Presenting while people are tweeting is challenging – but also adds a new dimension to the presentation experience for your audience. Gradually tools are being developed to make it easier for you as the presenter to manage the backchannel.
Posting Tweets during the presentation
Crafting a set of tweets for the main points of your presentation and then tweeting them as you make those points in your live presentation is a great way to be part of the Twitter conversation.
Both Keynote and PowerPoint have add-ins which allow you to automatically send a tweet when you click on a slide.
Keynote Tweet allows you put your tweet wrapped in [twitter] tags in the presenter notes pane for that slide and when you click onto that slide, the tweet gets published.
Monitoring Twitter feedback
I don’t recommend trying to scan the twitterstream at the same time as you’re talking. But you can take Twitter breaks – where your audience can tweet and you can read the Twitterstream for realtime feedback. Or if your presentation includes interactive exercises for the audience take those moments to look at the Twitterstream.
You can, of course, monitor the reaction to your presentation through your normal twitter client or any number of twitter search applications. But I love the idea of not having to switch applications, so kudos to Todd Sharp for this idea.
Displaying the Twitterstream within your slides
During a presentation (as opposed to a panel discussion) it will normally be most effective to only show the twitterstream at certain times during your presentation (see my post Should you display the Twitterstream? for thoughts on this). For example, display the screen when you’ve asked a question and want people to respond via Twitter or when you invite audience members to ask their questions using Twitter. There are two applications which allow you to pull tweets into your PowerPoint show. That means that you don’t have to switch to a different application.
SAPWeb2.0 Feedback slide
Timo Elliot of SAPWeb2.0 has developed a very elegant solution. You put in a search term at the bottom of the slide and it pulls in the most recent tweets with that term. Here are the results for #pptlive on 12 October.
Timo has instructions on his website for how to create this slide in your own slidedeck. Update: In brief you just cut and paste from his slide to yours. Update (25 Oct 09): Timo has made some brilliant improvements to his already excellent application. He’s made the Twitter avatars and links within tweets clickable. And he’s also teamed up with TidyTweets to allow filtering and tweet by tweet moderation:
Update 29 October: Tidy Tweets is free for personal use, but costs $10 a month for business use.
SAPWeb2.0 has another method for pulling tweets into a PowerPoint slideshow. It’s a Twitter ticker bar that runs along the bottom of your slides:
Generally, I wouldn’t recommend using this as it’s highly likely to distract your audience. During most types of presentation, I think it’s best to only display tweets when that’s what you want your audience to focus on. But there are times when it could be a fun addition.
Poll Everywhere also allows you to pull tweets into a slide. But the procedure is a bit more complicated. You ask a question and the audience responds by tweeting @poll and including a specific number with their answer. Their answers are anonymous unless you upgrade to a paid version (the lowest price point for personal use is US$15 a month).
As you can see the look of the slide is not terribly exciting. You can change the color of the background and text and that’s it. If you want to remove the logo you have to upgrade to a paid version. One of their paid plans (US$65 a month) also allows you to moderate tweets before they’re displayed.
In the context of a live presentation, I’m not sure what this adds to simply asking your audience to tweet with a particular search term and displaying the resulting tweets on the screen. And if you want the results to be shown within PowerPoint, the SAPWeb2.0 slide looks much more elegant. However, Poll Everywhere does have the advantage that people not on Twitter can text messages (as long as in you’re in a country with coverage – not New Zealand!)
Voting with Twitter
Other applications for displaying the Twitterstream
There may be times in your presentation when you want to display the Twitterstream separately to your slideshow. There are many different applications for doing this. Julius Solaris has a round-up on his post 5 ways to visualize twitter at Events. But we have very different criteria. For him, the more distracting the animation the better. His favorite Visible Tweets reminds me of the worst type of PowerPoint animation:
I prefer a very plain display.
Simple systems for displaying the backchannel
Tweetchat is my favorite. It’s a simple display without distracting animations. Tweetchat allows you to block particular users (click on the user control link). And it has a pause function which is very useful if you want to discuss a particular tweet and you don’t want it to disappear off the screen.
Twitterfall is also presentation-friendly. It also allows you to exclude specific terms – which can include a Twitter username if a person is tweeting inappropriately. It’s only failing is that the pause function is not available from the fullscreen mode (Twitterfall calles this the Presentation theme).
More complex systems for displaying the backchannel
Paratweet has a free version which does auto-filtering (ie: screening out tweets with profanities) or you can upgrade to a paid version ($80 a month) which allows you to moderate Tweets:
I found it quite complex to use.
Twubs is free whilst it’s in beta. It also seems to have an easy method of approving tweets for display:
As well as allowing you to choose which tweets are displayed, it will also display other media – such as photos, videos etc. Twubs has lots of other features which will be of interest to event organisers.
Wiffiti also does a lot more than just display tweets. It’s primary use is to create “digital signs”. The site says that it allows moderation, although it doesn’t show how it’s done. Here’s a screen that I created for the #pptlive hashtag.
A neat feature is that you can upload your own background to the display.
A note on moderation
Moderation allows you to approve tweets one-by-one before they are displayed on the screen. There are two ways of looking at moderation. Either you can use it to screen out offensive or off-topic tweets. Or you can use it to highlight the most useful tweets. For example, if you’re asking people to ask their questions via Twitter, and there are far more questions than you can handle – you could pick out the questions you want to answer and display those. An idea for a future application is a system which picks out the tweets with the most retweets. Then you could ask the audience to retweet the questions that they most want addressed – and just display those.
If you do decide to use a display tool which allows moderation, I recommend having a colleague do this, rather than trying to do it yourself during your presentation.
And the application I couldn’t leave out
This is not primarily a presenter tool, but it’s so impressive and so useful I couldn’t leave it out. A Seat Apart was developed by Allister Klingensmith literally over night at An Event Apart 2009 conference in Boston. It matches a person’s twitter username with where they’re sitting. The virtual world of Twitter and the real physical world get integrated. I think this is a fantastic way to ensure that the community feeling that builds up on Twitter is translated to real life.
Each box in the picture below represents a seat. If the person is on Twitter it shows their Twitter avatar. This is a static screenshot but if you go to the A Seat Apart website you can see that when you rollover an avatar you see the Twitter username.
This application is not in general release, but I’ve emailed Allister and he says if you want to use it for your presentation, contact him through his website: www.getsugarspun.com.
I’m looking forward to more applications being developed to make presenting with Twitter easier for presenters. If you know of a tool that I’ve missed out, please let me know and I’ll add it in.
This is an excerpt from my forthcoming free eBook “How to present with Twitter (and other backchannels)”. If you’d like to know as soon as it’s released sign up here:
I’ll let you know when it’s released, and then when I update it. I won’t send you any other information or use your email in any other way.
Cliff Atkinson has written an excellent book “The Backchannel: How audiences are using Twitter and Social Media and changing presentations forever” which is to be released on 27 November 2009. You can pre-order it on Amazon here (if you order through this link, I’ll get a few cents).