Last week Bryan D’Alessandro of United Purpose asked me to be part of a panel on “The Power of Mass-scale Movements”. Some nice photos were posted of the event.
While it was great to be invited to speak about Art and Music’s role on mass-scale movements and share my thoughts, one of the most interesting parts for me was the structure that we used for the discussion, which was called reverse panel moderation.
Instead of getting the speakers to sit in the front and talk, each speaker spent 20 minutes with about 20 participants getting them to talk about the subject at hand before we took the stage. This allowed us to get the crowds thoughts and ideas, and to really engage with the folks we were speaking with.
I took full advantage of having a massive computer of agile human minds! I started with a random person (I found the person with the closest birthday to mine), I gave her the floor to give her thoughts and ideas and topics. I then moved the focus around the table, giving each person the floor. Sometimes I went with the person nodding their head, sometimes I called on the person who was frowning. I tried to get everyone around the table, working my way across.
As we went along, I kept summarizing what I was hearing, and turning it into sort of a verbal mind map, tying all of the thoughts together. It was great to have people react to the summaries, and at the end it felt great to feel the connectedness of all the minds. As I headed to stage my group sent me off with a cheer! It was great to have been part of a mini-mass scale movement that occurred just then!
When I got to stage, instead of telling people what we spoke about, I thought I’d start by illustrating the point: a pink equals sign, a yellow ribbon, a green shaded profile picture, a rainbow flag. Each one of those things I mentioned are symbolic of a movement and groups, and are able to speak to people, first on a visual and emotional level, but that opens a door to a large intellectual conversation. It was also great how a person could feel connected to a much larger group bu having these symbols, whether they were by themselves, 10 people or hundreds.
We also spoke about how the distribution of these symbols is tricky: those that start with small movements, those that have big budgets behind them, those that are from amateurs and those that come from seasoned professionals.
It was an amazing experience to be able to lead a group of bright minds through a serious discussion, under tight time pressure. What we loss in expansiveness, we gained in efficiency. It was great to use all of my moderation skills to guide that conversation and be able to real time synthesize give back what I was hearing, real time with the group and in a slightly more polished presentation afterwards. All of those years of running meetings, leading conversations really paid off! It was amazing to see the power of mass scale movements at hand while discussing mass scale movements.
And now, the next time I catch myself singing a catchy pop tune, I am going to listen a little harder to see who else is singing along.