Fast Company Could Have Benefited from Using Text Messaging to Let Audience Members Ask Questions
I want to start by giving a big thanks to the Fast Company event team. Thank you sincerely for bringing together such an amazing group of people. Your event was truly motivating and I was in no way disappointed. There simply isn’t enough time to go to all I want, but I go to as many conferences, workshops and seminars as I possibly can and Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored conference in San Francisco yesterday was one I was very excited to attend. As to be expected, the all star cast of speakers inspired, provoked thought and raised questions, plenty of them. I hope those who didn’t get to ask their questions found it to be as insightful as I did, but a few reactions to what could only be seen as “rejection at the mic” made me wonder how long those individuals might have been upset, noting that text messaging provides several simple solutions to a more engaging audience experience.
I was definitely not the only one who had questions they wanted answered.
So much of the talks were about data, about social media and what customers were thinking about brands. Time constraints made it difficult for those who wanted to ask a question to get theirs asked. It happens. But, I personally saw at least 3 people who were visibly upset that their questions didn’t get asked. Why? Because it takes guts to walk up to a mic and prepare to ask a question in front of a group of people. To then be denied the opportunity to do so isn’t just unfortunate, it’s embarrassing, an insult to the effort.
Looking around at any given moment, I saw 1 in 5 people looking at their mobile phones. Opportunity!
Here are 3 reasons Fast Company should have gotten rid of the Q&A mics and enabled audience members to ask questions via text message.
1. Everyone gets to ask their question.
For every person who walked up to the mic, I bet there were at least 5-10 others who would have loved to asked theirs. The presentations were incredible, why wouldn’t anyone who spends money to go to a conference have questions for at least 1 of those presenting? For anyone wondering “If there wasn’t enough time to get to 6 questions, how could there be enough time to answer 30-60?” The truth is, there isn’t. But to the gentleman who clearly wanted to ask a question of the Virgin America CEO and was upset he didn’t get to: not only am I sorry your question got unheard, I’m really curious what it was. You were obviously upset. If Fast Company used text to screen for Q&A, I would have at least had the chance to gain more interactive knowledge through the intelligent questions of others in attendance.
2. An opportunity has been missed to receive and respond to those people forever.
It was obvious that the success of every person who spoke was powered by passion. Each speaker could have spent as much (or more) time responding to questions than they did speaking about their topic. My gut tells me that each of those people, if they got to see a list of the questions asked at the event, would have taken the time to respond to them if they could.
3. Questions and answers provide a post-event bounce that extend the experience.
Nathan Hubbard (Ticketmaster’s CEO) said one of their goals for the future was to provide a powerful event experience before, during and after an event. By enabling attendees to text in their questions, Fast Company could have provided that experience for past, current and future attendees of their events. All speakers at the event are busy people, but why not send them the list of questions people wanted to ask, let them respond to those questions after the event, post the questions and answers on www.fastcompany.com and share the knowledge in an innovative way? Doing so adds to the live event rather than take away from it.
As I said before, the event was truly incredible and I will attend again, but I couldn’t help mentioning that a simple (and yes, still innovative) technology without the need for a mobile app or Twitter accounts could have been utilized to give Fast Company more out of their Q&A sessions. They are, in my opinion, one of the most important and interactive elements of the conference experience.
Photo Credit: @Water via Twitpic