Kimm Beavers, Managing Producer

Kimm Beavers

Managing Producer

Q&A With Kimm Beavers

This year has brought a lot of unique challenges to everyone, impacting how we learn, work, worship, and connect with our communities. Our team working on The Defamation Experience took our 10 years of experience creating lasting, meaningful civil discourse and reimagined a brand new virtual experience, DefEx Online.

With the same topics we’re focused on being at the forefront of national conversation, we’re proud to be able to continue building these compelling experiences for audiences of all types and sizes.

We asked our Managing Producer, Kimm Beavers, to tell us about the impact seen so far since the launch of DefEx Online.

1. Overall, how do you think DefEx Online is going so far?

We have a clear opening for the post-show discussion. Audiences are informed that rather than striving for objectivity in their comments, the goal is to shine a light on that process of recognizing their own personal thoughts, feelings, and biases and how it can affect their objectivity. Experience has taught that the best discussions unfold organically. So, it’s important to be patient as the audience gets comfortable with participating. We ask for a show of hands in a series of questions like: “Did anyone have difficulty making a decision?”, “Did anyone struggle with their objectivity?”, etc. In this way, people are pulled into active participation without feeling singled out in having to stand up and speak right away.

2. What is the biggest benefit you see to The Defamation Experience being available as a virtual offering?

We use prompts to help trigger the conversation, keep it moving, or deepen it from a superficial level. Prompts are open-ended questions designed to stimulate contemplation and elicit thoughtful responses that extend beyond a simple yes or no. Preparing a list beforehand helps achieve this goal. Prompts are not intended to structure a conversation in advance, but they help the conversation flow organically from the thoughts and interests of the audience. A well-designed prompt can create a through line between topics or shifts in the conversation and can also introduce thoughts, feelings, and emotions without the audience member having to initiate the topic.

3. Have things gone differently in online shows than you what you experienced in live performances?

When conversations happen with the audience sharing the same physical space, we strive to put the audience at ease by stepping off the stage and moving closer to create an intimate space. This also has the subtle effect of indicating that the focus has shifted from the fictional action on the stage to the lived experience of the audience. Maneuvering throughout the audience, making eye contact and maintaining a relaxed tone conveys genuine and sincere interaction from us.

In a virtual setting, things are a bit different. The feeling of an intimate space is already created – we’re most likely seeing into a snapshot of audience members’ homes. It’s important to note that the norms and actions of people change while meeting virtually. There are some benefits, like being able to call on people by name to speak and spotlight their video for the rest of the audience. There are also some challenges, like missing out on facial expressions and body language of other audience members while another person is speaking. Stay aware of the differences in virtual settings, and make sure you create an environment for conversation that allows everyone to be seen and heard in a respectful way.

4. What is your favorite thing so far that you’ve seen in a DefEx Online event?

The discussion is a very organic process with the audience. As facilitators, we try to speak only as much as necessary to keep the conversation flowing. We want the audience to have their own moments of realizations through self-examination. However, making a connection between the comments of two or more audience members can help in getting people to respond directly to one another. We want to encourage the flow of ideas and self-discoveries.

5. What is the biggest challenge schools and organizations are facing right now that DefEx Online can help address?

We know it’s important to not relinquish our roles in managing the discussion, calling on people to speak, and – if necessary – jumping in if a provocative statement calls for a request for clarity. That includes intervening quickly if an exchange threatens to grow heated and remind the audience that disagreeing with each other’s ideas is realistic but should remain respectful. That said, we are proud to say in the over 550 discussions, we’ve never had a contentious conversation. People genuinely want to have these conversations. Sometimes they just don’t know how, and a facilitator’s job is to help make that happen.

6. Is there anything you’re excited about in the months ahead?

It’s very important to acknowledge the progress of the discussion from the audience. Whether they leaned into the conversation or dove in, they participated, and that first step is huge. Furthermore, we encourage them to continue having these conversations by listening mindfully and respectfully, then expressing themselves mindfully and respectfully.

7. What advice do you have for anyone launching virtual programming?

It’s very important to acknowledge the progress of the discussion from the audience. Whether they leaned into the conversation or dove in, they participated, and that first step is huge. Furthermore, we encourage them to continue having these conversations by listening mindfully and respectfully, then expressing themselves mindfully and respectfully.

 

If you’re looking for a catalyst to get conversations started, consider hosting DefEx Online, developed with the power of civil discourse in audience deliberations and facilitated discussions. Watch the trailer to see how The Defamation Experience brings a unique opportunity to engage in civil discourse about the most pressing issues of our day.

For more information, contact us to start a conversation about bringing The Defamation Experience to your venue.

Kimm Beavers 

Managing Producer, Canamac Productions,
The Defamation Experience & DefEx Online