8 things I learnt about using twitter as a participation tool

Today, I presented a session remotely at the Presentation Camp at Stanford University, California. My session was on “How to engage your audience with Twitter” and I tried to do exactly that during my presentation.

Here’s what I learnt from my experience:

1. Design your presentation for Twitter

I used two strategies that took into account that my audience would be tweeting. These are the strategies:

  1. Break up your presentation into small sections. Use the breaks between sections to pause your presentation and respond to questions or issues raised on Twitter. I had three sections and took a twitter break after each one.
  2. Have “tweetbites” scattered during your presentation. Tweetbites are soundbites (under 140 characters of course) that will get picked up and tweeted by your audience.  Repeat your tweetbites so that people can tweet them easily. My most successful one was:

flipchart-tweet

2. Encourage your audience to tweet

Let your audience know you would like them to tweet during your presentation and tell them exactly how. Set up a separate hashtag for the presentation. If your presentation is part of a conference with its own hashtag, I still recommend a separate hashtag for your session. That will ensure you can follow just the tweets for your session.

To set up a hashtag, first follow @hashtags, it will automatically follow you back. Then you simply create your hashtag by typing a hash symbol in front of your chosen tag. You can search the hashtags site to ensure your tag isn’t already in use. We found it took several hours for twitter search to pick up on our hashtag, so I recommend doing this the day before your presentation.

3. Don’t forget the non-tweeters

We did have a couple of people who were not twitter-enabled. During the twitter breaks they were able to ask questions. But it wasn’t an ideal experience for them. I don’t know whether this would be such an issue in a standard conference presentation (the fact that I was a remote presenter and that the presentation was about using twitter in a presentation – made it very tweet-focused). But thinking through how non-tweeters are going to participate is important.

4. Use multiple ways to monitor the Twitterstream

In my presentation, I suggested three ways you could monitor the twitterstream for your presentation:

  1. Take twitter breaks to check out the twitterstream and answer any questions.
  2. Appoint an audience member to be the Twitter monitor and to let you know when there are issues arising on the Twitterstream that you need to respond to.
  3. Display the twitterstream live so that both you and the audience can see it.

I found I needed to use all three of these to try and keep up with the stream of tweets coming through (and even then I didn’t manage to keep up). There were only eight people in the room tweeting (some also tweeting remotely) but they managed to generate over 80 tweets in 40 minutes! Having the twitter monitor was the most useful strategy for me. My partner, Tony, monitored the twitterstream and wrote down the most critical tweets for me to respond to on notepaper and passed them to me.

5. Ask the audience to retweet (RT) the tweets they want you to address

This suggestion came out of a tweet interchange:
rt-question1

rt-selfselection

rt-as-solution

6. Let go of the illusion that you might know more than the audience

Twitter allows the audience to offer their expertise. This happened almost immediately in my presentation. We had set up a search for #prescampo at www.search.twitter.com to show the twitterstream. We used a firefox plugin called Reload Every to refresh the page every 10 seconds. Within a couple of minutes of starting @Jeffhurt (who participated remotely from Texas) suggested we use www.tweetchat.com. Wow! That was so much better. It refreshed itself as soon as new tweets came through and has a tweetbox so that you can also tweet from the page and it automatically adds the hashtag.

tweetchat

Thank you so much Jeff for all the expertise that you contributed during the presentation.

7. Tweet the questions you want the audience to respond to

I had planned four specific questions I wanted to ask the audience during my presentation. I had these ready to go, so that I could tweet them at the appropriate time in my presentation. I did this by having four separate twitter tabs open in firefox each with one question ready to tweet. It worked but please do tell me if there’s an easier way of doing this!

8. You don’t have to respond to all the questions during your presentation

That’s part of the beauty of using Twitter. The questions are saved for you. There were a number of questions that I missed and I responded to them after the presentation through Twitter.

This list is just my main learnings from delivering the presentation. There’s heaps more value that you can get by reviewing the twitterstream which summarizes my main points and includes the expertise of the audience. I’ve created a pdf of the twitterstream that you can download here:  twitterstream-prescampo. For those who would like the substance of my presentation, you can find it in two guest posts I wrote last week:

How to present while people are twittering

7 ways to use Twitter to engage your audience

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