Is the iPhone Ruining Conference Panel Discussions?

At last week’s Inman Connect Conference in San Francisco, moderators including Curbed.com’s Lockhart Steele and Inman conference founder Brad Inman, took questions from the audience over SMS to their iPhones.

This had mixed results. On the positive side, it allowed people to ask questions much more efficiently than they could using a mic since time would be wasted shuttling mics around to questioners. It also allowed moderators to, well, moderate the questions posed via SMS.

Inman Connect

However, there were some downsides too. Moderators who were perfectly prepared and capable of asking relevant and interesting questions from panels were occasionally distracted by the barrage of incoming text messages they were receiving, causing them to miss opportunities for follow-up questions. Swiping and scanning questions is not the best use of a moderators expertise and time.

But the most annoying part was the interference caused by the GSM phone radio frequency interfering with the wireless mics used on stage.

From the audience, I could tell when a new text message was received first by the interference on the mics, which drew me away from the conversation I was there to watch.

The concept of taking live questions via SMS is awesome. However, I think it could work better if someone off stage and away from the mic was processing the questions for the moderator. Or, at least use a non-GSM phone like the iPhone if wireless mics are going to be used.

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