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Saturday, March 07, 2009
  How Twitter Can Enhance Your Presentation

Much ado over a Twittering Congress. Last week during the President's address to the joint session of Congress, some members Twittered through the speech. Almost immediately, two basic attitude camps sprang up among pundits:

1. How dare they! Congress should be paying rapt attention, not providing color commentary.
2. Kudos! Now, the public gets to immediately know what's going on in the minds of elected officials.
Texting
Creative Commons License photo credit: ydhsu

How dare they! The "How dare they" camp comes across as quaint, old-fashioned. Traditional presenters bristled with comments like: "if someone is Twittering during a presentation, it means that the speaker is not keeping their interest and attention. They're failures as presenters!" Another "how dare they" comment reflected the cell phone disruptions from the 1990's - remember the days when presenters reminded everyone to turn off their cell phones and pagers?

The kudos camp. People who embrace the Congressional Tweetstream are facing the inevitable: more and more people WILL Tweet during your presentation. People have been making color commentary behind the speaker's back for ages -- with Twitter, it all becomes immediate and public. And it's not going to stop any time soon. In fact, Twitter backchannel behavior only going to grow and thrive. Instead of fighting it, learn to embrace it! Plan on it!

Three Quick Ways to Harness the Power of Twitter to Enhance Your Presentation.

1. Think in terms of one-liners and sound bites.
Unlike a cell phone ringing, Tweeting during a speech is not disruptive. It is akin to a laugh line or an applause line. Think of it this way: when a comedian drops a one-liner, he or she waits a beat for the audience to process the joke. After the beat, the audience bursts out in laughter. When you give a presentation to a Twittering audience, you'll want to think in terms of sound bites and one liners, too. Drop a few Twitter liners into your speech, then pause. Wait for the audience to process the thought. Then, resume speaking when the sounds of thumbs clattering away on mobile texting devices die down.

2. Plan for Tweeting audiences. Over at the Speaking About Presenting blog, Olivia Mitchell shares her experiences of presenting live to a Twittering audience. Ms. Mitchell outlines 8 key points she learned while presenting to a Twittering audience. Rather than reiterate them here, go read them! Olivia and other presenters are embracing Twitter, and inventing new methods to connect with a socially savvy audience. The advantages of connecting with your audience's preferred way of communication are clear. The bonus? You can spread your messages farther & faster when you communicate appropriately for a Tweeting audience!

3. Devise hashtags for your presentation. Hopefully, your conference or meeting organizer will assign a hashtag for the conference. If they haven't, make sure you come up with one that's short, memorable, and unique. Encourage your audience to tag their Tweets. When you later search for tagged Tweets , you'll get a stream of your backchannel commentary. You'll know which lines worked, which didn't, and which spread like wildfire. Hashtags let you more effectively spread your presentation to an audience beyond the room. Hashtags also let you critique your presentation, so that you can become a better speaker.

What other ways might you change your presentation style to more positively connect with a Twittering audience?

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Comments:
I think that I'm somewhere between the kudos camp and the How dare they! camp - I think it's wonderful to be able to incorporate technology into presentations but at the same time, it is important for the audience to be engaged. There are other ways to use technology, for example audience response systems. I found - http://www.audience-response.ca/about/ - that does this. You can use technology while still keeping the audience involved.
 
Thanks for the post - great stuff - I hadn't read the article about Congressional tweeting - the times they are a' changing!
 
Another aspect of twittering attendees of a conference: You get free marketing. If many are twittering, the reader may consider to take part in the (recurring) event himself next time.
 
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