As a host, it is one of your responsibilities to help create the atmosphere of your event. If there is a lull in conversation (more noticeable in small-group events), or if you notice individuals who are alone or looking uncomfortable; it is your job to interact with them and start conversation. Here are a few of our suggestions for discussion starters:
What was your favorite HCN story?
Who is your favorite HCN contributor?
What is your favorite section of HCN?
What areas/subjects would you like to see covered (more)?
How long have you been a subscriber?
What is your opinion on (insert favorite HCN beat here) __________
Did you hear the one about the wind turbine, the sage grouse and the Peabody Learjet?
What is your name? (and where is your name tag?)
Where are you from?
What do you do, etc, etc.
These may seem obvious, but use personal questions to fall back on in a pinch. Most people enjoy talking about themselves or their experience, so you can always ask general questions of your guests.
Consider that some of your guests might not be familiar with High Country News and be prepared to find ways to inform them without excluding them- though you can have some extra copies for them to take home or flip through there at the event, you can still engage them in conversation about issues that HCN covers, that are of interest.
Also, as a host, it is ok to participate in or begin a conversation, then leave to attend to other guests. In fact, you should not get too engrossed in one conversation at the risk of excluding others or creating a situation where you are not accessible for questions, greeting or general guest welcoming.