Remember the incident at SXSW with the way Sarah Lacy interviewed Mark Zuckerberg? This year it was Twitter founder Evan Williams being interviewed by Umair Haque. There wasn’t a huge uprising of anger this year, there was just a mass exodus from the room because it was sooooooo boring. Look at the remarks on Twitter about it. The SXSW audience wants a particular question or set of questions asked. Or they want an interviewer who injects less ego into the conversation. Whatever the reason, when attendees don’t get what they want, the interview is effectively over or is slammed in the backchannel.
One solution, of course, is to drop the interview format from SXSW keynotes. Maybe the audience at SXSW is just too critical to accept any interviewers work.
But another solution occurs to me. Set up a system in advance through Twitter or by some other method to take questions from the attendees. Maybe the 20 or 30 best questions get asked by the interviewer, who is nothing but a conduit for the questions the audience wants answered. BlogHer has done this with interviews of people like Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sibelius and it works well. At BlogHer, they even name the names of the people who submitted to question. This puts the ego issue in the audience’s lap, yet lets the most interesting questions reach the person being interviewed.
I feel sure Hugh Forrest and the organizers at SXSW are going to give this year’s mass exodus interview scene lots of thought. So, Hugh, here’s my two cents on the problem.