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presenterMost 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.

Bonus

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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Overlaping ColorsSome companies approach employee social media participation from the starting point of: “we hire smart people… they will do the right thing… we trust ‘em and the company benefits when our people are participating in the larger conversation…”  Other firms are deeply cautious of the new scale/scope and install policies as an extension of the PR/AR/IR process: “only a very narrow approved list can play and then, only with copy that has been pre-approved with a Legal dept. scrub…”.

Perhaps it’s a natural evolution, from one end of the spectrum to the other. 

If you happen to be a B2B marketer caught anywhere else than in the “we trust you” space, using social media networks, Twitter in particular, can be unexpectedly challenging.  Here, let’s explore solutions to two of the more common challenges for navigating the real-time and tweet approval maze.

Challenge 1:  Content Approval Not Aligned to Risk

For B2B, Twitter catalysts group very naturally into predictable categories.  The list here is a starting point, depending on your segments and how granular you might want to get.  Chime in w/others that you think make sense.

  • Events/tradeshows and associated panels and presentations
  • Educational opportunities, webinars
  • Content Assets (new whitepapers, videos
  • Product and/or Technology milestones/launches
  • Re-tweets of posts by others to keep the buzz alive
  • Product and trade news
  • Investor relations/financial-related news

A starting point for conversation w/the approval/Legal team:  conceptually, present the idea that Twitter participation falls into predictable categories:  many very low risk, some with higher risk, some peppered with significant risk.

A solution: Strive for an agreement with the approval team that risk levels vary and that approvals should scale in alignment to risk.  Then, focus on the content types with little/low risk.  For high risk content like financial transactions, earnings calls, acquisitions, etc. content may always need to undergo a rigorous and very specific scrub.  As well, AR/PR/IR tweets will usually be in the hands of company media professionals rather than the day-to-day marketing leads.

Challenge 2:  Marketing Participation Real-Time

When social media participation policy is an extension of PR/AR/IR practices, a consequence is that the thinking around review/approval is tied to historic and old-media cycle time.  Twitter and buzz opportunities move faster and break the mold. Marketing needs a pathway to participation that is both corporately safe as well as sales-useful.

A solution:  Narrow the Twitter participant list to approved spokespersons from the marketing and product teams already media trained. Add additional training on the nature of the social media beast. Partner w/Legal on the training content so governance and risk issues are illuminated and addressed.

A solution: In advance of need, work w/the approval team to pre-qualify Twitter content and approach.  The strategy is to define an approved architecture for tweet-types which then both complies with the approval policy and frees Tweeters to participate spontaneously w/out risk or delay.

As examples, here’s a few generic approaches relating to event/tradeshow speaker presentations, panel discussions and downloadable media assets:

“Check out (company name) and boothxxxx at (event name); stop by for (a chance to win… product demo…  special presentation… etc.).”

“Attending (event name)? (Name/Title) from (Company Name) will present a paper on (topic) in (location)(time). Listen in, join the conversation (link to presentation/paper abstract)”

“Listening to (names and companies) and the (panel title) discuss (panel topic). For a deeper dive, visit (your company name) at (link)”

“New analyst whitepaper on (topic) for download.  Visit (link) for a closer look at (product and/or technology description).

You get the idea.   By being armed w/ a pre-approved architecture, marketing should be better able to participate.

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 code vortex(Read time = 2 minutes)  Amazing how tangent conversations creep in from unexpected places.  Recently, I was in a client discussion on video production.  With talent direction, content and milestone conversations sated, the producer and I bridged into a “where best to host” (YouTube the obvious answer) and then widened to an adjacent discussion that challenged the default of hanging content only on the corporate web site.

 

With great delight, my producer friend, an acknowledged social media advocate herself (thanx Spooner!) with both business and academic credentials, argued for an external “content embed” strategy using third-party hosting sites.  Essentially, dropping assets onto third-party, content-specific sites which brought added traffic value beyond just the hosting itself; making it easy to share and find (think SEO).  Assets would then be served into a promotional site (think Facebook Fan Page, corporate blog site, or the like)

Indirectly, bookmarking sites like Delicious and Digg serve a similar virtualized function.  While not content hosts per se, these sites provide audience communities and search capabilities, therefore additional traffic possibilities.  But that’s a slight tangent. 

Hoping that the debate stimulates some thinking and challenges the default solution of “everything on the company site”.

The set-up:  An upcoming product launch would be augmented by social media outreach and promotion: some traditional content (collateral, whitepapers, etc.), some rich-media new content (video clips, anecdotal short case study write-ups, a podcast or two).

The marketing goal:  Integrate a company domain splash page with social media promotional networks such as: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn while taking advantage of content-specialty sites such as YouTube;  do so as simply as possible with a delivery/management process as near to a “post once, deliver to many” model;  capture robust metrics.

At issue:  where best to (practically) hang (embed) the content:  centralized w/in the company’s own domain on the splash page itself (what are the pros/cons) v. using third-party sites such as:  YouTube,  SlideShare, Docstoc , Vimeo,  Scribd, Flckr, issuu, whitepapers.org .  Which, if any, work, will depend on your audience and goal. Notable web strategist Jeremiah Owyang discusses the concept of embeddable content/give the love away in a blog post here.

Some “pros” for the third party approach:  added audience reach into communities loyal to the hosting site itself, visitors likely never to visit the company domain main website; also, by posting on sites that allow content to be re-purposed (embedded by others, elsewhere) the viral spread widens.  BEWARE:  many third-party sites include “ownership” clauses for posting to their sites.

Cons:  No single third-party site seems to be a logical aggregation point:  ie, videos would go to YouTube, podcasts to iTunes, slideware to SlideShare, etc.  Management complexity, multiple metric sources to integrate.

Biggest “pro” for the HIY approach:  internal web team can own it, optimize it, marketing can be hands off (at least in the ideal world <grin>).

Cons: Internal web teams can be very inefficient and/or have tool delivery systems less than current best practice models.  Integration of various media delivery systems inside a band aided, enterprise web architecture.

The solution remains an active discussion.  Feel free to weigh-in with thoughtful prose or quirky advice. While the resolution is not quite the beast of Trek-Piccard proportion, in our own small way, we’re Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, eyes open…  end of day, HIY + third-party site content embeds is probably not a bad solution.
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