My mom’s belief was that you should never have enough chairs at a party. If everyone could sit, her thinking went, then they stay statically in one place whereas if some were forced to stand they would move around and mingle. She was aiming for enough “mixing” that created a lively blend of conversations and fun.

The same principle applies to most events where more than a few gather. If you have a critical mass of participants, and an environment that packs them in rather than spreads them out, you will generate much more energy than in situations where you have ample or excess space.

The workshop you hold where every seat is taken will have greater participation than one with the same number of people in an oversized room. Consolidating four church services into three will provide a different experience than if the worshipers were spread out among empty pews. Hosting workshops, open houses or classes in venues that put everyone in close proximity to everyone else will stimulate more interaction than if each person had room to spread out.

Critical is the operative word in critical mass – it’s critical that you take mass into account in your program planning and space allocation. Condense your physical environment and the number of offerings you provide until you reach a point where there are enough people to generate exponential energy through forced contact with others. If you offer options for isolation, people will remain in their own bubble and you’ll lose the energy that they could have contributed.

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