Hollow pleas to participate

In her unconference blog Kaliya reports this experience:

I am here at day 2 of VloggerCon.. They opened the day sharing from the stage they ‘really wanted the audience to talk more and to participate‘. I hearing this spontaneously yelled out – “change the format”. This comment was just ignored.

I notice this a lot at conferences and presentations. Speakers say they want conversation and then start presenting; moderators say they want the audience to take part and then ask the panel most of the questions themselves. The thing is if you appoint speakers or expert panellists, hand them microphones so they are automatically louder than the audience, and place them on a stage so they are physically above the audience, you’re not likely to encourage participation. If you’re organising a conference you need to makes some choices about trading control for engagement. If you really want audience participation, you have to take the risk of abandoning some of the conventional structures. If you don’t want to take that risk, fine. But saying you want participation from the audience ends up sounding completely hollow.


2 thoughts on “Hollow pleas to participate

  1. Jevon

    Recently at Mesh Conference in Toronto, they began right away on the first day by lecturing the audience that “this is what you make of it, we want you to participate, we have brought the people together”. They then proceeded to inform us about the “unconference” room upstairs, down the hall, in the corner (where nobody will go) and jumped right into speakers and panels.

    It was frustrating.

  2. Michael Wagner

    It might be a bad sign when conference organizers have to say, “we want participation and conversation”. If you have to tell people to breathe, that may be because they’ve seen you suck all the oxygen out of the room.


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