages Think & Drink hosts to partner with other groups to attract diverse audiences.
     
  • Consider soliciting sponsorships from local businesses to defray event costs. Public events like Think & Drink are a great way to build closer relationships with both private and corporate supporters.
     
  • Market your event online using social media such as Facebook, and encourage your community to invite their friends and family members.
     
  • Be sure to reach out to local media and community calendars at least a month prior to the event. Give members of the media a reason to care about your event. Why are the speakers or subject timely and interesting

We Can Help

We want to know how you use this toolkit. If you’re planning to present a Think & Drink event, please get in touch. We’re happy to provide planning advice and promotional support for Think & Drink events all over Oregon. Contact Ben Waterhouse at (503) 241-0543, ext. 122, or b.waterhouse@oregonhumanities.org to learn more.

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