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.")


Jay Rosen said...

Also relevant to this post:

How the Backchannel Has Changed the Game for Conference Panelists


Denise Graveline said...

Honored to see your comment here, Jay--and I gave a hearty recommendation to your post in this earlier post:

I've recommended it to the conferences I'm involved in planning as the new basics they must hit.

Ms Duffy said...

I was shocked recently to see the (highbrow) Australian Broadcasting Corporation showing viewer tweets on screen during its prestige panel show 'Q&A'. Your followers won't know the program, but thinking people stay home for it, and it has a thriving twitter community. Having coached so many people not to overload the audience with text heavy powerpoints I could have cried when I saw it. To listen to Germaine Greer talk and read a tweet from some nobody about what another panellist said two minutes ago is not physically possible. It completely undermines the presenter and you miss ALL the mnessages. I know you've talked about the problems of displaying tweets while a presentation is in progress - is it out of order, or am I just out of date????

Denise Graveline said...

Thanks for sharing that, Ms. Duffy--though I feel that broadcast news programs are a different breed altogether, and more prone to load up the screen with optional distractions (graphics! timelines! captions! photos!). And we are all of us--broadcasters and speakers or presenters--in a transitional time, so there's a lot of experimentation going on, some of which won't last. In public speaking, while some conferences got excited about displaying the live Twitter feed, this has to some extent backfired a bit--when audience members or outsiders shared inappropriate thoughts, or when it became (as it does) a distraction to both speakers and audience. More are turning to the idea of a Twitter moderator, who can monitor what's going on and share it at intervals during a live panel. I just went to a panel presentation yesterday that featured such a tactic, and it worked well and was not distracting to the audience that was present in the room.

Then there's that awful tendency to decide to do something because it's trendy (what I think you may be seeing in the program you describe). There's value that Twitter can add, but it needs to be thought through strategically, not just used because "all the kids are doing it."