The KBWTFN project was started as a response to the explosion in webinars during the Covid-19 pandemic. As offline events were cancelled around the world and reconfigured for online event paradigms, the bar for entry for hosting events became dramatically lowered. When the costs of transport, event location, and speaker fees fell to almost zero, literally anyone could host online events – ironing out all differences in quality.
A Rash of Webinars
We noticed that many events suffered from a vicious cycle that involved event organizers trying to draw high numbers of participants, keeping in mind digital engagement targets. Speakers found themselves in demand, often dividing their time and perspectives between many more events than they naturally participate in.
We observed event participants RSVP for webinars that interested them, sampled bits from many, while not committing to any single one. This was also compounded by webinars being recorded so they can be made available online, leading to large playlists that are added but abandoned.
Creating Friction to increase Quality
We designed an experimental online radio show that is in many ways, the reverse of how webinar organizers operate.
- KBWTFN shows are audio-only debate formats
- No registrations: People participate as needed, often anonymously
- One-time live event: No recordings of the event are made available.
- Focus on the content: Only the theme of the show is announced. Speakers identify themselves towards the end of the show. They may even use nicknames instead of real ones.
- Conversation friendly: Half the event is a debate between speakers, the other half is open for listener participation. Questions are addressed directly with no curation.
- Crude language or Swear words allowed in context: In keeping with the promise of a pub styled conversation than a staged debate.
- No event marketing: The events are not marketed. Only an announcement with a link on a prior date with a reliance on word-of-mouth participation
- Non Moderated Debate formats: The facilitator does not moderate or ask questions, but allows speakers to make their case as needed.
Building friction into the design of the format makes it actually harder to enroll and attend the event, as a consequence of which we saw higher quality debates than can be expected from the typical webinar style panel discussions.
Even though this was an experimental format, the feedback was positive. Participants praised the openness of the format, particularly the ability to converse openly with the speaking panel.
The format is however designed to not accommodate more than a 100 participants at a time. While on-boarding friction ensures that the numbers are not very high, it may still be important to cap the number of participants to a specific number.
KBWTFN next steps
KBWTFN is currently on hiatus and is expected to resume in 2021. We expect to conduct no more than one event every 2 months to keep event fatigue low. We also intend to explore a diversity of subjects in future episodes.
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