Attend any conference presentation nowadays, and you're likely to see half the audience watching the speaker. The other half have their heads down, most notably reading their smartphones, tweeting or reading websites on their laptops/tablets (but let's not rule out the possibility that they could be sleeping, too).
This audience distraction is a given and something that a lot of presenters and planners work with or embrace. Two app developers noticed this trend and built an app for it called Donahue.
In an interview with Jenn Webb on O'Reilly Radar, Tim Meaney and Christopher Fahey discuss why they created the app and how it works.
"Donahue is a presentation tool built upon the premise that certain conference presentations are best delivered in conversational format," Meaney said. "The app allows the presenter to construct their points as a series of portable ideas, delivered through Donahue into a number of views. Donahue also works by acknowledging that the audience wants to have a conversation. It's pretty standard today that the audience tweets during a talk, and then hours later the presenter uploads their slide deck to SlideShare, and then later elaborates their thesis or ideas in a blog post. With Donahue, that wall between audience and presenter, and the abstraction of a slide deck, is removed. The content and ideas are immediately shared, and the audience can immediately begin discussing them. People insist upon discussion, and instead of fighting that trend—'please close your laptops'—we went the other way and joined the conversation."
Webb asked the app's creators how they think conferences should evolve and improve.
"You just can't come to understand and master a complex topic through listening to a lecture alone," Fahey said. "Learners need to read and study at their own pace. Conferences and lectures augment and inspire those materials. But most of all, conferences should connect both speakers and audiences with the subject matter and with each other. This enables learning by empowering people to pay attention together, think about ideas together, and most importantly, talk about them in the same energized moment."
Well said, sir, well said.