The number of new uses for microblogging that continue to surface is a pleasant surprise. For today's note, I will focus on what is being referred to as back-channel tweeting at conferences. One of my main challenges of managing such conferences is to make them more interactive by stimulating input from the attendees. Part of this problem is that many of them don't want to approach the microphones and ask questions during the Q and A sessions. Now comes Twitter to help solve this problem (see: How to Present While People are Twittering). Below is an excerpt from the article with boldface emphasis mine with emphasis on how speakers need to psychologically adjust to having audiences members tweeting during a lecture:
- It helps audience members focus
- The audience gets more content
- Audience members can get questions answered on the fly
- The audience can participate
- The audience can innovate
- You don’t have to be physically present to participate
- You can connect with people
- You can do something else
Yes, presenting with the back-channel is challenging. Prepare yourself for what it will be like. We’re used to having eye contact with our audience and using that eye contact and audience reaction to measure how well we’re engaging the audience. Now when you say something brilliant, instead of nods of appreciation, there will be a flurry of tapping. Here’s the positive spin: The typing means you’re provoking interest.
Stimulated by this article, I have set up a Twitter account (labinfotech) so that I can solicit tweets from the conference registrants during the upcoming Lab InfoTech Summit. While sitting in the audience, I can monitor this account using the browser on my cell phone and repeat some of them from the podium for those not following the back-channel on Twitter. I am hoping this this new conduit will be less intimidating for attendees than walking to the microphone and asking a question or making a comment.
For me, an interesting aspect of this new way to solicit input at conference is that the limit of 140 characters for tweets. I doubt that this will be a barrier. Also, the input from conference registrants can obviously be in the form of both questions and comments. This allows the opportunity to tap into the accumulated experience and knowledge of the entire audience rather than that of only the faculty members. It will also be possible to install a gadget in Lab Soft News so that the readers of this blog not attending the conference can see a feed of the tweets being generated real-time at the event.