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3 ways to be a Twitter-friendly speaker

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If you’ve recently spoken at an event or large meeting, you know that Twitter has created a shift in power from the speaker to the audience.

Audiences no longer sit quietly, absorbing a speaker’s words and images, waiting to ask a question or make a comment. Instead, they use Twitter to text in real-time, usually adding a specific hashtag (“#”) to their tweets. Any tweet mentioning a particular hashtag is part of the “backchannel” conversation among attendees and speakers.

Many people still assume that someone who appears to be doing something other than listening to a presenter can’t possibly be learning what the presenter is covering. But the evidence doesn’t support that assumption.

Research shows that “micro-chatting” can actually help audience members proc­­ess new information, learn and share their own insight into what you’re saying.

Three ways to be a Twitter-friendly presenter:

1. Monitor tweets to innovate along with the audience.

“As the stream of questions and comments from the audience intensified, I asked questions the audience was asking, and I immediately felt the tenor of the room shift in my favor,” says entrepreneur Jeffrey Veen.

2. Stream and display the Twitter backchannel on a screen behind you that everyone can see. At the start of your speech, ask people to tweet questions and comments, and explain how you’ll respond to the stream. Ask a colleague to monitor the feed as you speak or take regular breaks to check it yourself.

3. Create your own hashtag for a conference or event presentation, if it isn’t already provided. Encourage people to get the conversation going ahead of time by using the hashtag. Their questions may reveal themes you’ll want to cover.

— Adapted from The New Social Learning, Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner.

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