How many speakers and panelists really want to know…

… what attendees are saying about their presentation – in real time, no less?
You better pay attention to what that crowd in front of you may be silently texting to each other, according to one thoughtful social media thought leader, Rohit Bhargava. In fact, he gives six reasons why you should follow the Twitter conversation in your audience. And, he advises you, to “monitor that stream of Twitter conversations” at the event, use Twemes.

Whew! Imagine if you are on a panel, listening to the panelist who’s speaking before you. Would you be madly tracking and responding to what the audience is saying? Would you modify your panel presentation? Would you alert attendees to your willingness to respond to their comments? That might motivate them to text all the more furiously with “final” thoughts. Are you sure? Even an uber-geek can goof up sometimes with this new two-way conversation.

The rippling stream of conversation could turn into rushing tsunami waves. Bad metaphor, I know, as this phenomena is simultaneously multi-directional. (Now some – not all – meeting planners who reading are this are hanging their heads in despair over the inevitable chaos, the lack of control.) Recall the audience mutiny?

Boomer that I am, I maintain that real time interaction via texting is not helpful for all conferences. It depends on the demographics of the audience. For example ….

1. Are they social media tech-savvy (or social media fatigued)?
2. Is your topic related to the use of social media?
3. Does the audience skew young or is it mostly boomers and older?
4. Can you handle real-time feedback? That is, can you ….

• Read an individual’s comment(s) or,

• More intensely still, track a “thread” of comments from attendees

• Respond to their comments or questions

…. all without losing your train of thought?

It’s not just a matter of ability to concentrate, remember and think well on your feet. Multitasking reduces our performance ability, per some studies. Yes, I admit, as a social media-loving, tech-goof over-50, I am a bit defensive. So here’s tips to tweak your Twittering at conferences and elsewhere. If it does improve (a big if) then Twittering will spread. Or audience attendees and others will simply continue their conversations at Pownce or Jaiku. Either way I’ll struggle to catch up.

Yet for the tech-savvy and the non-geeks reading this, Rohit’s book is an idea-packed must-read for burnishing your brand and staying authentic: Personality not included. Then follow-up with Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s excellent, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies.

(Wondering what social media is? Commoncraft literally shows you in four minutes.) For more ideas for making meetings interactive see these posts.

4 Responses to “How many speakers and panelists really want to know…”

  1. Kami Huyse Says:

    Speaking of multitasking, I was on full throttle trying follow all of your links in this post (lol). But all kidding aside, I did follow the Twitter stream at SxSW during my Corporate Blogging session. It helped us to address a few issues as they were brought up. But of course we didn’t address them all. That said, the SxSW audience are uber geeks and is the birthplace of Twitter’s popularity. Plus, it is a tough audience and I didn’t plan to get caught flat footed.

  2. Kare Anderson Says:

    Kami
    I’m impressed! Was your session a panel where you could track Twitter while others were speaking?
    Did you alter you were going to say in light of what you read? Any advice for others, less adept at Twitter on how to use it to:
    – cover a conference for others who are not there, or
    - stay in sync with an audience as a speaker or panelists or
    - as an attendee, to communicate with other attendees and/or with the speaker, a panelists or “MC”
    – as a meeting planner, to support more interactive sessions?

  3. Maria Elena Duron Says:

    Wow! You really brought up some valid points on how to utilize the power of Twitter and how it’s already being used. I hadn’t thought of any of this. Yet, you are right with the shifting demographics and our hyperinteractive, connected culture this will just continue to surface. So, glad for your post! I’m subscribing to your feed to keep up!

    Maria Elena Duron

  4. Kami Huyse Says:

    I often live Twitter events that I attend for those that aren’t there. I try to start with the name of the event and the speaker. For instance: #SxSW @kamichat says “People should consider using Twitter as a conference backchannel.” In a tech heavy audience, it is good to watch Twitter because often the group will lob complaints there that they won’t say out loud, it helps to address them immediately, on the spot

    As a conference organizer you can urge Twitterers to “tag” all of their posts with a particular code #PRSA, etc.
    The organizer could also start an event specific Twitter account to give updates and important information and invite all of the attendees to follow it. The conference organizer could in turn follow everyone that follows them and keep tabs on the overall feeling about sessions and the conference by reading those Tweets. If something goes very wrong, they will probably find out about it on Twitter first.

    Just a few ideas.

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