Over the last 2 days I’ve been following the tweets from the #bectax (link) and #gbl10 (link) events. It’s a great if slightly frustrating way to keep up with goings-on (frustrating ‘cos it makes you wish you were there).
I’ve yet to deliver a presentation or workshop where there is an active backchannel and don’t have any planned yet but the thought of it does make by blood run cold rather.
These are my current thoughts about it which I wanted to capture and then possibly revisit having experienced it properly.
Why I don’t like the idea…
- Paranoia – I remember making soto voce snarky comments about a lecturer (his name was Peter Cundill) during a session he was running while I was a snotty under-grad. I was showing off and he was particularly unhappy about it. I’m ashamed of it now because I know how that sort of behaviour would affect me. To feel like a whole audience is having a discussion about you and your message whilst your doing it I think would throw me right off my concentration.
- Control – this is especially true about presentations where the twitterfall is visible behind the presenter. If I’m putting together a presentation I spend a lot of time getting the visual side as stripped down as I can. If the audience want to follow what is happening in the backchannel then by all means they can follow it on their own devices. But unless I say otherwise the podium is my space and I want to control the message that is delivered from there.
And now for the other side…
Why I love the idea…
- Feedback – What a fantastic motivator to make your presentation the best it could possibly be! My aim would be to get tweets that were agreeing, disagreeing, offering alternatives, building ideas etc. What I wouldn’t want to see is comments highlighting a weak presentation style. I know I’ve delivered poor presentations in my time and yet the feedback from delegates is very complimentary and polite. People who haven’t appreciated I suspect have chosen to remain silent and anonymous (at least to my face!). The backchannel appears to be fearless even though it’s not necessarily anonymous.
- Interaction – OK, I mentioned my need for control before but I love engaging audiences and getting their thoughts. With Twitter you have an amazing tool for doing that in a much broader way than by raised hands and voices alone. I hope I would be brave enough to open up questions to the backchannel. If I was watching a presentation like that I think I would be really engaged.
- Networks – A perusal of the backchannel comments after an event is a great way of finding out the individuals who have a real interest in the topic you were discussing and that’s a great way for establishing those links.
- Engagement – I’ve heard some people argue that if people are tweeting during a presentation they can’t be concentrating on it. You could say the same thing about taking notes in that case! With Twitter people can take notes in a much more socially constructive way and that is likely to make your presentation MUCH more effective anyway.
So, on balance I think I like the idea providing I can keep on my toes as a presenter!
The most exciting thing about it is that it turns a presentation into much more of a social event. To some extent that means that the training I had on how to be a good presenter is gradually becoming obsolete – that was based much more on the one to many delivery model.
I also think it makes a conference hall a much more honest environment where people are able to express themselves in a way that they perhaps didn’t on their paper feedback forms.
Whether I’ll still believe that after having gone through the experience remains to be seen!