As both a speaker and enthusiastic attendee at lots of conferences, I’m getting tired of the squawking I sometimes hear about people “not paying attention because they’re tweeting.” Speaker Tom Martin has some good thoughts about it in his post Don’t Tweet Me Man.
Look, I take notes on paper AND tweet. If I can pop up a Facebook post with something great you’ve said, I’ll work that in, too.
If I’m on my smartphone and nothing else during a presentation, I do find that I’m on Twitter less only because it’s so much easier to tweet from a proper keyboard on a netbook or laptop. I’m a fast typist and can keep up with the flow pretty well, but not on a smartphone keyboard.
If I can’t tweet at all (like at the Audience Conference or many TEDs) I’m still head-down and scribbling, but my paper notes become Twitter nuggets and Facebook posts later. Bottom line is, I’m getting it online no matter what.
I’m 49 years old, so please don’t lecture me about how to absorb what a speaker presents. I’ve been at it for a few decades, before presenters got the PowerPoint crutch and ever since summer debate camp in 1970’s high school, where we had to furiously take notes about the upcoming year’s topic, to four years in an honors liberal arts program (ever taken notes in a year-long, info-packed Philosophy class, or the “History of India from 1750?”) to earning my Master’s degree.
I know from note-taking.
The only difference now is that some of my notes are tweets….and speakers, I like broadcasting your wise words to the planet.
As a speaker myself, I’m FINE with it. As an attendee, that’s what I’m going to do.
You’ll be happy to know that my tech-savvy teacher husband totally disagrees with me. Twenty-plus years of wedded bliss, so I guess that isn’t a deal-breaker. 🙂
(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!)
I”m with you on this one, Sheila!
As a conference attendee, I’m the customer. I’ve paid well to be there, both in terms of dollars and my time, and honestly, as long as I’m not interfering with anyone, I think I can pretty much do whatever I want during a session (within bounds of appropriate public behavior). Speakers who tell me that I need to “pay attention” seem more concerned with themselves than with me. I’m the customer and it’s about me, and like you, I’m doing quite fine multi-tasking in the audience.
Thanks Mary Jo – you’ve been speaking for a long time, and I respect your opinion.
You can’t always make assumptions about who is “paying attention” or who likes/dislikes your presentation. I was speaking at a conference this summer and in one all-day session, there was this stone-faced guy who didn’t look up much and never cracked a smile all morning. I thought he hated what he was hearing, but he returned in the afternoon and then told the conference organizer that my workshop was his favorite. Who knew?
I love it when people smile, nod and make eye contact with me, but they are in no way obligated to do so. My job is to bring my “A” game and let the chips fall.
Here’s my view, short and sweet:
– Speakers have an obligation to FIRE PEOPLE UP INTO ACTION. As a speaker, I can tell you what outcome I want you to achieve, and it’s for you to figure out the next step. If that’s a tweet, awesome. If that’s copious notes and sweat and maybe tears, cool.
– Listeners have an obligation to DECIDE WHY THE HECK THEY’RE THERE. Why did you come to that conference, that session? Once you have that answer, figure out what you’re going to do with it.
While I personally find it difficult to absorb a presentation while tweeting, that wasn’t the real reason that I invited attendees at SoMeT to close the laptops for a few minutes.
When I arrived at SoMeT on Wednesday to participate in the days events I realized that there was a room packed full of advanced social media brains there and that day’s presentations and questions proved that to be true.
But in taking a seat Wednesday where I could see most of what the attendees had on their laptops, I saw people checking bus routes, responding to emails, friending on foursquare, looking at websites, etc. Basically distracting themselves during a presentation. And since my presentation was largely a story about what had happened to our business as a result of our SM presence, I felt that this advanced group might learn more from eachother and be more engaged in a brainstorm session than they could from me alone. My question was: “what question did you come here to have answered”, and whether or not they asked that question in the session or not, my hope was to help to focus each of them on finding that answer in the remainder of the conference.
In the end, I may have made a selfish move, in that I was eager to absorb from all the smarts in the room, but I think the net result was positive. I know I learned a few things at this conference.
The Funny thing is, I’m all sorts of addicted to The Twitter and love to use it to share.
Thanks for the thought provoking post Sheila (and Tom), I’m happy to have finally met you last week.
Thanks so much for giving us some background from a speaker perspective on why you employed the “nuclear option” to try to inspire your audience. 🙂 I’m also glad you asked that “why are you here?” question; too many people attend conferences without really thinking ahead of time about the specifics they hope to get out of it.
so maybe you can teach and old dog new tricks eh? ;-))
Yes, the overwhelming response to my post was that it’s just fine… it helps everyone involved and it’s also just a cultural part of speaking to a bunch of socme geeks. All of which I too am fine with… good to see Joe being transparent here… think he owes us all a burger next time we see him at @AJBombers for all that free advice he got.
SOLD! #Bringit #hashtagsincommentsabouttweeting