On Thursday I was lucky to be invited to speak at the Chief Digital Office Forum. Many interesting stories were told from a genuinely broad range of organisations grappling with digital transformation.Whilst, as expected, the orbit was set around best practice we passed many tales of errors, bloopers and the unexpected. It was really refreshing in that respect. In a area of endeavour which is genuinely new and proven approaches are mythical, sharing mistakes is even more instructive. Take not conference producers; these are the lessons we really want to hear about.
The conference producers chose to use Sli.do to offer an app for delegates with the schedule, speaker bios and venue information. It was also used to mange audience interaction during the sessions, its principle purpose. The polling function was sued a little but the interesting application was the Q&A function. I’m sure this is nothing new to many of you but it struck me in few ways that I had not really considered before.
One of the great benefits was to the introverted amongst us. We could type in a question as it formed in our minds whilst listening to a talk. No need to raise your hand in the auditorium, wait for the microphone, check it is on and then offer your query. The option to question speakers anonymously further emboldened attendees. It also encouraged more controversial questions than we might have heard I suspect. Whilst hard to judge, I think there were more questions overall as well. A better return on our investment for attendees and speaker alike.
A record of questions is automatically gathered in the app which could be valuable to speakers and producers in researching and honing events.
There were some odd results as well though. The experience of reading the questions from the screen and trying to answer them felt somewhat remote to me, as a speaker. Like a live performance webinar, inferring and interpreting the meaning of a question from text rather than from the tone and inflection of the enquirer. Very few of us write as we speak. (Some of use write with greater purpose and consideration, I know. Some don’t, however, and meaning was missed somewhere).
As an audience member the dynamic of the Q&A sessions was different too. It felt like more watching and slightly less like taking part or being part of the crowd.
The value of an event is the presence of us all in the room together. Introducing the digital component in this way may not have made the most of that. Flipping the classroom (or the speech) is a powerful idea and care needs to be taken to retain the value of face to face dialogue in the room.
I do like Sli.do and hope to continue to see it and use it. It made me think though about what we might miss when we draw more effort towards the supercomputer in our hand.