Now that the first draft of the book is done and its time for a rewrite, the purpose of this project has become clearer. Perhaps the driver behind my passion for the keypads has become clearer. In my first draft, I focused on how the keypads create value for all three major stakeholders in a meeting: the attendees, the presenter, and the sponsor. Polling technology helps turn an audience into participants by giving them something to do while they are observing the action. If done reasonably well, more engagement is better. Polling gives presenters more feedback about what is happening with the crowd, so they can make adjustments to more effectively engage the audience. And finally, polling gives the sponsor some data to act on after the meeting. Fine enough, I guess. As important as these effects are, part of me feels that something is missing. These all seem too technique-y to cause me to devote substantial portions of my time to spreading the message. But trying to talk about the draft to a couple of faciltator friends, something more important is starting to bubble up.
Fundamentally, I think the reason I have been spending so much of my life energy on spreading audience polling is because I think that that polling potentially helps people fundamentally reconsider what a meeting is. I will need to lay this out in the re-write, but here is a first take:
By directing group attention to the way the entire group is thinking about something, polling nudges participants think about something even more important, which is the question of why people think like they are thinking. If the polling results make it clear that other people are seeing the same situation or event differently than I am, the mind naturally goes to the question of why this is the case. Facilitators help this re-direction of course, but there is a way that the results to this themselves. And this shift is the core of the mindset of dialogue; the individual goes from a stance of stating where s/he is to wondering why s/he and others have the opinions they have.
My first book on dialogue talked about the way that facilitators need to encourage this. But now I see that part of why I love the keypads is that they are an awesome tool to help facilitators do this critical job. The good news is that this shift toward more curiosity is not one that just workshop facilitators need. If I am a speaker, I want participants to be in a more curious state of mind so they are more open to my ideas. If I am a conference organizer, I want to more curiosity among conference attendees probably leads them to be more curious about connecting with others, which is probably core to my intentions for the conference anyway.