SpeakerNet News Compilations

Social Networking During a Presentation

Stephanie Scotti

What are your comments/thoughts about how Twittering and texting (as well as other forms of social networking) are impacting “live” presentations, as well as any speaker strategies for managing this phenomenon?

— Jim Bouchard

I do a handout at the beginning of presentations asking for all cell phones, laptops, etc. to be turned off. On that handout there are instructions that in case someone is using a cell phone, texting or otherwise becoming a distraction to ball up this handout and throw it at them!

I wish I could remember where I got that from; it could have been in SpeakerNet; but I've never had a problem since doing this and it's a good piece of marketing!

— Tim Durkin

If I see a mixed-age group in front of me, and I almost always do, in my opening I show my cell phone number and say “for those of you who would rather text your questions to me please feel free to do so during the presentation.” I then check before the break to see if I have any and address them when we reconvene.

The reason this works is that the younger crowd thinks I am hip and happening (I am mid-fifties) and the boomers see how easy it is to cross into communicating with the younger crowd.

Not always but I usually get to use this line when giving out my cell phone: “If some of you wish to use your cell phones to ask me questions by text messaging here is my number … I am textually active.”

Depends on delivery and I am not sure a woman can say this as easily as a man as they face more social constraints, and trust me — I did not say this when I worked for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Even without the line it is a great bridge to the audience which is what you want I believe. Interestingly, I still get text messages from some members of my audience about something I said and how it worked.

— Patrick Lee

Get used to it. It’s here to stay. And ignore it.

Some clown in my immediate field of vision fiddled with his Blackberry during much of a recent presentation. I wanted to slap him and say, “Pay attention!” but all I could do was ignore him.

The best thing to do is to make your presentation so compelling they can’t help BUT pay attention. I spoke to a state bar association this summer and was dismayed to find a long, narrow room with the platform at the far end. The front half was rows of chairs. The back half was set rows of long tables and chairs. I asked why. My contact said, “The lawyers like to bring their laptops, sit in the back, and work during the presentations.” Great!

When the session began, there were plenty of lawyers working with laptops at those tables in the back. I wasn’t far into my presentation when I realized that they were now paying more attention to me than their work. Long before I was finished, I had their complete attention.

It raises the bar for us as presenters. Make sure they’re not turning to their social networking because you haven’t captured their hearts or minds. No matter how well you do, though, there will still be a few clowns in every audience. Ignore ’em.

— Patty Newbold

I love being on the receiving end of those who use Twitter during a conference. Often, I am completely unaware of the conference, but I notice someone I follow tweeting about what they are seeing or hearing there. If there’s a live video feed, their excitement often gets me to follow their link to it and sit in for an hour or two. If not, I find the conference’s Web site and make a note in my calendar about attending the next one.

I love when conference organizers are savvy enough to give the participants all the same code to use in their tweets (e.g,, #bwe08 today), so I can follow the conference from multiple points of view by searching for this code at search.twitter.com. Experiencing the conference through their eyes often leads me to follow them, giving whoever is running the conference another way to reach a prospective member or participant (me).

I would hate to sit next to anyone using Twitter with a loud keyboard at a conference, but I’ve seen presenters posting tweets to the conference feed from their panel seats and members of their audience tweeting back asking how in the world they are doing it so invisibly. (One answer is to preschedule tweets, but competent use of an iPhone or Blackberry is another.)

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions