10 tools for presenting with Twitter

by Olivia Mitchell

Note: updated on 3 November 2009

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

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.

AutoTweet

AutoTweet is a new add-in for PowerPoint developed by Timo Elliot of SAPWeb2.0. It works in the same way as Keynote Tweet. For more information see PowerPoint Twitter Magic.

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.

SlideSix

Todd Sharp of Slidesix is developing a desktop version of SlideSix which will have an extra pane in the presenter view of the slideshow, showing you the twitter feedback.

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.

SAP Twitter feedback2

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:

tidytweet moderation screenshot

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:

SAP Twitter ticker bar

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

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.

poll everywhere2

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

Both Poll Everywhere and SAPWeb2.0 also have the ability to conduct a vote with Twitter. In decision-making meetings I can see this could be particularly useful.

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:

visibletweets

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:

paratweet

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:

twubs

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.

wiffiti

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.

Aseatapart2

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.

What next?

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.

9th November update: Charlie Osmond of www.freshnetworks.com has just let me know about using Google wave as a backchannel. Check out his post Google Wave vs Twitter at conferences.

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).

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Timo Elliott October 14, 2009 at 11:06 am

Olivia,

Great roundup! And thanks for mentioning the PowerPoint Twitter Tools. Sorry that you found the instructions confusing — I should make it clearer that it’s only the ticker bar that needs to be on the master — the others can easily be cut-and-pasted into any other deck.

Regards,
Timo

Reply

Olivia Mitchell October 14, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Thanks for clarifying that Timo. I have updated the post to reflect that. Olivia

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Conor Neill October 14, 2009 at 8:59 pm

I think the future of speaking is going to be affected by these new tools – but I have one concern as I read through the different tools and think about their applications. The statement “we should do it because it can be done” is a techie approach to life. However, is there a risk that your speech turns into a gimmick? Is there a risk that you lose the connection with the audience as they all look down and furiously type into their iphones, blackberrys, kindles… and in 10 years they use their brain implant bluetooth transmitters to tweet?

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Olivia Mitchell October 15, 2009 at 6:06 am

Hi Conor
You make a valid point. The debate used to be about should audiences be tweeting. That debate is now closed – because if audiences are on twitter – they will tweet – and as a presenter you don’t have much choice over that.

So for me, the question is now how can you as a presenter best join in to that twitter conversation.

But, I agree that we should be careful not to be gimmicky. Polling with twitter has that potential. Great for decision-making meetings – but use sparingly outside of that context.
Olivia

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Laura Bergells October 15, 2009 at 4:01 am

Great, great roundup.

I also like presenting with Twitterfall or Tweetchat.

And while I don’t like the lack of transparency of BackNoise — I presented with it running in the background earlier this week. It can be illuminating to learn from snark. Fortunately, I escaped snark — for now!

And I’m with you – I tried every which way, but simply could not get SAPWeb2.0 to work. The instructions were loopy, but I followed the loops religiously. Has anyone re-written these instructions yet?

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Olivia Mitchell October 15, 2009 at 6:10 am

Hi Laura
Brave person – presenting with Backnoise in the background!

But seriously I would be interested in your experiences presenting with the twitterstream displayed – do you think it was distracting for the audience? A post on your blog maybe?

Olivia

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kare anderson October 15, 2009 at 5:02 am

What a helpful post and Cliff’s book is one I’ve shared with other speakers. I wrote about a Twitter audience revenge story here http://sayitbetter.typepad.com/say_it_better/2009/10/self-deprecation-twitter-vengeance-and-more-on-speaking.html

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Rick Nielsen October 15, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Olivia,

Just when I thought there was nothing more you could use Twitter for, I run across your blog and found something completely new to me! Nice work! I’m going to give these try.

Take care.
Rick

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Olivia Mitchell October 15, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Hi Rick
Glad I can surprise. All the best for when you present with Twitter. Olivia

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Julius October 16, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Hi Olivia,

thanks for the mention. I guess it gets down to your and attendees taste. Although different form of events require different visualization.

I think Visible tweets is more enjoyable to watch at a social event when you don’t have to focus on writing and have large audiences.

On the other hand I see tweetchat as a functional tool to chat, not to visualize. I use it for the #eventprofs chat and it works like charm. On the other hand I don’t like to see on the big screen as I think you are giving lots of real estate there.

Thanks for the impressive collection, it’s in my delicious now.

Julius (not Julian)

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Olivia Mitchell October 16, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Hi Julius
First so sorry for getting your name wrong – I’ve now corrected it.

Which type of display works best does depend on the event, as you say, but also where in the event it’s being shown. So for me, when it’s being shown during a live presentation, then the simpler the better. But I can get that some of the other more interesting ones would be great for the general areas of the conference.
Olivia

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Julius October 16, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I completely agree. We tried visible tweets in large social events with great results, but I agree more lean, functional design works very well for conferences and tweetchat is a great use of that!

Julius

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Doug Caldwell October 20, 2009 at 12:55 pm

You can also have Twitter along with your Internet TV channel on http://www.livestream/com/yourchannelname/beta version. Mine is at http://www.livestream.com/dougcaldwell/beta. The beta version has a Twitter chat along side your TV show so the audience can tweet right in sync with presentation.

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Dan Murray November 2, 2009 at 3:47 am

Olivia;

Thanks for this post. I must confess that I would find it very distracting to monitor a twitter stream while I’m giving a presentation. I would very much like to review a twitter stream after the fact by providing the audience with a #myspeachhandle at the beginning of the talk.

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Olivia Mitchell November 2, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Hi Dan

You’re not alone. And I think most people shouldn’t try. I think that while you’re talking to your audience you should be 100% focused on that. You’re going to look disinterested if you’re trying to glance at a monitor or cellphone at the same time. But being aware of what’s going on in the backchannel during your presentation can be useful. You can find out how your audience is reacting to your presentation and if there’s a problem you can do something about it. So I think it’s a good idea to either have someone else monitor the backchannel for you, or take overt “twitter breaks” – which you combine with taking questions in the frontchannel.
Olivia

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Ricardo Bueno November 4, 2009 at 8:24 pm

I agree that it’s difficult for a solo-speaker to moderate a twitter stream while speaking (it’s distracting in my opinion). On the other-hand if it’s a panel presenting, I think it’s much easier and fair game to have either a panelist or the moderator check-in for questions on the Twitter stream. A great idea in this case would be to set a hash-tag specifically for that presentation and monitor that for questions.

One thing I’ve done in the past is give the audience my cell phone number and asked them to text their questions. This way, I didn’t have to monitor twitter for questions but rather checked my phone when it buzzed with a new question. It worked out well until the battery died later that day (hehe)…

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Olivia Mitchell November 5, 2009 at 7:09 am

Hi Ricardo

Thank you for those points. I agree with you that during a panel presentation it’s much easier to monitor the backchannel.

The cellphone tip is a useful one – depending on the volume of questions!

Olivia

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twitter services November 5, 2009 at 6:28 am

I have a good collections of top twitter tools on my site.

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Olivia Mitchell November 5, 2009 at 7:07 am

And do you have a link specifically to tools for presenting with Twitter?

Olivia

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Charlie Osmond November 9, 2009 at 12:13 am

Olivia,
This is a great list.

You just need to add Google Wave – I think it’s likely to eclipse Twitter for backchannel chat in 2010:

http://blog.freshnetworks.com/2009/11/google-wave-vs-twitter-at-conferences/

Charlie
http://www.freshnetworks.com
Social Media and Online Communities

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Olivia Mitchell November 9, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Hi Charlie

Thank you for coming on over and letting me know about your great post on Google Wave – I’ll update the post.

Olivia

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Denis Francois Gravel November 24, 2009 at 2:41 am

Thanks Olivia for this great post.

Lately, I was participating in a congress where we were live twitting (with a giant screen).

It was very interesting, but the tool was lacking some features.

With your list, I now have what I was looking for.

Thank you

- Denis Francois Gravel

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Olivia Mitchell November 24, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Hi Denis

Sorry that it wasn’t in time for your Congress!

Olivia

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Manch Kersee March 14, 2012 at 2:26 am

Question,
I would like to take anonymous questions. Is there a way to tweet anonymously or some one to anonymously text to a twitter account?

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Olivia Mitchell March 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Hi Manch
I’m no longer totally up-to-date with Twitter developments and tools, but I don’t think there is a way of tweeting anonymously. However there are other backchannel tools. I covered this here http://www.speakingaboutpresenting.com/twitter/twitter-backchannel-alternatives-presentation/. This post is out-of-date but it will give you an idea of where to start searching for the right tool.
Olivia

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