Pausing PauseTalk

The final PauseTalk (Vol. 85) was held on Monday, March 2, 2015. The end, my friends.

“Final” is a big word, and you may be wondering why I decided to put an end to the series, instead of getting someone else to continue running it – and there was indeed interest in doing that.

Let me start from the beginning.

The very first PauseTalk was held 9 years ago, on Monday, June 5, 2006. The running joke is that I started the series as a way of getting interesting and creative people to come over to my hood and hang out with me – at the time I lived just around the corner from Cafe Pause, where the series has always been held, and where I took the name from. In reality, it’s not a joke, it was a good part of the reason I did it.

And guess what? It worked.

I was inspired by PechaKucha Night, but I wanted to do something where I could actually have a discussion with these creative people, not just take part in a one-way presentation. We did experiment early on with using a projector at the cafe, so that a person could share images or videos of what they were working on, but it didn’t last long. I felt that these events shouldn’t be about showing off things, but rather be about asking questions, offering solutions, discussing topics – in other words, about talking. And talk we did.

For 9 years, I held 10 events a year – I’d skip January and August, because of the holidays – on the first Monday of the month, with the very occasional exceptions due to scheduling issues. Only one edition of PauseTalk was not held at Cafe Pause, and that was a special edition that I did as part of a “Magazine Library” event I took part in, at a venue in Daikanyama.

Oh the people I’ve met.

The most amazing thing to come out of hosting PauseTalk for all this time is of course all of the amazing people I’ve met. A lot of these people ended up becoming close friends. Even better, a lot of people tell me that they also met a lot of their friends at PauseTalk, and I also loved seeing people end up collaborating together on projects after meeting there. 

PauseTalk was a great connector, a great network, and a plain ol’ fun night once a month.

For those who never attended, the format was quite simple. I loosely MCed the evening, and by that I mean that I kicked things off by having everyone do a simple introduction (name, what you do) to give everyone an idea of who everyone is (and where they are coming from when they are commenting on something), and then I just made sure that the discussion lasted for the entirety of the “official session,” which went from 20:00 to 21:00-21:30. To do this, I would ask questions, either asking someone directly about a project I heard they were doing, or just bringing up general topics, to try and get people to chime in. It was pretty easy to do, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a situation where things weren’t moving along naturally.

It was also important for me that the “official session” not last more than about an hour or so, as I think that the hanging out after was also an important part of the evening, and in fact, you could say that the talk session was just a prelude to everyone then being comfortable with each other, and getting to know each other better.

How many people came to the events? Because of the loss of my server early last year, I’ve unfortunately lost most of the site archives so you can’t go and check all of the participants lists (and I do hope to rescue this somehow, someday), but it usually averaged 15-20 people, with the occasional tiny group, and the occasional giant group of 30+, which although great for my ego, was a bit hard to manage in terms of trying to get everyone involved in the discussion.

The final PauseTalk was pretty fantastic, and I was amazed to see 60+ in attendance – I didn’t have an attendance sheet like I usually do, so didn’t keep track, but I had prepared special badges for those who came, and all 60 were given out. Instead of the regular edition, it was more of a party to mark the end of both the series and my putting an end to my life in Japan. I wanted to give a short speech, and so didn’t prepare anything, but ended up talking for quite a while I think (30-45 minute), and so I thank everyone for their patience.

So why put an end to it? What I explained to everyone was that, the way I see it, in order to run something like this for such a long period of time and without any payment involved, it has to be because it’s your baby. I would love for someone to create something similar, as there does always seem to be a need for something like PauseTalk, but I’d like it to be something that the organizer feels like is his/her own thing. At the penultimate edition, there was a lot of talk about what to do after, and there seemed to be a lot of people interested in doing something, and not just as a series, but also as an online project – a proper creatives database, to help people connect and find each other.

I do hope that all of this happens, and as for me, who knows if I’ll again have the urge to start a PauseTalk or something similar in whatever city I end up in. But in terms of this version of the series, I’m happy to see it have a proper end, a final edition.

I will never be able to properly express my gratitude to everyone who has supported the series over the years by attending and talking about it with others. PauseTalk was for you, for me, for everyone.

By Jean Snow

Production Services Manager at Ubisoft Shanghai. Before that, half a life spent in Tokyo.