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Twitter – The Presenter’s New Best Bud – Part 6 – The Twitter Interaction


My mom was a great cook… but she didn’t have a ton of patience.  Consequentially, she never taught me to cook and her cooking always seemed to have this mystical quality.  I lived in the dorms throughout college so I never learned the culinary arts during that time either.  Rich and I married the same weekend as I graduated from Iowa State University and, fortunately for both of us, we received a couple of cook books as wedding gifts.  When I finally cracked open the cook books and took on this mystery that was cooking, I found out what many of you probably learned at a much younger age, cooking was no big deal.

That’s what it was kind of like the first few times I integrated the Twitter backchannel into my presentations.  It was way easier than I thought it would be.

Is Your Audience Tweeting Yet?

While Twitter interaction has caused a stir at a number of technology and educational conferences, it really hasn’t caught on widely with most meetings.  It’s not uncommon to have a small number of audience members tweeting even in audiences that aren’t stereotypically techies.  But on a large scale, Twitter activity is not running rampant in the conference and meeting rooms of America.

I’m not alone in thinking this will eventually change.  Audiences love to be engaged.  If speakers are not providing engagement, audience members have a free tool with Twitter to create their own interactions – even if it’s not with the speakers themselves.  While many audiences have not yet been introduced to the idea of tweeting and therefore aren’t prepared with a laptop or an app on their phone to tweet, this will change.  As they see more of their colleagues tweeting and as they see value in it for themselves – whether it be entertainment, interaction, or providing others with good content – the trend of tweeting during presentations will continue to go up and up.

If your audience isn’t twitter happy yet, don’t despair.  Just introduce the concept, give the few twitters a chance to interact, then keep engaging your audience in the ways that you have been before you were introduced to this whole Twitter option.

Twitter Breaks

As mentioned in previous posts, taking Twitter breaks periodically through the presentation will give you a chance to see how the material is connecting with your audience and address any questions or issues that have come up.  By using Twitter as an interaction tool, you have another way, particularly in large audiences, to better meet your audience’s needs.  One of the keys to making the Twitter interaction successful is engaging a Twitter moderator.

Twitter Moderator

As a presenter, it’s important to be focused delivering your content and connecting with your audience.  That’s plenty of work in and of itself.  To be speaking and trying to monitor the Twitter backchannel at the same time… well 99.97% of us, this is a bad idea.  The solution, select a Twitter moderator to monitor the backchannel for you.

This same technique has been used for years in webinar presentations.  One person delivers the content via an on-line tool, flipping through slides, and another person is monitoring the “chat” feature available in the webinar software.  The presenter occasionally asks the person monitoring the chat if there are any questions from the participants, then proceeds to address the chatted concerns.

The Twitter moderator serves the same purpose.  It’s someone who is monitoring what’s being tweeting with the session hashtag so that the presenter can focus on delivering the material and answering questions where a break makes sense.

Occasionally, the moderator can answer simple questions via Twitter.  This would be appropriate for questions such as:  “What time does this session end?”  “What did the speaker say her name was?”  “What was the website that she said the moderator was using to monitor the Twitter stream?”  This helps out the audience member with a quick response so he can go back to focusing on getting value from the program.

Selecting Your Twitter Moderator

If possible, find someone in advance who is willing to serve as a Twitter moderator.  That way, you can select someone that you believe can keep up with the monitoring and who can feed you questions appropriately.  Plus you have time for a more in-depth discussion about the process and answer any questions he or she might have.  I also recommend providing the moderator with some guidelines for the process.  (More on that later.)

If you can’t find someone in advance, you can select your moderator at the meeting location.  While not ideal, it can be done by following the conference hashtag stream, and looking for someone who has been tweeting already.  He or she will obviously have a comfort with Twitter.  Tweet or find them and ask if they would be willing to attend your session and serve as your Twitter moderator.  Provide them with your guidelines and get them up to speed with what you’re looking for.

If that doesn’t work, as a last ditch effort, you could ask while in the room if anyone is on Twitter and would be willing to monitor the Twitter stream for you.  Having some help is better than trying to read through a grunch of tweets during your Twitter break looking for those tweets which would benefit the entire group.

Enough with that for today –

Tomorrow, we start by talking about coaching your Twitter moderator!