What is at the heart of every conversation?  

For many, it is a quest for sense, meaning and understanding of the many life questions we have: what does the future hold in store? If we were to meet ourselves, would you like you? What does it mean to be a man? What’s the recipe for a fruitful relationship?

The essence of conversation is surrounding a central question with many diverse voices. Questions act as a catalyst to spark dialogue. Imagine a match thrown on dry straw. Exchanging, sharing, reflecting in a space ripe for dialogue with people from all walks of life in a convivial space.

In Paris, We Can Discuss Everything

Ghislain d'Alancon launched Conversations Essentielles in Paris in 2003 after he noticed a lack of places where in-depth topics for conversation could happen between people. He wanted to arouse intense dialogue about the questions humanity and society has, existential life questions, from a multidisciplinary intellectual and artistic approach in an open forum, while respecting everyone’s convictions and freedom of thought. Have a look at how one man’s initiative is sparking off conversation with so many:

And if you like to listen to conversations in French, here’s a link:

Diverse Voices

People make the world go round – here’s to the outsiders, insiders, crazy ones, the wise and naïve, the young and old. Ladies and gentlemen, do join us in conversation about a question that touches all of us. There is not much point discussing things in groups of like-minded people.

If we want insights, revelations and breakthroughs – we need diverse voices. Talking with different people can be frustrating, confrontational and even infuriating – it is also the only way to make real progress. And knowing that, our encounters with foes, opposites and strangers can be moments of learning, inspiration and wisdom.

Find the Central Questions

When Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate, was asked about his approach, he replied, “I went for the jugular question.”
What is the question that is pumping blood through your community? Can you find the question that is central to everyone’s concern? What is that universal question that hits each person personally?

  • You will have a great conversation-starter question, when it:
  • Generates curiosity in the listener
  • Stimulates reflective conversation
  • Is thought-provoking
  • Surfaces underlying assumption
  • Invites creativity and new possibilities
  • Generates energy and forward movement
  • Channels attention and focuses inquiry
  • Remains with participants
  • Touches on a deeper meaning
  • Evokes even more questions


Stimulating Ideas & Building Futures