In a recent couple of posts (here and here), Johnnie Moore explains why he so dislikes panel sessions at meetings and conferences. And why these – like other formats that marginalize ‘audience’ participation - fall so far short of common-or-garden conversation as an effective and engaging mode of communication.
“They [the audience] probably deep down want conversation, but the whole format deprives them of it. Starved of relationship, of course they struggle to relate successfully to others in the room.
I'll go a bit further with this. The panellists themselves probably want a conversation too, but are onstage and self-conscious, so they give a performance of a conversation instead of having
a real one.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Moore on this. And with the general thrust of his argument.
Such ‘broadcasts’ act solely as invitations for people to have conversations with each other – although this is usually an unspoken (and probably unrecognized) role. It’s in the give-and-take of ordinary, everyday conversation, that real communication happens. As Moore again observes,
“When finally we break for drinks and the ability to converse in small groups, the energy level just shoots up.”
If such conversations reflect and endorse the broad thrust of ‘the message’, action is likely to proceed broadly in line with the ways intended – although outcomes might not! If though, as is often the case, other themes emerge through the conversational process, then it is these that will shape people’s ongoing interactions and responses.
Communication is a relational practice. And no amount of staging – whether through crafting the content, polishing the presentation or perfecting the performance - can create the conditions for this to take place. And so, as regards leadership communication (and to paraphrase Lois Kelly says in “Beyond Buzz”), the conversations are the work.