Playing Oprah

Yesterday when I led a panel at the Personal Democracy Forum, I gave props to Dave Winer as I told the room that they were the panel — that’s what Dave told me quite firmly at the first Bloggercon — and so I was taking the microphone to the room — the people formerly known as the audience — to involve everyone in the discussion and to organize the discussion not around people (I’m on the panel, you’re not; it’s my turn in the line…) but around threads of ideas. I now see that two days ago, Dave told the story of that Bloggercon. He taught me how to be Oprah and I have used that ever since and, indeed, his has made me a better moderator/discussion leader.

Today, I’m relieved and happy that the PDF leaders have decided to also come into the audience and play Oprah. Perhaps I should have called it playing Winer. A snippet of his story of the beginning of the format:

We reserved a suite of five classrooms and recruited Discussion Leaders (DLs), and tried to explain the format on the phone. I asked the DLs to think of the entire room as a panel. Two of them, well-intentioned, had recruited a few people they knew and asked them to come to the front. I rotated between the rooms, when I saw this, I asked the people in the front to take seats in the body. I made the DL stand in front, and lead the discussion. I remember the instant Jeff Jarvis, for example, understood what I was looking for — he ran with it, as far as I could tell everyone had a grand time (Jarvis is a fantastic DL). By the time the day was over, the format had been worked out, and get this — the hallways were empty! The conversations that used to happen in the hallway were now happening in the conference.

Thanks, Dave.