Last night I hosted a Blab session for the first time (and stupidly, I forgot to take a screenshot of it).
I was introduced to this new tool about a month ago when I saw a tweet in my Twitter stream advertising that a Blab session was on. I can’t remember the topic but it piqued my curiosity.
As someone who is so willing to drop what she’s doing and go down a rabbit hole, this was no different. And what a rabbit hole.
Once I clicked on the link, within seconds, I had four strangers faces projected on my large iMac screen. (Disconcerting to say the least – the strangers, not the iMac screen). Some of them looked half asleep as we were all in different time zones and squinting into the camera, they talked over the top of each other.
My first thought was, “Whoa! What is this?” and I had to push my chair back a bit and just listen, watch and observe. To this day, I can’t remember what they were talking about but the discussion was animated and people were popping in and out of the panel all quite excited about Blab. I do remember someone saying that they never understood Twitter so that was my cue to get on the chat and introduce myself and give it a go to click on ‘Join Panel’ and say hello from Melbourne, Australia.
From then on, the rest, as they say, is recent history. I couldn’t go anywhere without someone asking me, “have you Blabbed?” and startled sputter, “No, of course I haven’t….oh hang on, you’re obviously not talking about divulging our nations secrets to the sworn enemies of the state.”
(So now, thanks to this tool, the colloquial term for divulging secrets or ‘rabbiting on’ about nothing in particular – something my husband says I do quite well – has now changed forever).
What is Blab about?
Steve Dotto (@Dotto) “Discover Your Inner Geek” has a video podcast where he talks about his experience with Blab and then takes us through a walk through of the tool.
My first thoughts as a participant were:
- There’s a comfort level about being able to control how much you participate and contribute. You can hang back and read tweets and listen to the conversation of the panelists OR you can just contribute in the tweet chat OR you can jump in and be a panelist.
- The Tweet chat works like Twitter in that you can still reply, favourite and ask questions for the panelists or the participants to respond.
- You can use different emoticons or animated gifs in the tweet chat for added interest (for example if you type /shrug – a symbol of a shoulder shrug comes up) – Okay, this may be amusing just for me.
- You can elect to not have your camera on (and just audio). Thanks to @MattMason who advised to click on the green padlock in the browser bar next to your URL to stop the camera.
- This is MY answer to ‘freelancer isolation’ and control the level of participation. I can immediately have my social ‘fix’ while I’m in the comfort of my own home, don’t have to shake any hands and wear clothes that I’m comfortable in. It saves money and time – those lattes and cafe lunches are a killer on my waist line and I seriously despise public transport travel. What’s not to like?
But Blab’s Biggest Win for Me Is…
It’s a great way to immediately connect with a new group of people and increase the diversity of your networks. For example, if you are consistent and join various Blabs on business related topics, you will shorten the time it takes to build the relationships and networks because you actually speak to the person, ask them about their experience, check out their profile and explore more about what they’re sharing. It’s far more immediate and “real life” connection with the only difference is that you’re not physically at a venue like a conference, bar, cafe – there’s no physical hand shaking and the person you’re speaking to may be in their pyjamas. (Ah, the internet has destroyed the mystique of people. You get to see them in their own home, wearing their casual clothes, without makeup and with sleep in their eyes).
Joking aside, another win for me is that it’s a great tool to use for conversation, discussions and debates. I’d happily sit and watch a group of four panelists who are articulate and intelligent discuss the big questions of life. Of course, the Blabs all vary and you can participate in topics from Business to Education to Leadership and everything in between. Yesterday I dropped in on one that was about “Your Most Expensive Disney Purchase”…so you get all kinds. Also the panel of four people is enough without it being overwhelming. People can self select to pop out of the panel and others can request to join while the host accepts the invitation.
(Strangely there are no knitting groups on Blab – note to self: that MUST change soon because if there are singing Blabs there has to be knitting Blabs #justsaying).
My Thoughts as a Host:
- Practice, practice, practice. This was my first time as a host and admittedly I found it difficult. I’m the type of person who likes to do less talking and more asking questions and listening and trying to include everyone in on the conversation. I found it difficult to manage the asking the questions, listening to responses (being present such as nodding, understanding the message, confirming I understood), reading the tweets and the questions by the non-panelists, recapping the questions that we were answering for those who just joined at different times; welcoming everyone and basically having a smooth facilitation. It’s like hosting a radio show where people are coming and going and you need the seamless flow of conversation with some added helpful and supportive resources that are also included in the chat box. As a result, I I talked TOO MUCH! One way to overcome this is to have a co-host but then you’re decreasing the number of panelists.
- Participate in a few Blabs before you host so that you’re comfortable with using the tool when it comes time to host. I believe a Blab Checklist would have helped me here because I forgot to press Record (you can record up to 6 hours) and there’s different functions such as tweeting out to your followers that the Blab session is on at that time.
- Watch how experienced panel moderators and hosts work and role model their behaviour – even the hosts on television panel shows. They have a knack of keeping the conversation going by involving everyone, linking the argument, seeking opinions from both the panel and the audience, asking questions and then summarising the message. I think I have to watch more of how Tony Jones on Q&A does it and role model him.
- Beware of unexpected visitors – our cat Willow made an unexpected entry in the background miaowing quite loudly in the background wondering who I was talking to and why I was ignoring her.
My Thoughts on the Applications for Learning and Development:
- Firstly, some organisations may have an issue with this. Once again, it’s the age old “open versus enterprise” tool. As long as you’re not sharing confidential and sensitive information (ie ‘blabbing’), then it has some great application for learning and building networks across a diverse range of industries and countries.
- The use of this tool especially in guided social learning programs (or connectivist MOOCs) would be helpful. Already, there are MOOCs using Blab for their group discussions so I see this tool as an extension of guided social learning programs.
- Use a Blab Checklist to ensure that at least, for your first few times, you don’t forget to complete certain functions such as recording or tweeting out updates to your followers or posting questions at various times.
- Use Blab as a small team coaching tool – and dare I say it, even role playing activities (where others can observe or participate and feedback).
- Use Blab as your channel for your subject matter expertise. For example, if I was so inclined, I could have a consistent weekly Blab conversation on “How to Activate Your Learning” and link my Activate learning newsletters to chat about different tools that can be used for learning. (Mmm…that sounds like a good idea…..!!)
How Can You Use This Tool for Your Own Learning & Building Your Networks?
- Click on the tags relevant for your interest (for me it’s Business).
- Click on the scheduled Blabs in your area of interest and see those that are coming up for the day and then subscribe.
- Schedule it in your diary ongoing (I’m noticing that some business ones are now consistent weekly Blabs so you can schedule these as professional development and….networking!)
- Before your first Blab (if you’re like me who needs to read up about it), check out some resources on Google (or below) about Blab (or lurk in a few).
- Join in and yes, hover over that “Join Panel” button and….just….join….in!
So what are you waiting for – start Blabbing!
What Others Thought of Our Blab Session:
Some Blab Resources To Get You Started:
- 15 Blab Tips for Marketers
- How to Use Blab (and Tips on Why You May Want to Use it)
- Blab Tutorials by Pam Brossman (Blab for Business) (I listen to Pam’s short weekly podcasts and saw that she also now has a weekly Blab)
- Blab in Learning and Development (@BSchlenker)
- The Ultimate Guide to Blab (Marc Levy – big thanks to @MatthewMason for this link)