Most B2B marketers and support providers have become adept at carrying on multiple IM conversations during conference calls, one ear listening while producing a running commentary on the merits of the discussion, or even expanding the back-channel conversation well beyond the topic at hand. During meetings (digital etiquette aside), text messaging now consumes much more attention than the running dialogue. Conference call and net-meeting participants now expect the sidebar comments from guests attending.
That this behavior is now invading the presentation world should be no surprise – but the consequences for speakers and panels in how they prepare and present are large. Some call it “crowd force”, some “crowd source”. By whatever name the dynamic will need attention.
At two recent public events, I watched as the speakers struggled to solve the challenge of presenting to a live audience, and in real-time, negotiating the inclusion of Twitter comments and Twitter commentary. No longer can a presenter totally dictate the flow of information. In one of the forums, the audience substantially created its own parallel conversation (hash tagged to the topic) without even having a seat on stage and with the presenter totally unaware. While perhaps only 30% of the audience was able to “see” both presentations, the behavior opens a brave new world for speakers, panelists and presenters at all levels.
So how best to take advantage of the new medium… how best to avoid the perils…
Integrating Social Media from Podiums and Panels
Expect Social Dialogue as the Norm, not the exception – Presentation how’s and how-nots have been well documented. Today, it just makes good business sense to expect that there will be Twitter comments as you present, that blog posts will go-live during your presentation and immediately after. By expecting this, you can actually bake in sound bites and make direct references to social media w/in your presentation, thereby both engaging the participation as well as maintaining a semblance of conversation management.
Prompt the Event Sponsors to Integrate digital dialogue w/physical dialogue. Ask for a screen at the podium so you can monitor the tweet-stream; consider a large console on-stage to proactively invite participation both in-room and to those outside the conference itself. By defining an engagement setting, speakers/panelists retain more command of the presentation flow. Even if it’s highly unlikely that your audience will actively make use of social media conversation during your presentation, give a nod to the new media opportunity and your credentials as a thought leader.
Add a “Social Engagement” quotient to your audience analysis – Most speakers/panelists go thru an exercise when preparing material for public consumption that includes an audience evaluation (subject knowledge, competitive and company awareness, hot topics/trends of the day, etc. Presenters should consider a “Twitter Quotient”, as well – ie, the likely tweet adoption rate and use as a means for assessing the likelihood for back-channel conversation.
Add a New Page as You Read the Room– We’re all taught to scan the audience for signs of engagement and/or boredom, and to adjust presentation style real-time to better respond. Add to this a scan for laptops and fingers flying across keyboards… for Bberry/iPhone thumb-fests – all as indicators that tweets and blog posts may have invaded the room. I’ve heard some discussions around having a colleague attend who specifically will monitor for back-channel discussion, and who can signal presenters when comments warrant inclusion. Some go so far as to schedule “Twitter Breaks” as a formal part of the presentation, and where speakers/panelists dedicate a few minutes directly to social community feedback/discussion.
Would be insightful to hear from speakers on whether they’ve thought about this aspect of presentations, whether anyone has further first-hand experiences to share, and/or from coaches/trainers who have thoughts on this topic.
Useful Tools to Consider: A powerpoint plugin allows tweets to be seen on-screen http://www.sapweb20.com/blog/powerpoint-twitter-tools/ Twitter conference filter tool http://www.tidytweet.com/
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