I can’t remember the exact date when I first took part in a backchannel chat while participating in a virtual event; I guess it must have been a few years back when I first started making use of Lotus Sametime for group chats while at work, back in the early 2000s. The thing is that nowadays (Whether using IM tools, Twitter, Meeting Rooms, whatever) I just can’t live without those backchannel chats, whether I’m attending a team conference call, a virtual event (Seminars, webinars, workshops, presentations, conference events, lectures, etc. etc.) or whatever else. They have remained, over the course of time, an indispensable collaborative tool I just couldn’t do without.
Yes, I know, and I fully understand it, since I experienced it myself in the past, I realise that for plenty of folks out there, it may not work out all right altogether, more than anything because of that ever increasing sense of being overwhelmed by the event itself AND the backchannel. Where do you place your attention, right? Can you focus on both tasks at the same time? I mean, paying attention to the event and then the backchannel as well? Quite challenging, indeed!
It’s not easy, I agree with that, but in my experience that’s just at the beginning; just till you get the hang out of it; till you have attended a good number of them to make them feel second nature to you. It’s only then when you would be able to see how powerful such backchannel conversations can be to enhance the overall experience of what’s been shared across, and when you are soliciting input with a bunch of team / community members, that’s probably as good as it gets, too! Having everyone on the same page listening to that specific media and giving them an opportunity to expand that user experience by chatting with others is just priceless. And those who may have tried it out already could probably vouch for that last statement as well…
However, how do you get started? How do you overcome the initial hurdle(s) of starting to incorporate backchannel chats into both virtual and face to face events? Are there any good resources out there you could leverage to get things going? Yes, there are!
Here is one of my favourites: check out the short blog post from iLibrarian on this very same topic: "7 Things You Should Know About Backchannel Communication", which references a whitepaper put together by the good folks behind Educause that provides a very clear, insightful, very helpful and thorough overview of the main key benefits behind backchannels (Link to .PDF here)
In that specific article the folks at Educause start setting up the stage by putting together an scenario of how it could well work out for one of those virtual events I mentioned above: a lecture and using Twitter as the backchannel. From there onwards, there are seven different sections that cover, very nicely, the overall content of why these kinds of online events do matter, more and more by the day, in helping facilitate a much richer, endurable and engaging overall experience. And I can tell you, after having participated in hundreds, if not thousands!, of them over the course of the last few years, they have now become an indispensable and integral part of how I enjoy these kinds of events myself.
Here you have got the seven questions put together that the whitepaper covers, so you can have a glimpse of what you may expect on that two pager .PDF article:
- What is it?
- How does it work?
- Who’s doing it?
- Why is it significant?
- What are the downsides?
- Where is it going?
- What are the implications for teaching and learning?
I realise the article has got an embedded flavour for a learning / education background, but if you scratch that out and change it for business it still does make perfect sense, which makes a rather interesting resource for those folks out there interested in wanting to spice their (virtual) events even more and continue introducing some more of those 2.0 elements that everyone keeps talking about while attending those virtual events.
Then perhaps in a later blog post I will share with you folks my Top 10 reasons on why I do benefit the most from backchannels for events not just as a communication tool, but also as a powerful real-time collaboration environment that is, by far, superior to any other kind of collaborative tool. But for now, how are you benefiting from backchannels yourself? Do you still find them an overwhelming experience? Can you live with or without them? What do you think? Do they make sense in today’s interconnected world?
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