December 22nd, 2011
The current standard length of a lecture or talk is 60 minutes, sometimes comprised of a straight 60 minutes speaking and other times approximately 45 minutes speaking and a 15-minute question and answer period.
The 60-minute lecture, its format and its purpose are obsolete. No one has 60 minutes to sit silently and listen to anyone but maybe Stephen Hawking chat for an entire hour. A good lecture stimulates reactions, thoughts and ideas that can’t wait an entire hour. And a bad lecture stimulates deep and relaxing sleep, or a desire to visit Starbucks.
While there are some speakers who imagine themselves gurus imparting their sacred ($199) wisdom to the masses, most speakers recognize that everyone gets more out of an interactive talk. With ground rules and moderation, a participative talk can be much more effective than a one-way talk with an expert speaking at (not to or with) a captive audience. On the other hand, some structure should be in place to allow the speaker to express his/her unique knowledge and experience, else why would they have been invited in the first place?
Inside the walls of the corporation, everything is done in 60-minute intervals. Some audioconferencing systems even require 60-minute meetings. Outlook automatically assumes 60-minute meetings which you can then adjust. Business people have become accustomed to 60-minute time slots which are easily filled with the 45/60 formula described in the first paragraph above.
Social media has been a catalyst for changing this outdated, often inefficient formula. Information has been democratized. One hopes an expert speaker has useful knowledge and experience about their topic, but that does not mean participants don’t have something useful to contribute.
The typical live talk today might be “covered” by people live-tweeting on Twitter, or writing on their blogs. While these trends have their detractors, it can’t be denied they are happening, and the lecture is no longer a formal one-way event, nor is it confined to the four walls of the hotel ballroom or auditorium.
There is an outright rebellion against the formal structure of conferences and talks. Some organizations are holding “unconferences” http://coworkingunconference.eve… with “unspeakers” like those sought for this 2009 event: http://www.netimpactaustin.org/b…
Green Business Camp was born out of a desire to reverse the trend of passive consumerism at conferences. Many of us have previously gone to conferences to consume what other have to give to us. Green Business Camp is creating a new event culture of sharing and collaboration - with everyone leaving the event having given AND having received.
Is the conventional lecture irrelevant? Should expert talks be more interactive? Is their a role for social media to extend the usefulness of a talk, or is it a distraction?