In my previous blogposts I discussed the option to integrate interactive tools like Send2Stage and TimeVote into your meeting. These tools provide the great possibility to give your audience a voice during the session. However, if you don’t listen to that ‘voice’, these tools are quite senseless. Besides, you might miss big opportunities.
Your audience is not a flock of sheeps that has to be led into the right direction, but a powerful source of valuable experience and knowledge. Their input can improve the output of your sessions and your meeting as a whole. Therefore discussions are a powerful tool, but unfortunately most meetings skip them for several reasons. In this post I will give you some reasons why you should foster the discussion for your future meetings.
What is a discussion?
The term ‘discussion’ is often misused. The Q&A moment at the end of a session is not a discussion. Tools like Send2Stage enable the audience to give their feedback on a speaker or topic, but they don’t create a discussion. Questions and comments only adress the speaker who will answer them from his expert point of view. By doing so, the audience is treated like an empty bucket: they listen passively to be filled with the experts opinions and knowledge.
In a real discussion you facilitate not only the dialogue between the audience and the speaker, but also interaction within the audience. Let your participants articulate their own ideas, identify different point of views and integrate new input with their own background knowledge. This has two great advantages. Firstly, you increase retention of the received information. Secondly, it allows all participants to learn from each other and to generate new knowledge.
During most conferences the audience is a passive recipient of information that is sent by the speaker. As I explained in my post about Pecha Kucha and Ignite Events, this information will be quickly forgotten if the recipient gets no chance to apply it. By discussing the new information with other participants they can think about the content and embed it into their individual framework of knowledge, experiences and emotions. As a consequence they will still be able to recall the information four weeks after the session.
For a real discussion and useful meetings we have to change our idea of the audience. If I fill an ’empty bucket’ with information, I won’t create a new idea or generate knowledge. Luckily, each of your participants brings their own knowledge and background to your meeting. Thus, using the bucket-analogy, we could assume you audience as a composition of half-full paint buckets of different colours. Now imagine, that we allow these buckets to get in touch with each other and exchange their contents. Instead of adding one and the same colour (the colour of the speaker) to each bucket, we will create various mixes composed of all present colours. Instead of putting the same information into the head of every participant, we can generate inumerable new ideas, insights and perspectives by joining and adapting our knowledge in a discussion.
How to get started?
Of course a discussion will not emerge out of nothing and unfortunately you might feel a certain resistance from your audience and your speakers when you try to integrate one into your session. How can you convince participants that the discussion is beneficial and how do you encourage them to get involved? What can you do to prevent that the interaction will be monopolized by two or three people? In my next post I will pay attention to these questions. Do you have any suggestions concerning discussions? I would love to hear them!