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Are Keynotes and Twitter A Bad Match?

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I have been reading about a situation at Web 2.0 Expo that has me as an organizer of speakers a bit befuddled.  Danah Boyd’s presentation took a turn for the worst and it turned out to be a bad experience for her and for the attendees. For the long story short version you can see a recap of what I am talking about over at Maggie Fox’s blog.  She talks about the wisdom of crowds and how people can be rude and completely out of character.  I have seen this happen in other areas and the idea that people act differently online than they do in real life is another post for another time.  What I am interested in from the mechanical side of things is whether the Twitter stream itself is a bad idea for presentations.

This year at BlogWorld & New Media Expo we had some of our own keynotes with the Twitter stream behind the speaker.  You can see some snippets on YouTube of Leo Laporte by Mediafly.


As you can see the Twitter stream was active and going on during the session.  Leo did a great job with his discussion, but what would have happened had he been attacked during the presentation by people that did not like what he had to say or how he said it?  Leo has been doing this a while and would probably take the heckling with a grain of salt, but that does not seem to be the case at all times with other speakers.  I watched as another speaker was lambasted during his presentation at an event just before BlogWorld Expo.

I suppose the important question is, should a Twitter stream be an active part of the presentation?

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  • Rick Calvert

    I definitely have an opinion on this and the answer is…. Maybe.

    It all depends on the speaker and how comfortable they are with having the stream up behind them, and how confident they are as a speaker over all.

    Just like a great comedian can handle hecklers and make them a part of the act, a great speaker can take criticism and work it in to their take be it from the audience, or via the twitter stream.

    But if any speaker asked us to turn it off we would. In fact by default the stream was off during our keynotes this year. Leo actually asked us to turn the twitter feed back on.

  • Jean Warner

    No. I found the Twitter stream hugely distracting at BlogWorld this year. While Chris Brogan was trying to get the audience engaged in service projects, people were posting things like “Ooo, Chris Brogan complimented me on my t-shirt!” or “Where shall we go drink after this?” Turn it off. If you want to watch the Twitter streamt, monitor your laptop or smart phone!

  • Bruno Ribeiro

    Hi,

    I – along with 3 other colleagues – organized an event on web 2.0, social media and future trends last weekend on Portugal and we decided to use a Twitter Wall so that the audience could exchange their views on the spot, so I’ll share our experience.

    It was a good idea, although with some rude moments, similar to what happened to Danah Boyd. Some speakers were heavily criticized, sometimes in a rather rude way. It’s not a pretty thing to listen people laughing during your keynote without knowing the reason. From an organizer point of view, we felt we had created a monster: on one hand we were allowing the speakers to be attacked without a mean to defend themselves, on the other we couldn’t censor the stream and it was adding – for the most part of the event – to the discussion.

    That was the nasty bit. For the most of the event the interaction was great and some of the speakers joined the discussion. One of the best things, was that on the more boring moments (those happen with any event), a well placed tweet was enough to sparkle an interesting debate. Other great feature was sharing links and examples of what was being talked on stage.

    There were distractions, there were nasty moments and rude comments. But overall it was a good experiment. We did a quick poll on Twitter the following day and the majority (speakers that were most attacked included) agreed that it was a positive add-on to the event. People that attended have already criticized other events this week that don’t include a twitter stream.

  • Jim

    Bruno thanks for adding that comment. I am wondering if it might add more to have the stream in another spot outside the audience view for adding to the conversation at a later time. I have talked with people a number of times after the presentation I give that made comments or had questions. I also think it would be good to have screens in the hallways for those not in the same room that might be drawn into the discussion by what they see on screen. The screen itself is not what is adding and I think they made that distinction when it was stated that people can view it on their smart phones and on their laptops. The other speaker I referred to melted down on stage and the back channel didn’t add to the problem but definitely distracted and took part on the discussion. Thanks again for your comment and adding to the discussion here.

  • Deb Ng

    I enjoy watching the Twitter stream unfold, but that’s the problem. Eventually I’m focused on what’s going on with Twitter – and not the keynote itself. I’m not a good multitasker. Sometimes I even liken it to heckling and talking while the speaker is talking, which is rather rude.

    Maybe watching the Twitter stream outside the event so those not in attendance can make up their minds whether or not to go in and watch? This way it doesn’t distract the audience or the speaker.

  • accurreglenblond

    I love her blog too!!! She has amazing clothes!! And I want her hair !!!

  • Peggy Richardson

    I seem like the only person that enjoyed having the tweets there. We’ve all seen enough of twitter to filter any negative or silly comments the moment we see them, and I agree that they sometimes sparked additional discussion. I’m a writer at heart, and curious about what’s in people’s heads – the stream was an interesting window, which encouraged me to re-reflect on the speakers’ words. I livetweeted Brogan’s talk, and I hope that my own tweets were providing some with that same opportunity for reflection, rather than a distraction.

  • Julie Squires

    So glad you asked! Please turn off the live stream behind speakers; it makes me feel like the chameleon who crawled into the crayola box and exploded. So distracting. If you still want the live twitter stream, what about putting it off to the side? Thanks for surfacing the question. Definitely one of the things that needs correcting as the digital age formalizes. Thanks.

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