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The Risks of the Backchannel

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  • If presenters and audiences aren't prepared for the impact of a backchannel, there are risks of misunderstandings and public blowups

Nothing gets attention like conflict, and that's especially true when it comes to the backchannel.

In Chapter 3, you learned that people find the backchannel a very useful tool that helps them to

  • More fully engage the information being presented.
  • Engage one another.
  • Give feedback to the presenter or host.
  • Provide a record of audiences' thoughts.

When the feedback the backchannel gives is positive, things go smoothly.

But the waters can get extremely rough when the feedback is negative. In some cases, exchanges between backchannel and presenters have blown up in the room and spilled out into the public square.

When these conflicts happened, the Internet was abuzz with blog posts and comments telling the story and analyzing the play-by-play, often stirring up strong emotions and heated discussions about who was justified in what they did.

The Keyboard vs. the Microphone

The players and the tools these players use to bring about these backchannel blowups are all too common—audience members on their keyboards are pitted against a presenter with a microphone.

It's possible to ignore the backchannel and to just cross fingers and hope that more blowups don't happen. But the risks of doing nothing are actually much greater than having a periodic disruption—they can have big ramifications when they become public.

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