I just finished presenting a webinar to several hundred attendees, mostly in the South Pacific. The host was the Australian Businesswomen’s Network, and the technology sponsor was Citrix (GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar).
The ABN heavily promoted the event to its members and mailing lists and also used Twitter to spread the word. They set up a hashtag for the webinar and gave my Twitter handle along with theirs at the beginning.
I never look at Twitter feeds while presenting… It’s far too distracting. I want to concentrate on comments and questions in the room from my audience. But I took a look immediately afterwards to see if it generated any Twitter action. If you want to scan the history, you can look at tag #abnvirtual or you can search my feed at @klmonline (which has many, but not all of the comments).
I was impressed and somewhat surprised to see that people were tweeting many of my tips and pointers from the presentation out to the Twitterverse. I think one of the reasons for the heavy coverage was the way I organized my slide content. Most of my slides have a quick title that expresses a single, short concept to get across. I elucidate a bit and then move on to the next short value point. The slide titles are custom-made for sharing. People don’t have to pick one bullet out of a dense text-filled slide to tweet.
One of the questions asked (and retweeted) under the event’s hashtag was “Does having a Twitter reference assist or detract from the presentation?”
I think there is a double-edged sword to associating a Twitter stream with your online event. It certainly worked spectacularly for reaching out and helping to spread awareness of me, Citrix, and the Australian Businesswomen’s Network. From a marketing and promotion standpoint, topnotch (as long as they are saying nice things, and in this case they generally were).
It also aided at least one person who said he had technical difficulties and couldn’t watch the webinar, but was able to follow along based on the Twitter summaries. That’s nice!
However I can’t help but think that all those people tweeting my words of wisdom out to the masses might not have been as fully involved in the webinar itself as they otherwise might have been. While they were deciding how to phrase their short compositions, were they missing the beginning of my next point? I certainly have to incorporate more of my “engagement tricks” to pull people back to the webinar screen and get them to refocus their attention on me. And this needs to be done constantly and repeatedly.
In a training/education class, I would discourage the use of Twitter in order to focus more attention on absorbing the factual material. In a promotional or marketing-based event, I would recommend it as long as you have a trusted representative monitoring the hashtag in realtime, and can quickly respond to negative comments and antagonistic posts. Not necessarily to deny or defend against them, but just to acknowledge that your organization takes them seriously and is aware that there are issues needing attention. That in itself can go a long way in building positive perception.
The best resource on this whole subject remains Cliff Atkinson’s book “The Backchannel,” which I recommend heartily.
Thank you to the attendees and twitterites on this event. I thought it was a blast, and I’m enjoying reading through the summaries of my information. It’s a great way to double-check yourself and see if you are expressing yourself clearly.