You’ve been there before. You’re speaking at a conference and you scan the audience. You see the flood of laptops, iPhones, and Blackberries in the audience furiously Tweeting away or using some conference IRC back channel to chat about YOUR presentation. Instead of ignoring it or asking your audience to turn off their electronics, this week’s guest blogger Olivia Mitchell has some great advice on how use Twitter and your Tweeting audience to your advantage. In this post, Olivia gives us seven compelling ways to use Twitter to engage your audience. Thanks Olivia.
GUEST POST FROM OLIVIA MITCHELL:
Audience engagement and participation is a common goal for presenters. But participation in particular can be hard to get by traditional means. People enjoy the comfort zone of being passive in the audience and often need significant prodding to do anything.
But now we have a new tool to get engagement – that’s Twitter. Many presenters are scared of presenting while people are twittering. But as Dean Shareski says:
The more I’m allowed to interact and play with the content the more engaged and ultimately the more learning happens.
Twitter makes it easy to engage. There’s not the risk of humiliation which is always present when you say something out loud. And if there’s a power heirarchy in the room, it gets flattened somewhat – everybody has 140 characters to have their say.
So rather than seeing the Twitter back channel as an intimidating third force in your presentation, embrace it.
Later this month, I’m going to be presenting remotely from New Zealand at PresentationCamp in San Francisco. I’m going to experiment with using Twitter as a channel to get active participation from my audience.
Here’s a variety of ways that you could use Twitter to engage your audience.
If you would normally get people in your audience to introduce themselves, why not do it via twitter. Many people dread the round-robin introduction – doing it on twitter is quicker and less onerous.
2. Poll your audience
If you haven’t been able to find out about your audience before the presentation (which I do recommend), then ask a question and get them to respond on Twitter. In the past, I’ve seen presenters ask their audience what they want to get out of the presentation by going round the room and writing it up on a flipchart or whiteboard. This can get tedious. Ask out-loud, but get the responses on twitter. Ta-da. Instant recorded feedback.
3. Encourage questions through twitter
Instead of waiting till the end for questions, encourage people to tweet their questions as soon as they occur to them.
4. Active engagement with the substance of your presentation
My session at PresentationCamp is on developing the core message of a presentation. My plan is to have people tweet their core messages (which conveniently should be under 140 characters long) as they develop them through the session. How could you get your audience engaging, rather than just listening, with the substance of your presentation?
5. Encourage audience members to add their own ideas to yours
The best presentations are the ones that spark insights and ideas for your audience. Encourage them to tweet these ideas.
6. Get input and feedback from your audience
Consultation-type meetings have always been tricky. I’ve used flipcharts, post-it notes, forms for people to fill in. With a twitter-enabled audience, all that paraphernalia will be a thing of the past.
7. Gather evaluations
Presenters have already realised that twitter is a great way to get real-time evaluations by reviewing the stream of tweets that happened while you were presenting.
Paul Gillin Having recently waited six months to get audience evaluations from one presentation, I can tell you that the immediacy of the tweeted feedback was wonderful.
So make it official – at the end of your presentation – ask your audience to tweet their evaluation of the presentation.
To create a stream of tweets just for your presentation, you’ll need to create a special hashtag for your presentation and then use an application that tracks just those tags (hashtags.org, spy, eventtrack, twitter search).
You may also want to display the tweet stream on a screen so that everyone – including you – can easily see it. If you want the stream to be on display all the time, you’ll need a second laptop, datashow and screen. But you could also display the stream at certain breaks in your presentation, in which case a second laptop plugged into the datashow will do fine.
Olivia Mitchell is a presentation trainer and blogger from New Zealand. Olivia blogs at Speaking about Presenting. Visit her blog for more tips on how to prepare and deliver an engaging presentation.