Thursday, April 22, 2010

All I really need to know about public speaking I learned from @acarvin

Regular readers know I've recommended Twitter--specifically the tweets of audience members during presentations and conferences--as a great way to get tips and hints about improving your speaking, straight from the audience (even if it's not your audience).  Audience members who live-tweet are quick to share their pet peeves and constructive feedback about speakers, meeting rooms and related matters. One of the live-tweet gurus, NPR social media senior strategist Andy Carvin, often shares the kind of feedback speakers and conference organizers should pay attention to.  This week, Carvin spoke at and live-tweeted the 140 Characters Conference in New York City; in addition to rapid-fire tweets about the content, he included these hints from which speakers can benefit:

If you're a speaker without a placard in front of you, make your own or mention where you're from periodically to help the audience (and later, video viewers or audio listeners) keep track, as in, "At NPR, we approach it this way..."  And organizers, listen up on this one. Speakers need to be identified!

Audience members always notice when you slip from the schedule, more so if things are running late. When you don't keep time--whether you're the speaker, the organizer or the moderator--you run the risk of losing people's attention (or their physical presence as they vote with their feet).

Like most audience members, Carvin wants the chance to ask questions--particularly at conferences where the topic is Twitter or other social networking interactive tools.  That's an even bigger challenge at this conference, because panels are short to begin with, no more than 15 to 20 minutes total.  But there's no better way for a panel to turn the audience's mind off the topic and onto the clock than pushing your time limits or using time that could be shared with the audience.

Likewise, if a speaker does something novel--involving an audience member, throwing out the need for PowerPoint, or both--it'll grab attention.  Would you try this?

When I saw this tweet, my reaction was, "I'd like to hear that discussed, too." It's an excellent example of the kind of live-tweet that a good moderator might work in, if she were monitoring Twitter during the panel.

Nice warning to the panel and the moderator here.  Again, if they were monitoring the live-stream, this comment should have provoked some change to get the audience engaged.

When the audience can't hear (nor the live-streaming cameras), you've got to wonder what's the point of convening all these people.  Make sure you can be heard and your questioners can be heard.  It's another situation where speakers should take charge, if the moderators or organizers don't.

You can follow Carvin on Twitter here.  Better yet, find out who's live-tweeting your next meeting or conference -- and what happened last year -- to check what they notice about speakers. 

Related posts:  Tweet your way to better speaking (with my all-time-favorite tweet from an audience member: "Sweet merciful Shiva! Professor, please stop resting your papers on the microphone. You're killing us.")