I made it to the space just before the "sorry we're over capacity" sign was posted turning people away. BABES FEST had clearly offered something women found compelling enough to show up and invite all their friends. Perhaps it was the promise of learning something new from the speakers; perhaps it was the possibility of meeting Jessica Williams.
New celebs aside, the panels were completely comprised of badass women, whose charisma and synergy was palpable to the audience of trendy women that listened intently. Nevertheless, I left the night feeling like I wanted more. Something about the format wasn’t working for me. Where was the interaction? The connectivity?
My question to ponder for the night was: why speaker panels? What is it about this format that people like enough to keep repeating? Is there something rewarding about hearing multiple views on the same topic one after another? Is there a fear that if we were to let the panelists have an open discussion that the audience wouldn’t get enough clarity around a certain issue?
I thought of the important role of the moderator, which directly links back to the facilitator role in Up Speak. I found that when I facilitated Up Speak groups like a speaker panel, the room felt flat and disengaged. When I pivoted to encouraging conversation between Up Speak members, suddenly there were sparks, a dynamic, an interplay that gave the conversation depth.
I’m not saying there’s nothing to be gained from a speaker panel. I am merely positing the question of what would it look and feel like if amazing people were in conversation with each other, instead of a faceless general public?
Luckily I’m in a position to find out! Stay tuned for updates about an exciting new project on the horizon.