Live and Interactive

2019-05-30 / Karrie Berglund / Presenting

Live, interactive presentation

What is a live planetarium show anyway?

I have been doing live, interactive planetarium shows for more than 20 years, and so I often forget that some people are simply not familiar with the concept.

At its most basic definition, a live planetarium show is one that is not recorded. As the presenter operates their planetarium system they might integrate recorded content such as movie clips into the program, but the presenter is choosing when to show that content, what words to say throughout the program, etc. I prefer presenting and attending planetarium shows that are live and interactive.

Lecture presentation
A lecture is live but not interactive.

A planetarium program that is live but not interactive is a lecture: the audience is listening but not responding. Communication is moving in only one direction, from the presenter to the audience.

Live, interactive presentation
A live, interactive presentation focuses on involving the audience.

In an interactive program, there is two way communication: The audience can ask questions of the presenter or answer questions posed by the presenter.

Prerecorded presentation
Prerecorded presentations are passive.

Prerecorded shows are not interactive, but have some advantages over live programs. For example, the presenter does not need to have any special subject knowledge to play a movie. Prerecorded content can be used to present a concept that cannot be demonstrated well—or maybe not at all—with the planetarium system. With prerecorded content there is consistency among different audiences, since the movie will be exactly the same for every group.

However, live, interactive programs have distinct advantages over prerecorded shows. I see these as the main advantages of live, interactive planetarium programs:

  • As noted above, they provide two way communication: The audience is not just passively watching a movie. This can lead to far greater audience engagement and learning.

  • This two way communication enables the presenter to gauge whether the audience has fully understood a concept or if clarification or further explanation is needed.

  • Interactive shows are different every time, since the audience is different every time. This variety helps keep shows fresh. This is not to say that a presenter should start talking about Pluto if the program is about the Mars Insight mission, merely that different audiences will likely be interested in different facets of the program topic.

  • Audience members can learn from each other in interactive programs, not just from the presenter. This can create a shared group experience that is unique to that particular audience.

  • Live shows can be updated as new discoveries are made. In a dynamic field such as astronomy, this is crucial to keeping programs relevant. Consider the media coverage of the recent imaging of a black hole. With our Digitarium planetarium systems (and most other digital planetarium systems), that first ever actual black hole image could be shown on the dome within just a few minutes of its announcement.

So how do you get started doing a live, interactive program?

A big part of an interactive program is letting the audience steer the show—i.e, building the show on audience comments and suggestions. If you're thinking that that sounds like an improv show, you're right: improv comedy classes can help prepare you for interactive planetarium programs.

Get comfortable with this sentence: “I don't know.” It's okay to not know everything; scientists don't know everything, and that is part of the fun of discovery. If an audience member asks a question that you've never thought about, acknowledge that, and thank them for encouraging you to think about the concept in a different way.

Coming to the annual Live Interactive Plantarium Symposium (LIPS) is a great way. You can learn about LIPS at: LIPSymposium.org

Join the LIPS Facebook group. This is a closed group, so you will need to send a request to join. Search for “Live Interactive Planetarium Symposium” on Facebook to find it.

Join the LIPS Google group. Send me a message asking for an invitation to the Google group: karrie AT DigitalisEducation.com

Live, interactive planetarium shows are a great way to advance learning, engagement, and keep your planetarium relevant. If you haven’t done these before, now is the time to start!

About the Author

Karrie is Director of Education and a co-founder of Digitalis. She spearheads LIPS and is often on the road at conferences. She writes the LIP Service column for the IPS Planetarian professional journal, leads the IPS Vision 2020 Professional Development team, and is an IPS Fellow.

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