Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

Twitter – The Presenter’s New Best Bud – Part 5 – Setting the Stage for Twitter Interaction

In Twitter & Presenting on February 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm

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Setting the Stage for Twitter Interaction

You’ve taken the first steps.  You’ve tweeted about the event.  A few of your pals retweeted your posts.  The day of the event arrives.  It’s your first time presenting with Twitter audience interaction.  My first piece of advice…

Be Vulnerable

I’m a competitive person.  Not being athletic, I steer away from sports because I despise losing.  Not being especially strategic, I quickly tire of board games that involve deep thinking.   But 7 years ago when I found out that the Toastmasters organization had speech contests, I was all over that like my dog Dude on kibble at feeding time.

One thing I learned in the process of competing in speech contests was that the speaker who told a personal story (rather than ones borrowed from books or movies) almost always won the contest.  And speakers who told personal stories where they, the speaker, were especially vulnerable seemed to win the biggest prizes.  When a speaker gets personal and reveals information about himself, when a speaker is vulnerable with an audience showing all her imperfections, the audiences appreciates the honesty and rewards the audience with their empathy (and in the case of Toastmasters speech contests, a little plastic trophy).

Just as being personal and vulnerable endures your audience to you, being honest and vulnerable with them about your first time or two interacting with Twitter will encourage the audience to be on your side.  Be confident.  Be prepared.  Don’t apologize.  But be honest in telling the crowd, “Hey this is new for me.  I think it will give you a cool way to chime into the conversation.  Let’s figure this out together.”  Picture yourself in an audience where the speaker makes this proclamation.  Wouldn’t you be willing to play along?

Open Well

Don’t open the presentation talking about the Twitter backchannel.  Open your presentation with an attention getter to draw your audience in.

(I’ll put “attention getting openers” on my list for a future blog post but for more information on how to avoid a lame start, see this article.)

After your brilliant opening, then set the stage about how you’ll be interacting using Twitter.

Twitter Novice versus Twitter Savvy Audiences

Remember in the last post how I talked about being good?  One of the elements of being good is knowing your audience.  How you introduce Twitter interaction to your audience will depend largely on how familiar they are with Twitter.

Twitter Novice Audience

If your audience is new to Twitter and hashtags, you will need to include some education of how it works.  There’s a good chance that audience members will decide to set up accounts right there in your room so they can start interacting.  Once they set up their accounts, expect a little goofing around, “Hey, is this thing working?”  “Bob, I didn’t know you were coming to this meeting.  They’ll let anyone in here!”  If this goes on too long, find a way to focus them back on the reason they are they are in the session in the first place.  If you’re good – if you’re discussing material that is relevant and meaningful to your audience – they will eventually forget the novelty and get engaged in the discussion.

Encouraging the Tweets

Announce your session hashtag and encourage your audience to tweet with both your session and the event hashtag.  Explain how this will benefit both you in the room plus those listening outside of the room.  Then ask the audience to do what you want them to do with the Twitter interaction.

Here’s what I encourage within my audiences:

Repeat Good Content

If you hear information that is valuable, share it with your followers and those following the session and event on Twitter.  One of the reasons to be on Twitter is to share good content with others.  Help out those who can’t be here to learn from this experience as well.

Ask Question

If while I’m speaking you have questions, tweet them.  Later on in the program, I’ll take a Twitter break.  I’m being helped today by my Twitter moderator [I then introduce that person by name to the crowd].  During the Twitter break I’ll turn to him and ask him what questions there were or what topics need to be addressed.  So if you have a question, tweet it.  If we don’t have time to answer all the questions during the session, then I’ll follow up with the questions [and then I describe how I’m going to do that – website/blog, via Twitter retweets/replies].

Disagreeing

It’s OK to disagree with me on a point too.  If there something I’ve said you take issue with and you’d like to open a dialog, that’s cool too.  [Twitter moderators name] will let me know about those issues too.

Retweets

If you decide to follow the Twitter stream and you see things that you agree with, I encourage you to retweet them.  If [Twitter moderators name] notices the same question retweeted several times, that tells us that I really wasn’t clear on this point so I need to go back and approach the information differently.  Plus we’ve all been in an audience where there’s one person who asks a questions that pertains only to them and while it’s important to them, there are other more burning issues that apply to more people.  Retweeting is a way that you can let us know that it’s not just one person that has the question and we really should make time to answer it during the session, rather than answering it afterward.

More To Come…

So we’ve talked about setting the stage.  Tomorrow will get into a little more discussion about Twitter interaction during your session.

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