How do you get a quiet audience at a discussion panel to share in the interaction on stage? You take away the microphones. Let me explain.
After witnessing disastrous Q & A sessions when conference attendees were too shy to line up at microphones and ask questions for a discussion session, I realized we needed a better way to solicit questions during a live event. Our solution was to take away the microphones and to use mobile phones instead.
In preparation for Foundation for Early Learning's annual luncheon with over 600 attendees, I setup an SMS text message service using a “short-code”, a unique string of five numbers to make texting easier. In this case we used the service Mosio, but there are a number of great, low-cost services that do this.
During the 2010 Luncheon, we flashed a PowerPoint slide with the short code on the screen and encouraged the audience of 600 attendees to send their questions for the panel using their mobile phones, instead of their voice.
Our result? We received dozens of questions, and cultivated a robust discussion within the panel on stage. Best of all—no uncomfortable silence!