Catchbox: Liberating the Microphone

When I read about Catchbox, a “throwable microphone,” on the Alibis for Interaction blog in September I didn’t get it.

What’s wrong with regular old microphones?”, I thought.

Then I went to Alibis for Interaction and I saw a Catchbox in action – used it even – and I understood.

Then, this weekend, at the StopCyberbulling conference I saw “regular old microphones” in use to take comments and questions from the audience and it all seemed positively barbaric.

Here’s what I get now, that I didn’t get before, about Catchbox:

  1. It moves itself around: you simply throw it to the person who wants to speak, and they throw it onward. You don’t need “microphone ushers” stumbling their way down the aisles.
  2. It shocks people using it out of “I’m asking a question at a conference”-speak: it doesn’t look like a microphone, so you don’t fall into the (boring old) role of someone asking a question. That difference is small, but it’s important.
  3. It’s fun to use, and fun to watch. It injects an element of whimsy into the proceedings.
  4. It spaces out the conversation: at this weekend’s event, with the “microphone ushers” moving the microphone around, questions tended to be confined to the areas they could easily travel to quickly, and then fanned out from there. With a Catchbox the next speaker can be far across the room, and the microphone can be there as quickly as it can be thrown.
  5. It’s obvious who “has the floor”: it’s the person with the bright pink (or orange or yellow or blue) box in their hand.

Having seen it work, I’m sold, and I’d encourage anyone who’s organizing an event that has an audience that you want to engage (or where you want to actively work to break down “audience” and “speaker” roles) to investigate. You can’t buy one yet, but you can rent one if you’re in Finland (or, apparently, Landskrona), and you can put yourself on the waiting list when they open up sales.