Symposia were spaces in which guests could further intellectual pursuits, ensure business prospects, and scheme politically. Philosophy, rhetoric, and sophistry were some subjects covered in certain circles, and Plato offers us the earliest evidence of such conversations (Vetta 1999; 104). Symposia created an ideal space for political alliances as well as business deals to flourish due to the combination of the elevated ethical state they were expected to create and the accepted equality among symposiasts (Vetta 1999; 98-103).
Hetairai were known to participate in conversations among guests, and they seem to be the only non-symposiasts to do do. Though Plato claimed that "arguing about poetry" was "comparable to the wine-parties of the common market-folk," (Plato Protagoras 347c) the professional bards themselves were not part of conversation at symposia (Ford 2002; 28).