Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Google Wave For Meetings & Events — An Early Look!

Many of you read my article published on Sunday providing you a first look at the new web 2.0 tool Google Wave.  To view that article please click here.  I came across a very solid EBook, “The Complete Guide to Google Wave,” written by Gina Trapani with Adam Pash.  The book’s title is a bit of a misnomer as it is still a “work in progress” but I would recommend the book as it will help you become better acquainted with this application.google_wave_logo

Clearly Google Wave is in its infancy and is still in the beta testing phase.  It also has not been officially released to the public so its true potential is untapped as of yet.  That being said some basic features of this application seem to match up usefully with content delivery for meetings.

Here are some interesting ways Google Wave may be utilized at conferences and other types of events of the future:

  • Back Channel Conversation Tool — This application will thrive as an enhancement for Hybrid or Virtual Events.  There are two major online discussions about this I’ve seen thus far, a blog post from Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, and then Charlie Osmond at the FreshNetworks blog.  Both contend Google Wave will be a much better platform than Twitter for “conference chatter.”  I agree… here’s why:
    • A Google Wave is a wiki-like page of annotations which evolve over the course of a presentation versus a Hashtag Twitter chat, which is a “stream of disconnected Tweets.”
    • Real-Time Collaboration — Whereas with Twitter there is a delay, for the posting of each tweet, with Google Wave it all evolves in one place, in real-time.  The end product is a  crowd-sourced write-up of a presentation neatly transcribed with key points and a record of audience comments all in one document.
    • Playback — using the applications “playback” feature event participants can review the history of the event which is a real benefit for late-comers, or for someone seeking a review of the session.

Note:  Both the above-mentioned Blog articles have a nice series of screen shots demonstrating visually how the wave collaboration process plays out.

  • Brainstorming Tool — For roundtable style sessions Google Wave can be used in place of Flipcharts.  One Wave would be created for each discussion topic and then groups collaborate to pool their ideas and document them for everyone to see in a wrap-up discussion with the entire group.  Virtual participants could even participate in these sessions using an audio or video gadget embedded into the wave itself.
  • Content Exchange — Session speakers will be able to use waves as vehicles for sharing various types of content integrated together.  For example in the same Wave users (speaker or audience) could embed on-the-spot streaming video, audio clips, pictures and audience polling tools.  Attendees (virtual or live) may post question blips and/or shared content adding to the presentation.  The possibilities are endless and exciting!  Speakers of the feature will function more as “content moderators” than “talking heads.”  The “panel discussions” of the past will evolve to audience-sourced panel interactions.

The more I think about this stuff, the more excited I get.  I am optimistic about the future potential of Google Wave, and other tools to come like it.  We are truly headed into an exciting era in the meetings and events industry!

I am going to keep marching on the Google Wave trail and as I come across new discoveries and ideas I will share them with you.  I also look forward to learning about your experiences with this new technology.  What could be better or different?  Please share your thoughts with us!

Follow Michael McCurry on Twitter

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Hurt November 17, 2009 at 9:45 am

I think both Twitter Chats and Google Wave will have their place as conference back channels. As you and I have discussed Michael, the lag time for Google Wave seems to be a real challenge, at least for now. The threaded discussions are good in Google Wave and if lots of people start adding gadgets to the discussion, it becomes a bandwidth issue to download–as I’ve seen with some of the public chats. Add limited WiFi to that issue and you could have a mess onsite at the conference with people trying to access it. That’s yet to be seen.

For education reasons and good brain learning, I like the short burts of 140 character information from Twitter chat. That forces the writer and reader to succintly post information which creates chunking of information. Chunking of information leads to better learning and retention. The brain likes to think in chunks and can process that information better.

Google wave does not have the limitation of characters so you see long bursts of information from the attendee. I do think it will be a great tool for annotations and collaboration though. Which is entirely different than trying to help people learn and retain information from a presentation, which often occurs in the back channel.

For me, Google Wave in its current form, is limited by bandwitdh and watching the other person type letter by letter. Instead of the entire sentence or paragraph being posted at one time, the viewer gets distracted by lag time and waiting for the next letter or full word to appear. If both are typing at the same time, synching becomes an issue due to bandwitdh, which again would lead to frustruation at a conference. That may very well change in the future with upgrades though. Also, the learning curve with Google Wave is much more steep that Twitter. So bringing newbies on to chat is quicker and faster in Twitter. I’m seeing some other event professionals and nonprofit leaders mention the same thing. It’s not intituitive to them yet.

I think both will have a place for future conference use for sure!


Michael M McCurry CMP November 17, 2009 at 12:18 pm

@Jeff Hurt,

Great points Jeff!!

I also believe Twitter has an edge on Google Wave with regard to Marketing use. The quick messaging and inclusion of links to items of interest is a huge feature that is very useful with that tool.

Not sure how that will play out in the Google Wave world??? It will be interesting to see.

The collaboration potential with GW is huge.. but Google developers must find a way to resolve the bandwidth issue because when the tool goes public it could be a disaster.

With the bandwidth issue resolved I see GW evolving Back channel conversations to a higher level…. we shall see..

Thanks Jeff, for your addition to the conversation.



Dave Lutz November 18, 2009 at 8:08 am

Mike, I’m pretty much a newbie to Google Wave. I’m thinking the Wave makes most sense for small groups, ideally who have a history of collaborating together. Here’s a few applications that may make sense:

1) Roundtable brainstorming. Sometimes the person with the magic marker, just doesn’t write down what I say or doesn’t get it quite right. I’d love to edit their work. Google Wave nails that one.

2) If I were working for a magazine or writing a blog about a session, I’d love to have a Google Wave to help me take notes for a killer story. I wouldn’t want a ton of people in the wave, but if I had 3 – 5 smart people riding the Wave with me, that would make for a gnarly article/post. It would also be cool for a few co-workers attending a conference together to combine their note taking. Better yet, I would have digged having this tool in college. I bet I could have skipped a few more classes if I had a Wave to ride with my student friends.

3) If you have too many people participating in the Wave without a common belief of what the final product should look like, I’m not so sure that you will get the benefit.

4) Google Wave would work well for taking and sharing minutes at a committee meeting.

5) If I were co-presenting or speaking on a panel, brainstorming together with Google Wave could help design a more well thought out program. Some people are more vocal with the pen than with their mouth.

6) I’m not crazy about having survey qualitative responses via Google Wave. I think it’s better to have each individual’s opinion that is not influenced by others comments. You’ll get too much “me too” vs. original thought.

I don’t know, the jury is still out for me. I’m a big Google Fan, so I’m not betting against this yet. I just don’t see it as an everyday tool.

Dave Lutz – @velchain
Velvet Chainsaw Consulting


Michael M McCurry CMP November 18, 2009 at 9:17 am

@Dave Lutz,

Some good thoughts here Dave, we are all newbies with Google Wave, so I agree the jury is out for sure.

I like the idea about wavesourcing the blog story… good idea

Regarding the common belief concern, maybe the way you come up with the common belief is by tossing the ideas around in the wave, not unlike a “post-it” session and then find consensus.

At any rate it will be interesting to see where google ends up with this application… it certainly was created with a lot of imagination and “outside the box” thinking… I like that.

Thanks for contributing Mr. Lutz… your thoughts always appreciated.



laura November 18, 2009 at 8:19 am

I usually work with web-based applications like http://www.showdocument.com
I use it for sharing my designs and documents with partners and clients,
but i guess it can used for other purposes too. If you’re looking for a free solution you should check it out.
– Laura W.


Michael M McCurry CMP November 18, 2009 at 9:19 am


Thanks for sharing the alternative application… I will definitely check it out.

I appreciate the contribution to the discussion.



Ashley Spitzer November 18, 2009 at 10:00 am


This is a succinct overview and explanation of some exciting features to come. I agree with previous comments in that GW & Twitter will each have a place within meetings and events. As they catch on among attendees, will generate quality discussions and contributions. Thanks for sharing this!


Michael M McCurry CMP November 18, 2009 at 12:40 pm

@Ashley Spitzer,

So true that the conversations have only just begun… I look forward to watching this tool evolve and validate itself as an exciting application in the SM.

Thanks for your comments, Ashley!



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