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Event Camp 2010 . learnings from outside the fishbowl

I just participated in a few livestreamed breakout sessions from EventCamp 2010 New York. One of which was a session run by Samuel J Smith which used what’s called a fishbowl technique to promote discussion around his topic: Integrating Social Media Onsite at Events. I learned a great deal from watching this session remotely and give Samuel big kudos for taking a leap and doing something unconventional.

The Fishbowl Set Up

63331693 225x300 Event Camp 2010 . learnings from outside the fishbowl

The fishbowl in action at Event Camp 2010

Having sat through far too many sessions that use conventional classroom style room set ups, I found this more collaborative set up quite refreshing. For those of you who have not seen fishbowl dialogue in action, it is much like it sounds…a circle of 5-8 chairs are placed in the center of the room facing each other (this would be the fishbowl) and 2-8 (depending on the size of your audience) rows of chairs are set up to radiate out of the fishbowl.

People who volunteer or are selected to sit in the fishbowl have a dialogue or provide points of view on a selected topic. One of the fishbowl chairs is always left empty – this way if anyone from the audience wants to join the discussion they seat themselves at the empty chair (and someone else gets up to free up a chair). The idea is the moderation is kept to a minimum and the constantly changing fishbowl participants drive the dialogue.

I found this technique to be a great way to tap into the intelligence of the audience and build content for a subject around the needs, challenges and experiences of that crowd (at least the ones who participated in the fishbowl).

Learnings from outside of the fishbowl

Get the audience warmed up

We all know that audience interaction can be tough to achieve. There are natural extroverts who have no problem standing up and making a point, but there are others who get shivers of fear at the thought of even putting up their hand. Sitting in a fishbowl can be very intimidating, so it’s not for everyone. But I do think there’s an opportunity to warm up the audience before the fishbowl begins. Get people on their feet and interacting.

Set parameters upfront

To build off of the last point, there are some individuals who gravitate to the spotlight. Some of them can tend to go on and on and on and on and on and on about a point (It should be noted that this did not happen at EventCamp). Setting some upfront parameters may be helpful to ensure people stay on topic, don’t hog the mic and interact professionally.

A side note: My husband is one of those guys who is a best man or MC at every wedding we attend. Most of our friends are West Indian and let’s just say that the speeches portion of the reception can be…er…a bit long winded. He regularly warns wedding guests that if their speeches go on too long, he may come out to cut them short. His schtick? A pair of briefs (i.e. underwear). When someone drones on with the speech he pulls out the briefs and flashes them to the speaker and the audience. It gets the audience re-engaged and gets the speaker to wrap up. Case closed.

Choose a controversial subject

There was some great dialogue, but one of the most enjoyable parts of Samuel Smith’s session was when Clinton Bonner decided to take the ‘devil’s advocate’ position on a topic. It got participants fired up (in a good way) and created some great points on both sides of the argument.

Instead of picking an all encompassing subject, why not pick a controversial statement like: “why social media should never be used for events” . It gives people permission to pick sides and get passionate about their points of view.

Online engagement

A goal, whenever live streaming a session, is to involve the online audience as much as possible. The fishbowl made it very difficult to engage the online viewers since (stating the obvious here) we couldn’t physically sit in the empty seat. I do, however, think there’s an opportunity to allow online viewers to have a seat in the fishbowl by way of video stream. I’d love to get an a/v professional to weigh in on this (in the comments section) to see if you have any recommendation on how this could work.

Fishbowl introductions

As an online viewer, since there were so many people moving in and out of the fishbowl, it was a bit hard to keep up with who was speaking. I’d recommending asking anyone who speaks to introduce them self and their twitter handle.

I really enjoyed this session and plan on using the technique and some of my learnings from all of you in some of my upcoming seminars. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Sam!

What do you think?

Did you watch the fishbowl? What did you think? Can you see yourself incorporating this into any of your events?

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  • http://twitoaster.com/country-ca/ready2spark/ ready2spark

    [New Post] Event Camp 2010 . learnings from outside the fishbowl – http://www.ready2spark.com/2010/02/event… #eventprofs

  • Cameron Toth

    I thought the Fishbowl was very interesting and worked really well because most of us in the room have been pre-introduced via #eventprofs.

  • http://camerontoth.com/ Cameron Toth

    I thought the Fishbowl was very interesting and worked really well because most of us in the room have been pre-introduced via #eventprofs.

  • http://www.ready2spark.com/ Lara McCulloch

    That’s a great point, Cameron. Although watching online I could really feel the camaraderie.

  • http://www.ready2spark.com Lara McCulloch

    That’s a great point, Cameron. Although watching online I could really feel the camaraderie.

  • http://www.meetingspodcast.com/ mike mcallen

    Lara-
    Sam fishbowl session was really great. Also thanks so much for participating virtually. It was great to have you involved. It was a tad challenging for me to get the whole stream going in the Roger Smith Hotel. (power-wireless only- access- etc) But it was a fantastic learning experience interacting with the virtual audience. I can see the future of engaging both audiences at an event separately and together. EventCamp was such a great learning experience for our team and I would love to talk more about different ways we could accomplish engaging both audiences. EventProfs topic?

  • http://www.meetingspodcast.com mike mcallen

    Lara-
    Sam fishbowl session was really great. Also thanks so much for participating virtually. It was great to have you involved. It was a tad challenging for me to get the whole stream going in the Roger Smith Hotel. (power-wireless only- access- etc) But it was a fantastic learning experience interacting with the virtual audience. I can see the future of engaging both audiences at an event separately and together. EventCamp was such a great learning experience for our team and I would love to talk more about different ways we could accomplish engaging both audiences. EventProfs topic?

  • http://www.ready2spark.com/ Lara McCulloch

    Agreed. It really was a great session and kudos to Sam for taking the leap! I’ve sat through so many talking head presentations, it was refreshing to have the audience actively participate! I’m planning to pull a bit of fishbowl into a number of my upcoming sessions!
    Great suggestion on the #eventprofs chat topic. Consider it done! We’ll also include how to improve #eventprofs given @dbreakenridge’s great comments on #prstudchat :)

  • http://www.ready2spark.com Lara McCulloch

    Agreed. It really was a great session and kudos to Sam for taking the leap! I’ve sat through so many talking head presentations, it was refreshing to have the audience actively participate! I’m planning to pull a bit of fishbowl into a number of my upcoming sessions!
    Great suggestion on the #eventprofs chat topic. Consider it done! We’ll also include how to improve #eventprofs given @dbreakenridge’s great comments on #prstudchat :)

  • http://www.specialeventbootcamp.com/ Carol Moxam

    Lara, I appreciate your sharing on learning at Event Camp on the Fish Bowl. We will definitely experiment with this at Special Event Boot Camp events and socials.

  • http://www.specialeventbootcamp.com Carol Moxam

    Lara, I appreciate your sharing on learning at Event Camp on the Fish Bowl. We will definitely experiment with this at Special Event Boot Camp events and socials.

  • http://www.ready2spark.com/ Lara

    How fantastic, Carol! I know that Event Camp 2010 will be posting the archives, so if you weren’t able to see the live stream you can still watch the fishbowl in action.

    Lara

  • http://www.ready2spark.com Lara

    How fantastic, Carol! I know that Event Camp 2010 will be posting the archives, so if you weren’t able to see the live stream you can still watch the fishbowl in action.

    Lara

  • http://www.beeventsdesign.com/ Ryan

    Fabulous Recap Lara- Bummed I wasn’t available to watch this session from outside-outside the glass.

    I am a huge fan of the fishbowl method. It is a fantastic way to foster dialogue and discussion among a small group, a division, group of managers, team, etc. It is funny – I spent a semester in College studying Organizational Communication and 1 class period each week was dedicated to the fishbowl style – as students we needed to teach a topic to the rest of the class through this method, and then upon the completion of the dialogue the “audience” would comment on the “fishes” behavior – it was a great learning tool and opportunity for peer learning. Interestingly the running joke was that this would never have a practical application…but low and behold.

    I firmly believe the model for educational learning in gatherings of people is on the shift and using techniques such as the fishbowl have great promise. They are non-traditional, they make some people uncomfortable…but the ability to be reflective and use peer-to-peer education is tremendous. Way to go @samueljsmith!

  • http://www.beeventsdesign.com Ryan

    Fabulous Recap Lara- Bummed I wasn’t available to watch this session from outside-outside the glass.

    I am a huge fan of the fishbowl method. It is a fantastic way to foster dialogue and discussion among a small group, a division, group of managers, team, etc. It is funny – I spent a semester in College studying Organizational Communication and 1 class period each week was dedicated to the fishbowl style – as students we needed to teach a topic to the rest of the class through this method, and then upon the completion of the dialogue the “audience” would comment on the “fishes” behavior – it was a great learning tool and opportunity for peer learning. Interestingly the running joke was that this would never have a practical application…but low and behold.

    I firmly believe the model for educational learning in gatherings of people is on the shift and using techniques such as the fishbowl have great promise. They are non-traditional, they make some people uncomfortable…but the ability to be reflective and use peer-to-peer education is tremendous. Way to go @samueljsmith!

  • http://www.ready2spark.com/ Lara McCulloch

    That’s very interesting, Ryan. Did you have any other techniques your college group used for learning / dialoguing? I’m really going to focus the next few months to learning new ways of teaching – so very interested in hearing suggestions (I’m sure Jeff Hurt could weigh in on this!).

  • http://www.ready2spark.com Lara McCulloch

    That’s very interesting, Ryan. Did you have any other techniques your college group used for learning / dialoguing? I’m really going to focus the next few months to learning new ways of teaching – so very interested in hearing suggestions (I’m sure Jeff Hurt could weigh in on this!).

  • http://jeffhurtblog.com/ Jeff Hurt

    Lara:

    Thanks for the shout out Lara.

    Great post, especially from a remote participant. [I learned that valuable term and perspective from a participant in my session on dealing with F2F & Virtual audiences which was not live-streamed. She used the word "remote" when referring to her virtual audience.]

    Two things you and your readers should know about Samuel’s presentation. Sorry for the long response. Bear with me.

    1) From the beginning, Samuel’s session was never-intended to be live-streamed. The Fish Bowl session does not lend itself to being live-streamed. Live streaming interactive, hands-on sessions is difficult unless you have several cameras and at least one hand-held camera in room. This is needed to take different views of participants quickly. It will also cost more money because of additional cameras and labor. And it will take up a lot of prime seating space.

    The Backstory
    Here’s what you may not know regarding Samuel’s session. During EC10′s breakfast, the participants–yes the attendees–recommended that we move the time and room of Sam’s presentation. We agreed, although it meant resetting and cleaning the room twice within 2 hours. Most meeting professionals won’t allow that type of last minute changes–especially if they are the ones that will have to bus and reset the room. [Yes, we had to do it.] I’ll fess up–I was one against it because I had physically set up the other room according to Samuel’s request and knew I, personally, would now have to manually change two rooms, twice. And, I kept reminding myself this was for the attendee, not what was efficient for me!

    2) I believe all presenters need to take some classes in facilitation and training techniques. The Fish Bowl concept is a common practice taught and used in the world of HR, training and education. Master trainers like Bob Pike and Eric Jensen have authored many books and articles outlining how to incorporate these types of engagement activities into a typical presentation. There are literally hundreds of these types of activities presenters could have under the belts. Pike and Jensen, as well as Langevin Training, offer workshops across North America on incorporating good hands-on activities into your presentation.

  • http://jeffhurtblog.com Jeff Hurt

    Lara:

    Thanks for the shout out Lara.

    Great post, especially from a remote participant. [I learned that valuable term and perspective from a participant in my session on dealing with F2F & Virtual audiences which was not live-streamed. She used the word "remote" when referring to her virtual audience.]

    Two things you and your readers should know about Samuel’s presentation. Sorry for the long response. Bear with me.

    1) From the beginning, Samuel’s session was never-intended to be live-streamed. The Fish Bowl session does not lend itself to being live-streamed. Live streaming interactive, hands-on sessions is difficult unless you have several cameras and at least one hand-held camera in room. This is needed to take different views of participants quickly. It will also cost more money because of additional cameras and labor. And it will take up a lot of prime seating space.

    The Backstory
    Here’s what you may not know regarding Samuel’s session. During EC10′s breakfast, the participants–yes the attendees–recommended that we move the time and room of Sam’s presentation. We agreed, although it meant resetting and cleaning the room twice within 2 hours. Most meeting professionals won’t allow that type of last minute changes–especially if they are the ones that will have to bus and reset the room. [Yes, we had to do it.] I’ll fess up–I was one against it because I had physically set up the other room according to Samuel’s request and knew I, personally, would now have to manually change two rooms, twice. And, I kept reminding myself this was for the attendee, not what was efficient for me!

    2) I believe all presenters need to take some classes in facilitation and training techniques. The Fish Bowl concept is a common practice taught and used in the world of HR, training and education. Master trainers like Bob Pike and Eric Jensen have authored many books and articles outlining how to incorporate these types of engagement activities into a typical presentation. There are literally hundreds of these types of activities presenters could have under the belts. Pike and Jensen, as well as Langevin Training, offer workshops across North America on incorporating good hands-on activities into your presentation.

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