By E. Brown

While on a recent panel discussion, Jeffrey Veen noticed something…

I was on a panel at this year’s South by Southwest talking about the role of analytics in design. With me were two veterans of the advertising industry who’s work included some of the biggest ad campaigns of the past few years – some really amazing stuff. I started the conversation by saying how the remarkable amount of audience data available to us gives designers tremendous power to affect user experiences. My collegues suggested my approach sucked the creativity out of design. I countered that they were mistaking preferential research from behavioral. The argument heated up.

While this was happening, my phone was buzzing non-stop. I slipped it out of my pocket to discretely turn it off, but noticed a stream of Twitters going by – many from audience members in the room. So I set the phone down on the table in front of me and kept an eye on it. I’m so glad I did.

As the conversation on stage continued, the stream of questions and comments from the audience intensified. I changed my tactics based on what I saw. I asked questions the audience was asking, and I immediately felt the tenor of the room shift towards my favor. It felt a bit like cheating on an exam.

I guess it really wasn’t cheating, but it does illustrate one of the frustrations I’ve had at conferences lately. Most of the events I attend have a rich conversation happening in the room, yet the only people not able to participate are those on stage. A couple times, I’ve seen organizers project a live IRC channel, but that usually bring out the worst in people (“First!!!111”) – and is terribly distracting. So I’ve been wondering for a while if there was something smart we could do at our conference.

Apparently, Bryan had the same idea. As we were planning Start, he said, “We should have someone onstage the whole time to represent the audience. Like an ombudsman does for a newspaper.” (for more visit Jeffrey’s blog)

This is community driven synchronous learning at it’s best! Why do we often think learning has to be limited to traditional “learning environments”? Learning happens every moment of every day. Unfortunately, there is often a monologue going on inside each of our heads as we learn new things about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Yet now, with the social networking and collaborative tools available, we no longer have to settle for a monologue — we can have a dialog. And, the fact is, we are!

Learning On The Road
Mobile devices incorporate much of the new social networking technology. Whether you’re a tweeter, yelper, IM’er, ichatter, texter, blogger, vlogger, or whatever, there is a conversation going on. It is constantly going on around us. You see people talking and texting in cars, trains, buses, and planes. Even during meetings there are other conversations going on (some related to the meeting, some related to the speaker, and some totally unrelated).

Those of us in the learning profession have seen synchronous and asynchronous learning happening for years. Utilizing the latest tools and technologies to further equip learners is what good trainers do.

Speakers Do The Same
Who is my audience? What do I want them to learn? Is it practical? What is the best way(s) to communicate and transfer information to them? How can I make it “stick”? How can the audience take and apply what they learn?

These are questions any good communicator/trainer should be asking. So, what have you learned today?

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