by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Mice Net : October 2009
80 mice.net presentations IAN WHITWORTH WARNS your presenters are about to lose control. IAN WHITWORTH A LIZARD DRINKING & SCENE CHANGE Conference presenters had better get used to looking at the tops of their audience's heads. A worrying prospect, particularly with IT developer audiences, who aren't renowned for their soft'n'silky scalp conditioning. Tomorrow's audience will have their heads down fiddling with digital gizmos. Rather than getting the eye contact and adoration they crave, speakers will feel like teachers supervising a major exam. There's even a name for it now, and it's an ugly one: The Back Channel. An invisible underworld of delegates hooked on Twitter, commenting on the presenter, the food, themselves and their favourite characters from Star Wars. It's just like passing notes in class. It's distracting, naughty, and there's not a damn thing teachers can do about it. Speakers and conference managers have no genuine power to stop adults misbehaving, tempting though the idea of a naughty corner is. Presenters have every right to be grumpy about this trend. If they've gone to the effort of preparing a presentation and travelling to the conference, it's disrespectful not to give them your full attention. But rock and roll was disrespectful, too, and you couldn't stamp that out either. When new technology comes along that offends your code of etiquette to the core, you can either stand on the sidelines shaking your walking stick, or work out how to get the best from the inevitable. At the core of this behaviour shift is the stratospheric rise of handheld devices. Think of the astonishing change the web has brought into your life so far. That's just from using computers that are tied to a desk, or at least to a wireless hot spot. You ain't seen nothing yet. Across the marketing world massive budgets are being poured into mobile communication, because that's where digital behaviour will integrate into every waking moment of our lives. Now gratification can't wait till people get to a computer. They want it right bloody now. And this includes how people behave in meetings. Twitter on handhelds is a game changer. You may scoff at a medium whose leading global practitioner is Ashton Kutcher. You may view it as a passing craze, a digital version of CB radio - and nobody wants to see a Twitter movie starring Burt Reynolds. But hating Twitter itself is like blaming felt pens for Fred Bassett. Handled sensitively, Twitter can be a valuable source of feedback. As a presenter myself, I'd rather get some feedback on what's on their mind than spend an hour covering issues that aren't important to them. You're creating a conversation rather than a broadcast, and that calls for more presenter skill than just reading out bullet points. Twitter management will become an essential event planner skill. Some conferences have put live Twitter feeds up on the screen. It's a bold move with major distraction potential. Yet as in the classroom, where the ultimate deterrent was having your note read aloud, making responses public helps keep comments constructive. Other conferences have used Twitter moderators, who monitor the chatter and bring it into Q&A, which is less scary for your presenters. The value of Twitter is not so much about what any individual says. On a personal level, not even your friends want to know what you're thinking about having for dinner. In presentations, there's always at least one crackpot who'll disagree just to get some attention. Twitter's real value is about trends, about checking the mood of the entire herd. This will make it a valuable tool for conference program planning. Analytical tools like Twist let you see what topics are pulling big numbers. If a subject is a hot topic of digital conversation, it's more likely to strike a chord at your conference. Success in many areas comes down to listening rather than talking, and Twitter lets you listen on a larger scale than you've ever imagined. Ian Whitworth is principal of creative marketing consultancy A Lizard Drinking and director of audiovisual group Scene Change. He writes on presentations and communication at www.scenechange.com.au/blog. the twitter REBELLION