It can take place in any kind of environment (zen center, hospital, prison, open-space, radio, etc.).
The teacher’s task is to perfectly connect with the environment and the audience, so that the teaching can touch people’s lives and needs. The teacher is always ready to tell some zen story or teaching lesson, but it is much more precious and valuable if the audience actually has questions and get the answers that they need to hear.
In our school, there is traditionally an introductory talk at the beginning of each Dharma Talk. It is given by an experienced practitioner, takes from 10 to 15 minutes and the topic should always come from the connection of practice and every-day life.
Afterwards, the teacher gives space to the audience for any questions. If there are no questions, the teacher tells a zen story or talks about specific topics connected to the environment or type of audience. During the talk, the teacher always encourages the audience for more questions. The talk usually takes from 60 to 90 minutes.
The tremendous value of the Dharma talk is not primarily in satisfying some curiosity–it is rather based on the spontaneous connection of the teacher’s and the questioner’s mind, which is a perfect opportunity for opening our views wider and experience a shift in our consciousness. Realizing deep truth in a moment of clear intuition: this is one of the precious gifts the audience may have while listening carefully as well as interacting with the teacher.
The Dharma talk is always based on an invitation for the teacher and seeing to all related duties (location, accommodation, advertising, etc).
In our school, we don’t collect entry fee for public talks, only donations, unless the location owner asks for a rental fee. The donation is usual shared between the teacher and the Sangha which organizes the event.