As folks were gathering their things, a dozen or so small groups engaged in conversation. Some had two or three folks, a few had more – spread out around the building.
It should be no surprise there are similarities between online and offline conversation stations:
- Multitasking: Parents corralling kids or belongings. Teens constantly adjusting themselves (wondering if they look okay?). Leaders still working. All the while trying to listen or talk.
- Search for Signal: A few people would slowly roam the aisles looking for the conversation that was “right” for them. They’d often exchange pleasantries and move on, in search.
- Holler Front: One young toddler was looking up in admiration at the adults engaged with smiles. He wanted to talk too. He began hitting people in the leg with his stuffed animal. He’d let out a shout. And soon he burst into an all-out cry. As soon as he got everyone’s attention – he was happy and calm…until he lost their attention. Rinse and Repeat.
- Connections: One person seemed to roam the room and no matter which group she was with, she seemed to stop other passersby and make introductions. A human hyperlink, perhaps.
Sitting alone, detached and not engaged, I closed my eyes in order to listen. I didn’t listen with focus a particular section, but rather hearing the din of the crowd. And isn’t that what most people hear when they are not engaged. Noise.