ThoughtFlows is a web service company I helped launch with Sean McDonnell in 2009. Its goal is to enhance presentations, either in the classroom or in the conference room, by freeing the mind to ask, because the best questions are the hardest ones to ask.
After months of research, we had learned quite a bit about both the experience of presenting as well as the experience of being presented to. We learned that presenters often wonder how their efforts are being received, where the audience members are getting stumped, when they are excited, what they are thinking. We learned (and remembered from school) that audience members often have really interesting thoughts but keep them to themselves for a number of reasons.
With ThoughtFlows, we are trying to build a platform that inspires audience members to effortlessly engage with the presenter and their peers, while dramatically improving the presenter’s experience. At the core of the service is a Flow – a virtual classroom environment where presenters can embed their presentations and see them side by side with live thoughts and questions being posed by audience members. Those thoughts in the Flow dynamically sort and differentiate themselves as other audience members vote them up, answer them, or comment on them. For teachers and presenters, a suite of additional classroom management features accompany the core Flow functionality, enhancing the overall presentation experience. And for students and audience members, customization options, privacy controls, and collaboration tools allow for a new level of engagement.
Sean and I applied our research findings to the design process for the site and developed over 60 unique page templates for every possible user scenario. We then decided to build a limited edition Beta version of ThoughtFlows to generate user feedback and prove the concept’s value. Thus far, the beta has been used in classrooms at Northeastern University and Emory University, resulting in invaluable feedback for future development.
We have big plans for the future of ThoughtFlows, so stay tuned.