Preparation- Making sure your Talkaoke session goes well

Whether you are new to Talkaoke or a seasoned expert, preparation is very important to get the right result. Talkaoke is designed to work in a wide range of settings, and be set up quickly and easily, but there are a number of things that will make it easier to perform the show.


For novices it is essential to have help when you start off a Talkaoke discussion. If you are worried about getting a crowd around the table or getting a conversation going, get one or two friends or colleagues to help you get the conversation going. You don’t need to pretend you don’t know them or that they are not there to help you, but don’t get too pally with them. Pick someone who likes to talk a lot. If there is more than one Talkaoke host then the host waiting to for their turn in the middle can help as the stooge before.

Mikey hosts, Jesse stooges

Pick out the stooge in this photo- it’s Jesse!


Get the right ambient sound level. Talkaoke works well with a bit of background noise, because then people really need to use the mic to be heard, but too much noise can destroy the show. If you are setting up in a festival environment make sure you are as far away as possible from any large sound stage.

Conversely, if it’s very quiet people can feel overwhelmed by the silence.  Places where there is no ambient noise, eg. in an enclosed room need some warming up. Here it is necessary to play a little background music, to make people feel comfortable. Choice of music should be relaxing, with not too much vocal or stuff happening in the midrange. The older the oldest participant, the less background noise is acceptable. If you are doing a Talkaoke with older people or those with hearing impairment, lose the background music. Musicians sometimes get antsy about music being used in a background role.


This goes for setting up a party too. The lower the light level, the less self conscious people are. You do need enough for participants to see each others’ faces. The problem for Talkaoke however, is light for photography, as you probably want to video the show too. So you went to strike a balance between these demands.

The colour of the lighting is very important too. You want to have a warm ambiance. So pinky, orangey or yellow lights are good. Blue as an ambient colour is not at all good. It tends to make people angry. Recently I have discovered that blue clothing for the host works well.


You need a space of 4 metres by 4 metres to have enough space for a Talkaoke. If the space is too big the human-scale of Talkaoke will be lost. If you are in a vast space like a park, a field or giant atrium of a shopping centre, you will need something to mark out your space, such as an event shelter, a banner, or if you have the resources, a giant LED screen. It is good to be around other activities, to get a buzz and response from them, but it is important that the talkaoke space is somehow marked out as separate from them.

Talkaoke set up under the event shelter

The event shelter marks out a zone for Talkaoke

If you are outside the ground needs to be fairly level.

Location, Location, Location

The location of your Talkaoke table will affect your discussion. Put it in a place of high footfall but not a corridor or a place where people will be rushing past. It is good to put Talkaoke in a place that can be seen from a distance, but it isn’t good to put Talkaoke on a stage or a place where there is the pressure from too many eyeballs. In a large space it is good to surround the Talkaoke table with other tables and chairs to “protect” participants. It is important that the physical distance between a position of not being committed to join in and joining in is as small as possible.

Briefing people

It is important to let people kn0w what your Talkaoke can and can’t do and how they can help make it a success. Quite often people that hire us to talk about a certain thing, for example community safety, want us to start up the Talkaoke session by talking about community safety. It’s a fair assumption, but that’s not how Talkaoke works. Talkaoke works by finding out what participants want to talk about and allowing them to set the agenda. Therefore it’s best to get people around the table first and then trying to get a stooge or other interested party to link the conversation you are engrossed in to the one that the organisers want to have. We believe every subject is linked to every other subject. It is a fun and creative job for whoever is hiring you and one that they will learn a lot from. See Get the flow going!


If an event has a context then that will come through in the discussion. It’s best not to force it but let it happen naturally. Participants need to feel that the conversation belongs to them.

Kate deals with climate change in Cornwall

The banners say enough. Let the people around the table make the connections

Part of the Take Control of the Hole series on our website to help you run your own Talkaoke


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