Reinventing the tech conference experience

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If you had to name one thing that could have been better at the last conference or meetup you attended, what would it be? I bet you’d say that the content or the interaction could have been better in some way. I created Onslyde to solve this problem. It’s a free service and open-source project that (hopefully) will make public speaking easier and conferences better.

The motivation for the project came from my own speaking engagements in the tech industry. I wanted to see how many people in the audience actually agreed or disagreed with what I was saying. I also wanted to leverage their experience and knowledge to create a better learning environment.

Presentations today are mostly unidirectional, with a single presenter giving information to the audience. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Now, with the ubiquity of mobile devices, everyone in the room can contribute to the conversation and make it better. Many books have been written on the topic of collective wisdom. In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki states.

Ratings And Feedback

When we look at current systems of rating and feedback at conferences, most of them are reactive, meaning that participants rate the session after it’s over. This is why most people don’t even rate sessions, unless they are asked or forced to by the doorkeeper. Those who do rate sessions might not care to be accurate (giving all 5s or 4s and then hurrying to the coffee line). Other attendees might have enjoyed the majority of the talk, but then got upset by the last slide or by the way the speaker ended the talk.

If these people decided to rate the presentation, how many stars do you think they would give? Perhaps 3 or 4 stars because of their anger at the end, but who really knows? Without context, a low rating doesn’t tell the speaker which part of the talk an attendee didn’t like.

Real-time feedback gives context to a rating, making traditional feedback unnecessary. Conference organizers and speakers no longer have to rely solely on Twitter hash tags and reactive ratings to see how well things went. We can now visualize exactly how the audience felt at any millisecond of a presentation.

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