Posted on October 18, 2010 by Colin

Most Interesting People in the Room

 

The Premise

There are some conversations that stick with you.

You remember the location, the people involved, the smells, the art on the walls or the texture of the bamboo mats beneath your feet. The moment stands out because the discussion you had was so engrossing, so world-shattering and parallax-shifting that you’ve filed it in your mind under ‘Epiphany Moments’ and go back to reference it from time to time.

And if you’re anything like the majority of people in the world, you can count on one hand the number of times you’ve had this kind of moment.

This is no reflection on you, of course: it’s rare that the stars align in such a way that a group of remarkable people with interesting opinions and unique collections of experiences find themselves in the same room at the same time and all ready and willing to converse about whatever happens to come up in the moment.

If given the opportunity, however, I think most of us would like be in these kinds of conversations more often, and unfortunately it’s getting more and more difficult to do so, even online.

Increasingly, forums and comment sections have become places to agree with whatever has just been said (or a way to get your name out) when they’re available at all. Hot debates are few and far between, and most aren’t so much real conversations as pissing contests between two egos with a reputation to manage.

I feel like there should be an alternative, and I’ve set up a new project – an experiment, really – to allow everyone to have a potentially life-changing conversation at least once per week.

Most Interesting People in the Room

The new project, which is called Most Interesting People in the Room, is a newsletter (powered by letter.ly) and message board (powered by Disqus, just like the comments on this blog) through which I’m aiming to provide a unique interactive experience.

Each week (on Tuesday night), subscribers receive an email with 5 prompts: a quote, a question, a thought, a link and an exercise.

Subscribers are then able to go to the message board and engage in riveting conversation using these prompts to get the party going.

There is a great deal of deviation from the prompts (at least there has been so far) and often the deviations are the best part. The point is not to definitively answer a question or do homework (you don’t have to talk about the prompts at all), it’s to have some jumping-off points that serve as common ground to start with and then move on from there.

A simple concept, I know, but here’s where I mix it up a bit.

Every week, the person who had the most interesting/helpful/insightful commentary will be named ‘Most Interesting Person in the Room’ and will be awarded 10% of the total subscription income.

The cost of subscribing is $10/month, a nominal fee, but one that grows quickly when a decent number of people sign up for something.

I invited a core group of people to join me (from my personal contacts and my newsletter) with 10 paying subscribers among them, so right now the reward each week is $10, which repays the recipient’s monthly membership fee.

Matthew Stillman is the Most Interesting Person in the Room this week, by the way, so go tell him congrats through his newly redesigned website if you get the chance!

Takeaway Points

This project can be many things – a networking tool, business venture, conversation starter, fun experiment – but below are a list of points in case any important distinctions were lost in the paragraphs above.

  • Most Interesting People in the Room is a subscription-funded newsletter and comment board
  • The main purpose is to engage people in stirring conversation at least once per week (and hopefully more than that)
  • The cost is $10/month, and each WEEK whomever is the ‘Most Interesting Person in the Room’ will receive 10% of the total income from membership fees (that means 40% of total fees are given right back out to subscribers)

This is not a project for everyone, but I would recommend it to

  • People who are looking to exercise their brain every week (in a way that their work- and home-life can’t provide)
  • Those who are looking to meet new and interesting people
  • Anyone who is looking to improve their discussion/conversational/debate skills with others who are doing the same
  • Folks who want the chance to get paid for providing value to a group of people who will appreciate their candor
  • Individuals who are looking for some amazing content to read, generated not for an audience of blog-readers (no top ten lists or pithy recycled advice here), but for an audience of intelligent people who are looking to expand their horizons and help others do the same

I would love to build this up so that everyone is able to become engrossed in excellent conversation every week and I’m able to give away thousands of dollars to people for being brilliant, so come and check it out now if you want to help shape the direction of the project from the beginning.

If you haven’t been scared away, you can click here to subscribe to Most Interesting People in the Room, or shoot me an email with any questions you might have.

The next newsletter goes out Tuesday night, so if you sign up before then you’ll be able to jump right in to the fray!