Tag Archives: event

Collaborating in a Fishbowl

I am a huge fan of progressive in-person session formats, especially when they are participatory rather than passive. This blog has covered High-Impact Storytelling (by Nancy Dixon) and Buzz Sessions (by yours truly).  Fishbowls are the latest format to peak my interest.  In her blog post titled “Unpredictable by Nature“, @kikilitalien links to a wikipedia entry on fishbowls.

There are a few variations, but the gist is that there is both an inner circle of chairs and an outer circle.  The outer circle is listening to the inner circle’s discussion.  The best way to make it participatory is to leave one of the inner circle chairs open so that a member of the outer circle can take it periodically.  When this happens, some member of the inner circle must move to the outer circle so that one chair remains open.

There are several things that I love about this format

  • It allows for shy passive learners to remain in the outer circle and just listen
  • It allows for selected experts to set the tone for the inner circle
  • Inner circle “experts” are likely to ask each other different, deeper, more-probing questions, than an audience would ask of a panel
  • The “open” inner circle where a seat is left open allows for outer circle members with a particularly relevant expertise to jump in and provide fresh perspectives

I plan to promote this format at events where I have some influence and will keep everyone posted as to my thoughts after actually experiencing one.  If you have tried it, please share your thoughts.

UPDATE 2/7: Thanks to @samueljsmith I experienced a fishbowl at EventCamp10.  I thought the experience was very interesting.  The group was extremely engaged and the seats changed over well.  The biggest challenge to me was that when a new person joins the circle it is because something has sparked their interest that they want to respond to or build on.  By the time it is their turn to speak, the conversation has moved on.  This leads to a very disjointed conversation where each person is not responding to the person who just spoke.

Virtual is BETTER than in-person for events

Heh, OK…..After reading that title, I can imagine chips being installed on reader shoulders all around the world.  🙂  I am not saying virtual is better in EVERY way, just in some ways.

Have you noticed that people who oppose virtual events often focus only on the ways that in-person events are irreplaceable?  I believe they are right, but that does not mean in-person is the ONLY solution to EVERY collaborative/networking need.  Just because A is better than B in some ways does not mean that B is not better than A in others.

This post examines all the ways that virtual events are better than in-person ones.

1. Multi-threading

In a virtual event or even in an in-person event with a virtual channel, there is the opportunity to multi-thread.  Think about it this way, verbally we can only watch/listen to one person at a time.  This is called single threading.  Everybody listens to that one thread.  In a virtual environment though, the technology allows for multiple people to communicate at the same time.  “Listeners” can then jump from one thread to another as they find something interesting.  I am not talking about different presentations here, I am talking about different conversations about the SAME presentation.

Twitter Chats are a great example of this.   Each Twitter Chat normally has a moderator who announces the topic.  From there different people submit ideas and different people reply or build on those ideas.  It is a free for all.  The most interesting ideas/threads get the most interaction.  The less interesting ones drop off.

2. Ease of switching

If I am at a conference and I don’t like the session, I have to make a visible show of walking out.  Perhaps there are other sessions, perhaps not.  I may have to wander into the lobby and see if the other few people milling around might want to engage in a discussion.

Online, if I lose interest, there are a myriad of other information sources to which I can turn for more interesting, educational, stimulating content.

3. Greater volume of content

This is obviously related to switching, but the sheer amount of content that can be made available via a virtual environment vastly eclipses what can be brought together into one physical location.  This allow much more choice and much better match with time spent vs. information sought.

4. Greater geographical diversity

Travelling costs money and takes up time.  The further people have to travel, the more of both required.  Thus, US events tend to attract US participants, European events tend to attract Europeans, etc…   Having spent some time working abroad, I have experienced first hand the value of opinions from different cultural perspectives.

While there are still timezone issues even online, we are much more likely to get an international crowd to our meetings

5. Niche topics

In order to maximize attendance, conferences often create a very broad topic.  The sessions then need to appeal to a broad range of the different types of people who are attending. Thus, niche topics are challenging.  Online, attendee costs are lower and they are not need to spend travel time.  Thus, our attendee pool is significantly larger.  This economy of scale can make more niche sessions viable.

We should be seeking ways to combine in-person and virtual experiences to best meet the needs of our audiences.  It is not “either/or”.   In person events should not feel threatened, they should be excited about new ways that they can provide value to their attendees.

This post was inspired by reading a Jeff Hurt blog post called “Since When Did Virtual Not Become A Live Experience?

twebevent lessons learned

twebevent_faviconFriday, August 7 was the first live trial of twebevent (read overview here) for #bizbutterflies at ISES EventWorld (archive available here).  Several lessons were learned from the experience and some of the audience provided their feedback.  The live session was simulcast via two online channels.  One through twitcam and the other through twebevent.  The audience began somewhat split between the two platforms, but it was clear early on that the twebevent chat was more active and so the twitcam audience migrated to twebevent.

Some pros and cons to each platform:

  1. twitcam allows you to broadcast your webcam.  twebevent does not CREATE a broadcast, but it can consume twitcam video streams or video streams from ANY video streaming provider (ustream.tv, Qik, just.tv, etc…).  While twebevent is more flexible/powerful, twitcam requires one less step and so is easier to broadcast
  2. twitcam shows tweets that contain the twitcam event URL.  twebevent shows tweets on the host’s desired hashtag – It seems that expert Twitter users prefer hashtag based Twitter chat
  3. Video NEXT to chat (twitcam) is preferred to video ON TOP of chat (twebevent)
  4. Hosts like the rich text space that they get on twebevent (left of video).  There is no equivalent on twitchat
  5. twebevent allows for far more characters per tweet.  This is because twitcam auto-attaches both the twitcam URL and the host Twitter handle with every tweet.  twebevent just auto-attaches the hashtag.  Note: twebevent allows audience to tweet the event URL via a “Tweet this Event” button, but it is separate from the chat.

Some lessons learned for next time

  • The best broadcasting combo might be procaster/twebevent  Like twitcam, procaster also streams for free into livestream.   But, procaster also provides the ability to merge the presenter and their slides into one video stream.  The host can grab the embed from livestream to place into twebevent
  • Important to have a static URL that one can advertise WELL ahead of the event.  Changing URL’s creates confusion
  • motion sensitive webcam, while better than a static webcam, is still not ideal.  Best to have someone manning the camera to follow the appropriate speaker.

Open items

  • Need to test twebevent with Apple/Mac computers
  • Need to check with TweetChat if they can make a narrower version so that video and chat can go side by side in twebevent
  • Would be nice to allow a preview video in twebevent that is available to play until the appointed time for the event

All in all we are extremely happy with the first trial of twebevent.  It seemed to be the platform of choice for the online audience.  We have lots of improvements in mind and we look forward to partnering with the #eventprofs community to meet as many of their needs as possible.


Buzz Collaboration Format

On a recent Twitter chat for Association Leaders (#assnchat) the topic of event formats came up.  I mentioned a format called “Buzz” and there was interest so it seemed a blog post with more description than 140 chars was in order.

I support a group called the KM Institute.  We are a bunch of Knowledge Management professionals who get together periodically to discuss the practice of knowledge management.

We have two main goals:

  1. Learning about KM
  2. Networking with other KM professionals

We want our meetings to support both goals.  Lectures tend to be heavy on #1 and light on #2.  Cocktail party type discussion can be heavy on #2 and light on #1.

One solution that we use is called a KM Cafe.  I believe it was created/popularized by David Gurteen.  It involves a series of tables each with a different topic.  Attendees spend X amount of time at each table having a discussion.  When “the whistle blows”, attendees move to a new table.  The “menu” gives you the topic for each table and the “chefs” are facilitators at each table.

While that provides more structure than a cocktail party, we still felt it was light on #1 so we created the “Buzz” format.  Here’s how it works:

  • 10 mins – A presenter has 10 minutes to talk on a pre-determined topic.  If they go over 15mins, they are cut-off
  • 5 mins – Everyone splits into 8-10 person tables.  Around the table everyone introduces themselves and gives 15secs on what they do
  • 20 mins – The tables discuss what they just heard and how it may impact them
  • 5 mins – At the end of each buzz, attendees count off at each table to determine what table they will move to next.  Start counting with the number of your table (to avoid more 1’s than 5’s)

We do cocktail style networking on the front partly because people like it and partly to make sure everyone has arrived before we start.  We find that many people linger afterwards to dive deeper with people that they found especially interesting.  We usually accomplish 2 Buzzes per meeting.

Also, remember to number the tables to help with the table movement.

Any interesting formats that you have tried for your events?