In this spirit, I was thinking about talking sticks. I’ve been to events where we all sat in a cirle, and when someone wanted to speak, they would take hold of the talking stick. It’s the sort of thing you often see hilariously mocked on TV. The actual experience was very satisfying. I especially appreciated the principle that a facilitator articulated: if you’re talking, feel free to express what you want, and be mindful that others will also wish to speak. That somehow got across the idea that you shouldn’t prattle on but in a much more permissive way. The second principle was that if you weren’t talking, your focus should be on listening, and not sitting there planning your pithy follow up. Sometimes it works really well when the suggestion is made that we don’t respond directly to what the previous person has said, which gets away from a dynamic of a small number of people having a conversation being watched by others.
Anyway, what seemed to work about the talking stick ritual was that people managed to bring some reverence to the process of sharing experience together.
So I was thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to think of microphones at large conferences more this way?