Why BlogOut Was So Noisy
BlogOut was too noisy.
Sure, noise can be a good thing at the right time, when ideas are flowing, but when there’s a panel discussion going on in front of the room, and most of the (interested) audience can’t hear what’s going on, you have a problem (astro described the situation in his post, Blogout or SpaceOut?).
So, why was it so noisy?
Crowd control, or the lack of it.
When the MC started the event proper, she didn’t manage to get everyone’s attention. There were still pockets of people standing and chatting at the rear area.
(photo from Kevin Lim)
It’s easy to expect the crowd to quieten down and pay attention eventually (I would have expected that myself), but it didn’t happen. On hindsight, the MC should have gotten the attention of everyone before starting.
Which would have helped for around 10 minutes at most, before those standing in the background resumed their conversations. We know that because the MC did ask pretty firmly for everyone to “be respectful” during the panel discussion. The success rate was around 80%, for around 5 minutes.
Mainly because there was a bigger factor at play:
The lack of chairs, or too many people standing in the background.
When you’re standing in the background in an event like that, it’s easy to feel like you’re not part of the seated group, meaning that you’re somehow excluded from the social norms and rules of that group.
I know because I’ve done that too many times myself.
Being excluded from the seated group, and part of the outsider group, there’s little inhibition from making a comment or two to the person standing beside you. And because you’re standing, it’s so easy to be facing your comment partner rather than the front of the room.
The perfect setup for a “backchannel” conversation.
There are a couple of other minor factors that I suspect have contributed in minor ways to the rather noisy atmosphere, like the arrangement of seats, the shape of the seats, and maybe even the presence of the food, drink, and waiting staff, but since they are minor, I shall refrain myself.
I hope this post gives some insight into the design of an event space, and the human dynamics within it. And hopefully, there will be enough seats next time 🙂
Kudos to the organizers. I still think they did well.
I completely missed out another major point – the poor sound system, although it was fine where I was (near the front). Thanks to Du Senyao Peter who pointed it out in the comments:
Though I think a major problem is with the sound system, which could not amplify the talking one’s voice very well so people at the back could not feel the presence of the one who is talking, be it emcee or the panelists