Where Is The Conversation?

Two recent events in my Twitter stream; one a big design conference in the US and the other a local day-of-speakers event. One common theme from a couple people: fatigue from the traditional speaker-after-speaker agenda. The industrial revolution model of all eyes forward to the sage on the stage.

Said one:

The nature of conferences are changing—there's gotta be a better way to let audiences collect, share, and participate.

And another:

This format can be good source of info, but is aging format lacking engagement, doesn't make connections or act on ideas.

As my friend Chris wrote “In all of our design of meetings, engagement, planning or whatever, if you aren’t building conversation into the process, you will not benefit from the collective power and wisdom of humans thinking together.”

My response to those feeling the absence of some turn-towards-each-other conversation space? Speakers can be wonderful, and as part of a conference design they can serve as great catalysts for conversation. There are lots of ways to design conferences, meetings and sessions so they are interactive and participatory and break the one-to-many paradigm, and lots of great people in the world with the skills to create a more participatory design.

Photo credit from the Art of Hosting Halifax, 2011