[I]f we think of conferences or meetings as our tools for offline collaboration, then we need better tools. Our facilitation methodologies need to evolve and professionalize to focus on the experience and needs of participants. In his paper “Creating Participatory Events,” Executive Director of Aspiration Allen Gunn describes the problem like this:
The Internet era has ushered in a broad new panorama of collaborative tools and interaction opportunities in the virtual realm. But live “offline” events such as conferences, given their unique potential for connecting like minds and catalyzing relationships, have remained relatively non-collaborative affairs, employing dichotomous formats such as “keynotes,” slideware presentations, and panels to let one or several speakers relate across a veritable moat to silent and largely passive audiences.
And here’s the part that makes event organizers nervous:Participatory event refers to a gathering where participants shape the agenda before and during the event, instead of reading a fixed schedule beforehand and then shuffling between sessions that have been slotted weeks or months in advance. The focus in such events is placed on peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and network building instead of large group listening.
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