Twitter’s Effect on Presentations and Presenters by Tom Whitby

By Tom Whitby

I am on a flight returning home after a successful Presentation at the New York State Association of Computers and Technologies in Education Annual Conference, NYSCATE. I was pleased with the outcome, but I did make a few observations about how presenting at these conferences is beginning to change and may never be the same.

Presentations for any educational conference are the backbone of the conference. They are usually the main reason why educators attend conferences, wild parties notwithstanding. It is a great accomplishment for an educator to have a proposal for a conference presentation accepted and placed on the Program. Being judged and accepted by one’s colleagues is both an accomplishment and a thrill and for some, the process could also be terrifying. Presenting is considered by many to be one of those thresholds in an educator’s career. I have done several presentations at various conferences over the years and I have been moved by the positive experience with each event. Because it requires putting one’s self out there for all to see, most presenters do a great job of preparing and presenting to the best of their ability.

There has recently come a change for presenters that I just became aware of with my recent experience. I was at a keynote speech by David Jakes. He made a huge impression with his introduction to Augmented Reality. It was very cool. Jakes was engaging and informative, everything we have come to expect from a keynote speaker. He could have smiled more, but otherwise he was great. During his speech my Blackberry gonged. This was not a notification that an angel got her wings, but an alert that a message arrived. As I took out the Blackberry to turn off the sound, I thought I would sneak a peek at Ubertwitter.  Twitterers understand the call of the stream.

I was amazed to find ten tweets about the very keynote speech I was watching. I could not believe how rude these audience members could be tweeting during a speech. I immediately tweeted out to these people. If they could be rude, I should be allowed to be rude too. I sent out about five tweets. Jakes received rave reviews from all the tweeters present. He deserved it, because he was excellent. I came away inspired by Jakes and terrified by Twitter.

The terror came in the fact that the next day I had to present my PLN Presentation and I knew many of those same tweeters would be in my room. I attended a panel discussion the next morning and there were over a hundred people in attendance. The Panel was again excellent and again several tweets went out saying so. In addition Tweeters were quoting the pearls of wisdom from the panelists, word for word. I had two hours to go and no pearls of wisdom from me were even on the horizon.

The idea of a Twitter test entered my mind and now I had another standard to meet. Not only did the presentation have to be accepted by educators in general, but it needed to be accepted by Tweeters specifically. In my mind’s eye I envisioned my three thousand followers opening their Twitterstream and seeing a tweet “Whitby sucks in Real time” or worse “RT: Whitby sucks in Real time” GLOBAL sounded in my brain. Even Europe, Asia, and Australia will know I suck in real time.

I showed up in my room early and of course, the technology that we tweet about all the time, let me down. The computer screen appeared sideways and it was the same on the projection screen as well. A frantic call to the tech folks scrambled three techs to the room. Any more than one is a problem, since there is not one opinion but three to resolve the problem of the sideways screen. I am a dead man in the eyes of the world. It was time to start, and I could not wait for the fix, so I began the presentation. Shortly after my introduction, the techies came through and the projector and computer were up and running with a picture in the correct orientation.

Somehow I managed to conceal my fears until this public outing in this Blog. The point that I think needs to be made, however, is that twitter, or whatever app is to follow, will forever change the way we receive Presentations. Hopefully, Twitter will force us all to do better or be exposed globally. A real concern is what about those twitterers who don’t get it and tweet out bad stuff about the speaker with little regard for reason or feelings. Twitter will have a significant effect on presenters and presentations. Maybe we should ban it?

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Tom Whitby

Tom Whitby is a Professor of Education in Secondary English, Linkedin group founder and owner of Technology-Using Professors, TWITTER-Using Educators, as well as NING-Using Educators.>

Read Tom Whitby’s PLN Blueprint series to learn how to develop an effective PLN.


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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, author, and international speaker. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and the Social Media Community Manager for The Consultants-E. She has co-founded and organized the acclaimed educational projects, Edchat, ELTChat, The Reform Symposium E-Conference and the ELTON nominated Virtual Round Table language and technology conference. Her prolific presence in the educator community through social media has been recognized by several notable entities, such as The New York Times, UNESCO Bangkok, Edweek, Converge Magazine, the United Federation of Teachers, the 140 Conference, Mashable, English Central, Tefl.net, and T/H/E JOURNAL. Her education blog, Teacher Reboot Camp, is ranked as one of the top 10 language teaching and technology blogs and the 50 best blogs for education leaders. In 2012 find her book, The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators published by Eye on Education and participate with over 7000 educators worldwide in this online professional development course that helps educators develop Personal Learning Networks and accomplish social media and teaching goals. Find her on Twitter, @ShellTerrell. Shelly has taught English language learners at various levels since 1998 in the US, Greece, and in Germany. She currently presents and hosts workshops on integrating technology effectively with young learners and adults. Shelly holds an Honours BA in English and a minor in Communication with a specialization in Electronic Media from the University of Texas in San Antonio and an Honours MA in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix.

43 thoughts on “Twitter’s Effect on Presentations and Presenters by Tom Whitby

  1. Tom,

    Thanks for taking the time to post about your experience. (As if public speaking wasn’t already at the top of the “things we fear” list). And now that someone can get away with yelling “You lie!” at the President, I guess we should all consider ourselves fair game.

    I’ve been experimenting with harnessing Twitter at my workshops and presentations using Wiffiti. So far no damage done. With the paid version, you can pre-screen audience comments. I haven’t taken that step yet! Here’s my how to post:

    Harness Twitter and Your Audience Backchannel with Wiffiti. http://bit.ly/4dWwx9

  2. The relative anonymity of Twitter has given many people the impression that they can say anything to anyone without repercussions or accountability. The local newspaper recently had to change the way readers could comment on online articles for the same reason. Instead of being a forum for the exchange of opinions and ideas it became a virtual Jerry Springer Show.

    In the good old days (pre-Twitter) if one did not like a presenter, he or she simply got up and left the room quietly. Today it seems people would rather tweet a running commentary about what they don’t like. How productive or educational is that? I guess misery truly does love company.

    The only choice presenters may have is to live stream the Tweets during the presentation in hopes of exposing or embarrassing the worst offenders. That is, assuming they have an ounce of compassion, self-respect or dignity left to consider someone else’s feelings.

  3. Thanks for the reflections.

    You comment “I was amazed to find ten tweets about the very keynote speech I was watching. I could not believe how rude these audience members could be tweeting during a speech.”

    Were they rude off the top, or was your impression that tweeting during a presentation was instantly rude? If you’ve been to a conference in the last year or more, you will have seen the benefits of a constructive backchannel. It’s been happening every conference I’ve been at. It’s a new(ish) thing to be sure, and as we get ourselves used to it, there are things that have to be addressed. However, I think that it is, on the whole, a positive thing. It does make for a re-think of a presenters role, but that’s not a bad thing either. We talk about needed change in education, but then want to attend a conference with the same stand-and-deliver model? I think that constructive change in all areas is good.

    Having said that, there is no excuse for rude or insulting behaviour, on Twitter on in person. I think that as we see more and more of this, norms will develop. It’s up to us who attend and present to work together to establish these norms.

    Banning? Nope. Not the answer. Education of the educator? Now you’re talking.

  4. As one who does not have the time or finances to attend more than one conference per year (I would have loved to be at NYSCATE), I rely on my Twitter PLN who do attend to share the benefit of what they are gaining from attending. Doing so lets me learn, too.

    I am interested in substance, so I have no immediate interest in whether a presentation is engaging or a presenter not so much. When I am able to attend in person is when I need that information, and getting it so far in advance not only doesn’t help me, it crowds the stream and creates more to read on my lists.

    For the presenter, there is one more danger of or requirement for harnessing the tweeters, the need to have gems of 140 or fewer characters, like a very brief sound bite a politician might have to ensure attention from radio and TV stations. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a 140-character idea, it does make addressing the very complex issues of teaching and learning more challenging.

  5. Tom,
    Thanks for a great discussion post!
    I agree that Twitter does put more pressure on presenters! While I have seen Twitter used as a back channel during presentations, I am also seeing used as a real time conversation ABOUT a presentation –during a presentation– and that could definitely be nerve racking for a presenter. I do think that it too late to ban Twitter during presentations as many would see that as outright censorship. Good and bad, Twitter has added a new transparency to mass media. For the good, Twitter provides the potential to expand a presenter’s audience exponentially. Just last week I found myself tweeting key bits of knowledge to my district while in an Elluminate session featuring Terry Friedman. I think that kind of Twittering during a presentation is okay. As for the bad, well- we’ve all seen how careless tweets can ignite controversy and at the very least hurt feelings. In the end I think that just like with any other communication tool, we need to police ourselves. We need to think about the intent of our tweets before we hit update. Is Twitter the ideal forum to let a presenter know he or she is off the mark? Probably not. I have always found that constructive criticism and feedback is always better handled one-to-one, rather than in front of the whole world.

  6. Excellent post. I looked at tweeting in a different light. I was presenting Tuesday and was able to make my presentation more relevant by working in some of the exciting ideas that were exposed in the tweets from Monday.

    I looked forward to the feedback on my session, but none emerged on the twitverse. Perhaps some would be excited that there were not scathing remarks… but I engage with feedback and try to make the presentation better. A key ingredient to communication is knowing if your message, what you intended, was received or if something else was taken away.

  7. Dr. Whitby,

    I enjoy reading your tweets and appreciate the insight I gain from you daily. I enjoyed this post. Twitter, though, will have zero effect on my work or what I choose to present or share. Regardless of technologies available, my aspiration will be to continue to produce high quality work in my personal and professional life. If anything falls short in someone’s eyes, or is not good enough for others, it won’t be of any serious concern to me. My perspective on the matter would prompt me to alter the last sentence of your post, “Maybe we should ban it.” I say, “Maybe we shouldn’t worry about it.”

  8. One addition to my comment above. Thus far I have only used Wiffiti with one LCD projector. Thus while I’m presenting, my Keynote slides are being viewed. When we go into a break (or into small group breakout mode) I project the Wiffiti screen.

    For teachers who lack TM or mobile Twitter capacity, I’ve even arranged to have laptops available.

    As a teacher I never liked the sit and get workshop. Now that I’m on the other side of the podium, I do everything I can to avoid that. I’ve used a TurningPoint ARS for years to gather audience input. Wiffiti has been a nice addition for gathering narrative (140 character) feedback.

  9. I enjoyed reading your post tremendously – you have a really dry sense of humour and your honesty about being nervous before a presentation – after having done so many of them – is truly endearing and says a lot about you.

    I have not myself yet experienced such a scenario. In my neck of the woods, the existence of a twitter user in the audience, who, moreover, would be tweeting about the talk, is yet to be.

    But I think I would be very nervous too.

    I guess 21st century skills are inevitably followed by 21st century manners. We cannot expect people to behave in quite the same way with all these new tools at their fingertips.

  10. Thanks for the timely post. In reading over your comments and this post (http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2009/11/24/spectacle_at_we.html) by someone at the negative end of this experience, it appears we may need to be more careful with the way backchannels are used. Obviously, the relative anonymous nature of Twitter allows cowards to be rude and unkind during presentations. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will change but probably just needs to be tweaked.

    Instead of allowing the Twitter stream to appear on the overhead, it should display only for the presenter (or a moderator) to see. Then the presenter can take what is relevant and professional and work it into the presentation as needed. I have seen a similar situation pulled off pretty well in some of my online graduate level courses.

    While it certainly is an added skill and complication, with practice, many presenters may turn it into a positive experience – one that allows virtual “hand raising” and input with hardly any interruption.

  11. Having been one of those people who has tweeted several conferences (including parts of NECC 09) and workshops it is incumbent to remember who your audience is and maintain a sense of professionalism. For me the joy of twitter is to be able to interact with my PLN in a responsible manner.

    I was at the Maine Learning Technology Initiative Summer workshop with Chris Lehmann as Keynote and tweeted his presentation. During the Q&A a question was tweeted to me and I was able to ask it. The powerful piece was this person was not in the US.

    Twitter, live blogging, and back channels are here to stay. Negotiating which hashtag to use can be challenging, but the result is a richer experience that reaches outside of the room where the speaker is speaking.

    Rudeness by people who tweet or in the audience itself will have to be dealt with. I have no answers except to remind ourselves that we are in a public setting and anything we say or tweet is out there for everyone to see.

    Keep tweeting and keep the back channel open.

  12. Tech conference attendees have been dealing with these since Twitter’s inception. In fact at SXSW in 2007 there was a giant screen that had all the Tweets about the conference scrolling on it for all attendees to see. Get used to it because you are right, presenting will be changed forever.

  13. I also enjoyed reading the post quite a lot. It made me think how I’d feel when presenting to an audience that uses tweets to communicate and exchange ideas about what they’re listening to.

    Unfortunately, as Marisa said, this is not a reality in my neck of the woods either. One day we will get there, hopefully sooner than later. It must be really nice to leave your presentation and know exactly what people thought about it, what kinds of discussions it brought about, and learning from the resources shared by those attending the presentation.

  14. Having also recently read Danah Boyd’s account of a similar experience, I think this is not only a timely post, but one that we will need to address as Twitter and other forms of social media become more mainstream to professionals and not just actresses who tweet about how much they love Red Bull and vodka.

    Do I think Twitter should be banned from conferences? Absolutely not. I agree with several others that it would be a form of censorship. As educators, we need to tackle this issue the way we would address it in the classroom: better ‘classroom’ management. Social media like Twitter provides a creative outlet that can engage the audience. Harness the power of this tool to our advantage. Unfortunately, uncouth behavior and poor manners will abound in every industry.

    One of the great prospects of Twitter at a conference (I have yet to participate in something like this but find the prospect intriguing) is that it gives the audience a way to participate and discuss with the speaker and audience without disrupting the flow of the speaker.

    I think the suggestion about displaying the twitter feed on a large overhead during the presentation would be quite effective; if a speaker is one who is comfortable with a discussion format, they can respond and truly interact with their audience. Of course the most disturbing threat to this method of communication is the fact that bullies and those looking for a quick laugh at someone else’s expense thrive on anonymity. They hide behind an electronic mask. By making the ‘backchannel’ public for all at the conference to view, not only those on twitter, perhaps we can expose these cowards for what they truly are: cyberbullies.

    Interesting that the newest reports coming out about the online threats to our children are not online predators, as we had been told for years. The true ‘threat’ is that of cyberbullying. It seems many of those bullies never do grow up.

    The only way to address a bully is to call them out on their behavior, not engage them in a battle of sarcasm, and then form a protective circle around the ‘victim’. Let the bully know you aren’t amused by them and nobody wants to play. Ban them from the cyber-sandbox.

    That said, as someone who has heard you speak ‘real time’, one of your strengths is how you play to your audience. I think you would handle this new format quite well.

  15. I’m actually baffled as to how people can be involved in a presentation and be carrying on conversations, tweeting, etc etc all at the same time. Don’t you miss much of the presentation? It’s like people walking around some tourist destination videoing everything, not actually looking up themselves and enjoying the moment, but somehow engaged in preserving/editorialising the experience as it happens. What’s wrong with waiting until afterwards, getting your thoughts in order, and then blogging for example? I guess I’m just wired differently from some people.

    As a presenter, I think it’s rude if people are having a spoken conversation in my session (whether it’s when I’m presenting something, or when someone in the audience is asking a question, or whatever), and I don’t really see how twitter is any different. I realise this makes it sound like I want people to hang on my every word, which is really not what I mean, but rather that I find the idea of making the effort to go to something and then not actually give it your attention is off-putting. (I feel the same way about people talking in cinemas. Do people tweet during films?)

    But, I realise that I have to get used to it. Some people obviously feel that they get just as much out of something even when they’re live-reporting it, and it’s not my job to care how those remote receivers of my presentation are receiving it, rather that the people who’ve chosen to come are getting as much out of it as they can. If that also involves twiddling with their i-phones throughout the session, then so be it.

    I feel like I need to put a few smily icons here as I am probably coming across as a bit of an obnoxious nutjob, which is not really how I like to present myself :-)

  16. Last year Will Richardson spoke at a conference my school hosted, and there was a Twitter back channel as well as a Ustream back channel with people commenting on the keynote from all over the world. At the time I thought it was really cool to be able to discreetly participate in a discussion during the speech.

    But as I look back, I realize that I didn’t really get a huge amount out of it, and that I was largely participating because these were both brand new tools to me, and I was sort of geeking out.

    What you just gave us was a presenter’s perspective on this phenomenon. I’m sure not all presenters feel as you do, but probably many do. Thank you for your candid comments, and for making me think about the issues surrounding this.

  17. Well, I as one who tweeted at NYSCATE for the first time, I am shocked that people could find it rude. I saw very very little criticism going on, and more analysis of key points, personal impressions and experiences related to the topic at hand and yes tweeting quotes that moved/inspired us. At one point one audience member missed a book title and within a minute had not only the title and author, but 2 links to amazon in case he wanted to purchase it.

    Instead of distracting me, twitter drew me into the discussion deeper. It also allowed glimpses into the other sessions (the road not traveled) and gain something from them. Resources were shared, ideas spread and quotes used to inspire. Why do some of the commenters think this was wrong again? Isn’t that the reason my district gave me the time and money to attend anyway?

    Instead of condemning, go check out #nyscate on twitter. Tell me how much vitriol and venom you see under that hashtag.

    So instead of jumping on Tom’s ironic ideas of banning twitter (or is that sarcastic?), perhaps we should be looking more on what we are doing to train our students to have thoughtful interactions on the internet, and not become the trolls that are overwhelming blogs, youtube comments and other online forums. If my students were having backchannel talks like were going on at NYSCATE, I would ecstatic.

      1. @Bonnie Frampton Faust,

        Yes, that was what I understood too, Bonnie. It is certainly what I have trouble getting past – I’m not worried about the tweets being vitriolic or venomous, rather that it represents people having a conversation during a presentation.

        A continuum of what strikes me as rude behaviour during a presentation (from rude to less rude):
        Talking on the telephone
        Text messaging
        Talking to your neighbour

        I’d put tweeting in the same bracket as text messaging. But as I say, for me it’s just something I clearly have to get used to. Knowing that the majority (?) of people doing it are actually sharing the presentation is a good start. It’s just new is all.

        (But I’m shocked that anyone could be shocked at people finding it possibly rude :-))

        1. @Bonnie Frampton Faust
          Few parts of my response were aimed at Tom. The commenters were the ones that acted as if the twitterers (is that the correct term?) were using it to heckle. You and others seem to imply that twitter was an online equivalent of us getting a hook and dragging someone off stage. I was just trying to show the purpose of the tweets were to deepen our understanding and share with our PLN, NOT embarrass or harass anyone.

          @Andy Hockley, You find talking to your neighbor less rude then texting? Talking to someone else disturbs everyone around you texting affects no one else. I find it shocking because I view it as unintrusive as if I was taking notes on a sheet of paper, but with more meaning, since my PLN also benefitted from it.

          I can 100% understand Tom’s trepidation. I would have had it to if I was presenting. It truly is a brand-new world. =)

  18. Nothing’s changed. Twitter itself doesn’t automatically require that we up our game. Our audiences should, and do, require that presentations are full of thoughtful, relevant and factual information. I would hope that audience members do use Twitter, Google, among other tools to vet what I am saying or thinking. I learn from that. I’m skeptical if all the Tweets out there are positive. Like anyone, I enjoy affirmation, but I don’t learn from affirmation alone. I agree that now, more then ever, our audiences have the ability to participate in the presentation or critique it more publicly. I, for one, welcome it. So go ahead, let others know how I am doing, not just what I’m doing. In the end, we all move forward.

  19. Tom,

    I’m so happy you decided to post this very raw portrayal of what it is to present these days. You show a real concern and fear. This forces me to be on my A game when presenting, but still we never know how the audience will react. Additionally, there are always unforeseen challenges as Danah Boyd’s post points out and as presenters we cannot always prepare for them. A really incredible experience I had was actually being heckled off stage by a live audience who loudly said I sucked. This was when I first recited a poem at a poetry reading. I remember walking off the stage in shock and not being able to really feel much. Then my friends came to consul me and that was worse. I really wanted to be alone, but was forced to face to horror. I am thankful for the experience because whenever I need the courage to present or do things I always think that this is the worst scenario and I survived it! Therefore, I know I can survive it again! So I tell the Twitter stream bring it on! Usually in my experience many of your friends are there supporting you and want you to succeed. Perhaps, we should all bring a fan of Twitterers to add support in the stream?

    I think presenters now have to direct the audience if they find tweeting rude. It is a part of the conference experience we have to adapt to and if we do not let twitterers know then they will tweet! However, I find it a bit of a challenge to also impress the backchannel so will continue to welcome it!

  20. Ban Twitter? Get over it, not happening. They’ll just wait until later that day and write a blog post about you with links to your Web site, prefer that?

    Don’t sit there and yak about topics people are not interested in. Use it as a driver to present relevant and interesting information.

    I tweet interesting tidbits and factoids the second they come out of the presenters mouth. Don’t you want that? Don’t you want your real world presentation to carry over into online conversation. Additionally, you are getting instant feedback on your presentation.

    I would only Tweet that a presentation was boring if it really was. Unfortunately you have to deal with that, you aren’t going to blow everyone away.

  21. I enjoyed reading Tom’s discussion. I am an avid follower of the online”TED” presentations. They are all held in front of a large, invited audience who are potentially critical of every word, or song or dance or technical gadget that they see or hear in front of them. The talks are then made public so that people like me can see them and criticise or praise them.
    I am aware that the live audience may be Twittering as the speakers present but this does not diminish my reaction (at a distance) of the presentation in terms of whether it moves on my learning or moves me to action or bores me to distraction or makes mad.
    I therefore feel that the effect of a presentation still lies with the power of the presenter to do these things. I know that as human beings we will have the malicious twitterers in our midst but feel that this is an inevitability of universal availability of the technology. The Twitterer should not worry the presenter…. the aim should always be to inspire so that others get something out of what you present. Having seen some videos of Tom I know that he does that very well and that the majority of the tweets would be positive at any presentation that he makes.

  22. Hi Tom – Twitter is not going away, so it’s up to presenters to engage the changes the backchannel introduces. Some new items on a presenter’s checklist:
    – Engage your audience in conversation before, during and after the presentation – this makes sure you know what they want and are tailoring the experience to them.
    – Acknowledge the backchannel at the start of the presentation and let them know you may be sharing their comments with the full group – this introduces self-regulation and accountability.
    – Take Twitter breaks to engage the audience – this allows you to test the temperature of the audience’s mood and ensure you’re on track.
    – Practice a range of backchannel feedback scenarios – this prepares you mentally for the experience.

    If you’ll send me your mailing address, we’d be glad to send you a copy of my brand new book “The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever”

  23. Do you take notes during a presentation? Why not take your notes using Twitter and share those notes with the Twitterverse? My Tweetdeck also feeds my Facebook and friends on fb also comment on the presentations I’m tweeting.

    As has been stated, Twitter is here and we need to work at using it to create added value to our presentations.

  24. First, this is a creative and thought-provoking post that mixes humor with real issues…brilliant!

    I’m afraid I have to weigh in with Andy and Ernie here (and I’m just so pleased some commenters preceded me in this.)

    Sure, Twitter is here to stay and it’s great for people to be able to follow conferences that they can’t attend… but does it really have to be SO real-time? Can’t tweets wait until the break?

    If I am attending a conference, I consider it pretty rude when people text message while the presenter is speaking. Is Twitter that different?

    And since this is all about educational conferences, would most of you as teachers like to have your students tweeting about your class in real time? I suspect not, but maybe I’m just a dinosaur.

  25. Great post, Tom. From my perspective, when I livetweet an event or session, I try to share out interesting and provocative quotes with as little editorial commentary as possible. Of course, choosing what to tweet is exercising editorial control, regardless, so, inherently, I fall short of my goal.

    However, I think the service livetweeters provide in broadcasting a speaker’s message to those unable to attend a keynote or presentation is a valuable one. I defend the practice. I love the practice. I would like my professional work to be live-tweeted as much as I’d like my blog posts to be mentioned and re-tweeted so that there’s a greater chance of finding new colleagues with whom to share and collaborate. Is there a difference between a professional presentation and an article or blog post that precludes tweeting the former, but not the latter?

    As a presenter, I would suggest a hashtag to my audience to signal my openess to sharing what I have to say, and to give myself a shot at reading the tagged tweets later on in one search stream. I would also share my social media handles and encourage audience members to find me and continue discussions online after the conference.

    When I find myself commenting on a presentation more than live-tweeting, I try to take that as a sign that the session isn’t for me and I shut up or leave.

    I would also assure presenters that live-tweeting is how I focus on what they’re saying. I am an inveterate doodler. I could sit in the back of a keynote address and sketch to my heart’s content without anyone else knowing how “rude” I was being to the speaker. However, when I live tweet I’m announcing to the PLN my intent to focus only on the speaker and to share out his or her words for free.

    I pay attention to what I tweet. I doodle less and engage with my fellow educators more. I make myself accountable to the speaker by trying to fairly represent what he or she has to say.

  26. Wonderful topic. I used live-tweeting during NWP, NCTE, and ALAN in order to take notes for myself. Also as a way to keep people informed about what was going on if they couldn’t attend personally.

    Live-Tweeting during a presentation/conference is also a great way to communicate and collaborate with fellow conference attendees. I met Chad (commenter above me) during Teri Lesesne’s presentation at NCTE. We both had our Macs out and tweeted at the same time. Some things he picked up that I didn’t just helped me out later.

    I completely agree with Chad’s comment here:
    “As a presenter, I would suggest a hashtag to my audience to signal my openess to sharing what I have to say, and to give myself a shot at reading the tagged tweets later on in one search stream. I would also share my social media handles and encourage audience members to find me and continue discussions online after the conference.”

    Thanks for starting this conversation.

  27. I attended your session at NYSCATE and wouldn’t have even understood your blog had I read it before. I guess this is a testament to your ability to deliver the content (you got me to the starting gate). Even more so than that, you gave me what I needed to permit myself to explore “social networking”….The answer to the question “why?”.

    I originally attended your session to determine what the best “tool” would be to start a plc for the teachers at my school. However, I quickly realized, instead of only thinking of the benefit to others (as if I were listening to a preacher thinking of all the people who could benefit from hearing the message), I quickly realized all the benefits for me.

    I need this as a source for my own development. I needed to know about ning, wiki, twitter, delicious, facebook, blogs, and the like so I can maintain “currency” in my profession and provide the best to other staff and the students at my school.

    With that said, I am already on twitter and no longer “lurk and learn”, but am beginning to post. I’m sure I’m experiencing things for the first time that others take for granted. 140 characters? Really? I find myself agonizing over the best delivery using 140 characters as if I have to pay for another tweet. It also took some time to conceptualize my timeline: Who’s seeing this? Why am I seeing theirs? What’s a Retweet? Why do I get so many tweets from __________? Does Tom ever sleep? and so on.

    As far as backchannels go, I can’t really tell you what I would’ve been saying during your session, but It would’ve been something like “Whitby ROCKS in real time”….after all, you could have been mistaken for one of the Beach Boys.

    1. @kkelly0, Thanks. You made everything worthwhile. I am happy to have led you to a better way to be relevant as an educator.You have inspired me. Thanks!

  28. I had read what had happened at Web 2.0 earlier before coming here. I can see how many things can conspire to make a speaker’s presentation impossible or very difficult, Twitter is just one, but I think it can be managed properly, much like chat is managed in webinars.

    Several ideas were mentioned here, possibly one or a combination of several would be the right course to take. While at the Anita Borg K12 sessions, we put a hash tag for the few that were tweeting, it served as a note-taking service for us and helped me keep on track.

    Things have changed, I don’t thing they will reverse course.

    Carl

  29. Thanks, Tom, for an interesting post and commenters for a great learning experience. To me, twitter back-channelling is like taking notes, only shared in public, which removes time from the interaction. Be it comparing notes, or sharing critique, comments, and congratulations.
    Working in Japan, I am happy to get a reaction from a maily Japanese audience at all, and I have yet to experience the public backchannel while on stage. Yes , it may add to nervousness, but it also gives me new choices, beyond ignore, intreract, or the time-tested classroom responses that cease to be workable.

    In case of rude or bullying talkback from individuals The speaker can ask the audience, “how many of you have come to hear this lady/gentleman speak? Please may I have a show of hands?” Wait and enjoy the silent majority. Proceed at your discretion.

    The backchannel removes the risk of such potentially embarrasing exposure. Polite audiences ignore rudeness. The word of the year ‘unfollow’ hints as much. Short of your fans and friends jumping in, or professional moderation that people accept, what else could a presenter do to keep changing minds by delivering the intended message? If someone chooses not to listen, fine with me.

  30. Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts and ideas.

    I wish I had the “problems” you are experiencing giving presentations these days. When I gave presentations during the 1970’s and 1980’s it was a different ball game. I wish I could have employed the technology you now have available. The ability to get instant feedback and global communication is wonderful but could be scary.

    I can recall in large venues the difficulty I had hearing questions and the difficulty the other members of the audience had as well. I can now see the question being tweeted, shown on a screen so all can see it and then the presenter can answer it.

    The use of a conference hashtag is great for all attendees.

  31. I love the idea of interactive, responsive presentations. I’ve been trying to get my pastor to take advantage of the capacity (only seldom used YET) of parishioners to question and contribute during church services.
    The Tweet-enhanced presentation would begin by showing (or even tweeting) a website so listeners could alert twitter followers where to find full text, powerpoints, or other versions of the speech. By acknowledging/inviting tweeters from the beginning, you predispose them to treat you kindly. During your presentation, someone backstage collects tweet comments and questions, printing out some that could be responded to live during a Q and A at the end. That draws potential questions from a much wider audience than those in the room., but still leaves the presenter in charge of which issues to address.

  32. I have often told my students that here in the USA we are blessed with many “rights” and freedoms. However, with these “rights”, such as to free speech, we need to distinguish more readily the difference between having the right to say something and having the good-sense to know when to use them.

    Kudos to Tom’s professionalism to be able to keep calm in the face of such nerve-racking adversity! Presenting with technology is always a catch-22: if I don’t use it, my assertion will be immediately nullified and if I do use it, what if it doesn’t work!?!?!

    We always take the risk because we need to model the troubleshooting and coping-skills necessary to maximize the potential this medium offers to our students. What’s more

    This new issue that is developing with the back-channeling is very troubling. Often the best presentations and material come from first-time presenters who were cajoled into presenting by colleagues who see how effective their methods are from day-to-day. If this rude behavior continues and even proliferates, these people will certainly not put themselves out there to enrich the rest of us in this forum. What a loss!

  33. Tom,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This new phenomenon that you describe reminds me of a line from Dickens – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

    As educators we long for immediate feedback on our effectiveness during presentations/teaching. Is this what we hoped for?

    What if we asked our students to have a backchannel conversation as we teach a class or give a lecture. Sure some parameters would need to be set, but I would love to see it happen. Knowing the type of educators on the PLN, I bet it has happened?

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