μεταcole

Why BlogOut Was So Noisy

Posted in all posts, design by coleman yee on May 26, 2007

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.

the crowd at BlogOut, with many standing
(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.

Update:

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

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5 Responses

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  1. Du Senyao Peter said, on May 27, 2007 at 1:01 am

    Hi Coleman, thank your for the in-depth comments on the panel discussion. 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

    You raise a good point on the crowd control: more chairs, more space, that helps. But going back to the core point: if PM lee is talking there about Blog, would you still chat at the back?

  2. Kevin said, on May 27, 2007 at 1:03 am

    Aiyah Coleman, next time help them organize lah! 😀

  3. coleman yee said, on May 27, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Peter: I think you’ve got an excellent point about the sound system, which I missed completely, as it was fine where I was sitting (near the front).

    But PM Lee would be different because he’s ‘important’ enough – his ‘importance’ would outweigh the other factors.

    Kevin: I doubt things would have been better if I helped to organize, since I wouldn’t have foreseen the problem either.

  4. Walter said, on May 27, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Interesting point there about the chairs. My suggestion was quite the opposite, which was to remove the chairs altogether since they were too huge and taking up too much space! We could also have “ushers” appointed to push people to the front of the room. I do that all the time for my events.

    Anyway, these are all minor issues. In fact, I actually enjoyed the fact that there was some spontaneity and ad hoc-ism in the event. All in the spirit of social entrepreneurialism!

  5. Du Senyao Peter said, on May 28, 2007 at 12:42 am

    @Walter:
    After a day of working, don’t you want to sit down and talk? I prefer so, at least I can comfortably eat my food and talk to people around. But yeah, I think this way of forcing people to walk around is useful. – I am just not sure how long can you keep an event like this? (**I actually wanted to let people sit on the floor!)


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