Friday, December 03, 2004
Using technology to make better meetings
This is a profound observation by Liz Lawley, blogging at Many-to-Many:
When I was at [meeting x], the only way audience members could ask questions or make comments was to queue up in front a microphone in the middle aisle and wait patiently for a turn. It’s hard to describe how nerve-racking this is for someone who’s new to that community. You’re standing in the middle of a big room, with the audience and the speakers staring at you, trying to listen to what’s being said while being intensely aware of your position.At WTF, and some other meetings I have helped organize, we use a publicly viewable screen that everybody with a WiFi PC can post to. It keeps the distracting hand-waving to a minimum, and creates a direct route to information, e.g., "This link (book, person, idea) is really important to the topic at hand). Manuel Kiessling (with the help of Greg Elin and others) have done the software, now in Release 3.0 to make this possible. My hat is off to them -- it is a magnificent, easy to use, machine-independent tool that has an immediate beneficial effect on meetings that use it. It is the best back-channel I've used. And I am proud I had a small role in helping out.
This is where a formally acknowledged/sanctioned backchannel can really shine, I think. It allows members of an audience (whether the group is as small as a faculty meeting or as large as a conference presentation) to ask a question and have the question itself—not the questioner—be the subject of focus.
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