High Tech vs. Interaction

I just returned from Venice (Italy), where I attended DSOM 2009 and IPOM 2009. This was my first trip to Venice and the city is more than interesting. I enjoyed going straight to the airport by boat (not necessarily fast but pretty special) and I liked the water taxi I used every morning to reach the conference site, the Telecom Italia Future Centre.

The main conference room was truly exceptional, combining Venecian history with modern meeting room technology. The audience was sitting on the left and right side of the room facing each other but not the presenter, who was located at the head of the room. Being futuristic meant in this specific case that every participant had his own screen for watching the slides and a microphone for live interaction. Despite a few feedback issues, the microphones worked reasonably well for the audience - but less so for the presenter located at the head of the room since the speakers were all directed towards the audience. But the fact that it was difficult for the presenter to understand questions was just a minor challenge - the by far bigger challenge was to deliver a lively talk in front of an audience where nobody is facing the presenter and all people are starring into computer screens (either their own notebooks or the screens showing the slides or even both). Giving a lively presentation from an office via a web conferencing system is likely easier than this setup.