Before There Was Twitter…

…we had blogs, email or word of mouth.  None of these things have gone away it’s just that Twitter has taken the forefront when it comes to expressing our feelings about how presenters.   After reading Tom Whitby’s blog post about the effect Twitter has on presentations I was struck by the concern he had over Twittering during presentations.  I’m not condoning people being rude but some presenters really shouldn’t present.  Just because you may be an expert in your knowledge about ___ does not mean you are a good speaker.  But more to the point, those of us who have attended conferences have always had a way to express their feelings about a presenter – word of mouth.   Walk down the crowded hallway, stand in the lunch line or attend lobby-con after a particularly bad (or good)  speaker and you know what I mean.  Then in the last 10-15 years we added things like web-based email and more recently blogs.

Now grant it not everyone hears what say or reads what you have to written but the same goes for Twitter – not everyone is reading your Tweets.   I have been on the giving and receiving end of Twitter during presentations.  I presented with 2 co-presenters and it was great when you weren’t speaking to read what was being said about our presentation while it was still going on.  I’ve Tweeted while others have presented more as a way to take notes for myself (as I find live blogging a bit hard but twittering comes naturally to me).   I’ve read other people’s Tweets from conferences that are states away and I’ve found them helpful.

Okay, I must know all the kind, helpful people in the world and none of the nasty ones.  I’m sure that is true.  But I think we are all being a bit naive if we think our presentations are perfect and no one is out there saying anything negative about us (they are you just aren’t hearing it).  Maybe we need to hear it?  Should they be so mean spirited?  No.  Can we learn from it?  Well, maybe we can.  Depending on the comments being made you might be able to adjust your style.  Depending on the comments being made you may just have to consider the source and ignore it (just as you would if you walked down a crowded hall at a conference and overheard a nasty comment).  Maybe it’s a perfect opportunity to contact that person who tweeted and see just what they would have done differently.  You never know, it might actually turn into a productive conversation.  Maybe having to worry just a little about what is being said on Twitter isn’t such a bad thing – maybe it will raise the bar.

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8 Responses to Before There Was Twitter…

  1. ileaneb says:

    Hi Beth,

    I remember sending you a Tweet from Tom Whitby last week, but I wasn’t sure if you knew about him beforehand. Either way I know that you did Twitter presentations in the past, and even though I wasn’t there you shared information with me afterward that was very helpful (cotweet, destroytwitter, etc.)

    I didn’t read Tom’s post yet, but I think that you are making some excellent points here. It’s great to have the conversation because it forces us to think. So now when the topic of “Twitter and Presentations” comes up I’ll think of you and this post. It will be easy to keep the conversation going since the two of us are well connected. Ah, the beauty of “social” media.

    Thanks!
    @Ileane

  2. mlibrarianus says:

    Ileane,

    It was your Tweet that pointed me to Tom’s post which inspired this post :). I’m sure Tom’s points are valid for him (he isn’t the only one who feels that way). I guess I just try to look for the learning moment out of it instead of fearing something. My husband would say I’m definitely a glass half-full kinda gal.

    Thank you!

    Beth

  3. Bobbi says:

    First I don’t think I could comment on this without point to danah boyd’s recent post on twitter while presenting, see Buffy’s post http://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/a-sobering-look-at-the-dark-side-of-conference-backchannel/ and danah’s orginal post
    http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2009/11/24/spectacle_at_we.html

    After that I have to say I’m dismayed to hear about the number of people critiquing presenters publicly on Twitter (I have yet to experience it, although I’m sure it’s only a matter of time and I’m fairly certain I will cry).Speaking is hard, presenting in front of your peers is hard, most people do it because they believe in the message they are sharing, they do not deserve public humiliation. Yes I think critiques on twitter are public humiliation. I’m not saying the content is wrong or that in a different situation the content wouldn’t be appreciated, but to broadcast it on Twitter is just rude. If you have a legitimate critique approach the presenter privately (email, in the hall later, whatever) and offer it, chances are they will actually hear you and you might make a friend. Sure a witty quip on Twitter might get more laughs, but in the long run it wont make you popular and heaven forbid you ever have to stand in front of a group of people and speak, what goes around comes around. If you’re acting like a jerk what’s coming your way isn’t a good thing.

    • mlibrarianus says:

      Yes, I saw Buffy’s post and I don’t understand the idea of streaming the comments live while the presenter is presenting. To me that is different than going to Twitter later and reading what is written. I’d have to agree that the comments being streamed live behind you is distracting.

      I agree, presenting is hard. No two ways about it. I also agree that if you have something to say, say it to me and not the world. My point of the post, however, is this is nothing new. We’ve had other ways of expressing dislike long before Twitter came along. Twitter didn’t make people rude or inconsiderate it just made it easier for others to notice that they are that way. I still see it as a learning moment if you the presenter are willing to make it into one. Who knows maybe you can educate the commenter and next time they’ll think twice before they Tweet. There are a lot of good and bad people out there (that is not new) it’s just that the technology has brought them to our attention. We also tend to focus on the negative more. No one ever says “Wow, look at all the great comments that were made about that presentation!”

      • Bobbi says:

        weird I don’t see my original comment, but I know what I wrote so I know what you’re responding to.

        Agreed! I get a bit tired of people focusing on the tools as the issue. They are symptom not the cause. People will be jerks now matter what tool they are using.

      • mlibrarianus says:

        Oops my bad it had to be approved first (which is odd since you’ve commented here before). Your original comment is now showing. I replied before I approved. Sad but true people will be jerks no matter what (tools or otherwise).

  4. This is interesting. If someone is live tweeting an event and I’m following them, i expect them to be honest. I also am not necessarily expecting them to tell me that the speaker sucks, even if that is the case. Tweet what they are saying that you think sucks and maybe add a comment that you disagree. I think people are live tweeting events for different reasons. You’re right…not everyone is a great speaker and that has always been the case. And everyone can have an off day. it is up to attendees to determine if they want to focus on the live tweets streaming at an event they are ACTUALLY attending OR FOCUS ON THE SPEAKER. I think that each speaker should determine on their own how much attention they pay to the feedback, as is the case with any time of reputation monitoring. You decide who offers valid criticism or who you want to hear more from. As an increasing number of speaking engagements started coming my way, i started looking for ways to improve. i started reading Speaker magazine and paying attention to speakers i enjoy and admire. Twitter streams are nice but again, you determine thier weight.

    • mlibrarianus says:

      Good point, Angela. It really is up to me to either pay attention to tweets or not. If I find them distracting then I should either not watch them if they are being shown behind the speaker or not be logged into Twitter. I like you have experienced the person tweeting a conference/presentation live and it has been their notes or comments regarding what the speaker has said. I’ve not experience the “feelings” on whether or not the speaker is any good yet but I’m sure that does happen too. I guess I just tend to ignore what isn’t of any value and pay attention to what is. 🙂

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