Deference to Presenters & Barcamps

Now that I have recovered, more or less, from RE Barcamp Philadelphia (great job, by the way, Bill Lublin, Kim Wood, John Lauber, and the rest of the REBC PHL gang!), I wanted to ask a question:

Are presenters at conferences owed any sort of deference by attendees?

I also present at various events and have come to realize after Philly why it is that I tend to enjoy presenting at REBarcamps: audience participation.  I love the energy of the room at REBarcamps, especially when the audience gets feisty.  When the disagreements and the sharp questions start, that’s when I start having fun.  True exchange of ideas and real learning seem to happen more when there is a bit of debate and disagreement, rather than when there is uniform head-nodding going on.

At REBC Philly, I had a great time doing an impromptu “debate” session with Eric Stegemann of Tribus.  People were interrupting both Eric and me, challenging our assertions, making us explain ourselves, and I’m pretty sure most of the room left disagreeing with me. :)  What a great time!  Total engagement, excitement, and energy.

In contrast, at other events where I’ve presented or spoken on panels or whatever, I often get the feeling that the audience mostly sits there passively hoping to learn some great piece of wisdom from the experts gathered on stage.  Even the setup at non-barcamp type of events is conducive to the notion that those who are presenting or speaking are teachers lecturing a bunch of students.

But what if the presenter is talking out of his ass?  Is the audience supposed to sit there deferentially?

“Normal” Conferences

I’m thinking that for “normal” conferences, like Inman or RE Tech South, where speakers and panelists are selected by the organizers and invited for their expertise or insights into a particular topic, some deference from the audience is appropriate.  In some ways, the deference is to the organizers for the time and energy they spent in selecting that person to come speak to an audience.

If a speaker or panelist at one of these events starts spouting a bunch of crap, then the attendee should probably wait until the Q&A and start popping pointed questions, or simply walk out of the session.  Maybe everyone else in the room thinks the guy is brilliant; the organizers certainly did.

Barcamp-style Conferences

All that goes out the window when it comes to RE Barcamps or barcamp-style meetings.  Those presenters — myself included — simply got up to the board and put up a note.  Organizers had nothing to do with those sessions.  No one put much thought into who should address the audience.  People can come and go as they please.  REBarcamps are a meeting amongst peers first and foremost.

In this setting, the only thing that the presenter is owed is an opportunity to speak and present.  If I can’t earn your deference with what I’m saying and showing, then I’m owed nothing but criticism and argument.

In fact, I have come to believe that lack of deference may be essential for the Barcamp movement to work, especially in real estate.  At every REBarcamp I have attended, there were newbies to the whole nu-skool real estate practices being pioneered right now.  Many of them are realtors and brokers who have heard that they need to get involved with this whole “social media” thing, but have no idea what that is, how to do it, or why to do it.

Absolutely the last thing these newbies need is for some presenter who has no idea what the hell he’s talking about getting up and feeding them all sorts of misinformation.  Yes, of course, critics will want to be polite in disagreement, but more I think about it, it is essential that wannabes get taken down fast and hard.  Consider it a public service.

And if you can’t take the criticism, if you can’t defend your positions, if you’re not comfortable unless the audience is going to play passive schoolchildren… well, do us all a favor and not get up at a Barcamp please.

Just sayin’.

-rsh

  • Matt Cohen

    I hear what you’re saying … and appreciate the format and idea – but there’s something to also be said for a Presentation THEN Q&A format. It’s sometimes nice for someone to be able to build a whole case before tearing it down (or not, if not necessary). I love the presentations at TED, that follow that format.

  • Matt Cohen

    I hear what you’re saying … and appreciate the format and idea – but there’s something to also be said for a Presentation THEN Q&A format. It’s sometimes nice for someone to be able to build a whole case before tearing it down (or not, if not necessary). I love the presentations at TED, that follow that format.

  • http://nickbostic.com/ Nick Bostic

    I’m looking for even more audience interruption. I teach classes constantly and it’s always a little odd to me when no questions are asked. If you know everything, why did you show up (and why can’t I find you online)? Inman and even the Bar Camps I’ve attended don’t get enough audience participation in my mind. Oh well, maybe someday.

  • http://nickbostic.com Nick Bostic

    I’m looking for even more audience interruption. I teach classes constantly and it’s always a little odd to me when no questions are asked. If you know everything, why did you show up (and why can’t I find you online)? Inman and even the Bar Camps I’ve attended don’t get enough audience participation in my mind. Oh well, maybe someday.

  • http://www.geekestateblog.com/ Drew Meyers

    Rob-
    I really enjoyed your debate with Eric (even though I was kind of switching between your session and Half Baked right across the hall). I don’t totally disagree with you — I do think many mid-large sized brokerages are going to wake up really soon and be very formidable foes to the independent broker.

  • http://www.geekestateblog.com Drew Meyers

    Rob-
    I really enjoyed your debate with Eric (even though I was kind of switching between your session and Half Baked right across the hall). I don’t totally disagree with you — I do think many mid-large sized brokerages are going to wake up really soon and be very formidable foes to the independent broker.

  • http://www.closetrak.com/ Marc Diaz

    Rob,

    Sounds like that was a good session – I think there needs to be a certain amount of deference. Even if you don’t agree with someone, I think you should typically wait until the Q and A unless otherwise invited to interrupt by the presenters(s). Presumably (especially if there are concurrent sessions going), the audience attended the session to hear the speaker. However, if you want more of a socratic method or roundtable discussion, that should be up to the presenter to decide and state as much when the sessions are being selected.

  • http://www.closetrak.com Marc Diaz

    Rob,

    Sounds like that was a good session – I think there needs to be a certain amount of deference. Even if you don’t agree with someone, I think you should typically wait until the Q and A unless otherwise invited to interrupt by the presenters(s). Presumably (especially if there are concurrent sessions going), the audience attended the session to hear the speaker. However, if you want more of a socratic method or roundtable discussion, that should be up to the presenter to decide and state as much when the sessions are being selected.