Presenters, how to make your presentations twitter friendly

November 10, 2011

Business Storytelling

I recently had the pleasure of attending  TedX Melbourne .  Like all the TED events there was a great array of speakers, with an engaged audience, hungry for information.  I love the format – 18 minutes per speaker and most of the speakers went the presentation equivalent of the ‘full monty’, no PowerPoint or visuals.

For the first time I also felt the entire playing field had changed. Right through the conference lots of participants were tweeting.  The person next to me had his laptop, his iPad and his phone out but also used a good old fashioned pen and paper to take notes…so some things never change.

Like everyone else in the audience I was both listening to the presenters and keeping an eye on twitter to see how the audience was responding, all in real time.  It was interesting and confronting (and I wasn’t even presenting!)  to see how immediate the feedback was, what people were saying almost in response to every point the speaker was making.  So as a presenter how can you make your presentation twitter friendly?

The good news is some of the rules of a good presentation haven’t changed at all, but there are some new things to consider.

One – As always it is all about your preparation, preparation & preparation.  You can never be over prepared and if you are under prepared, the twitter comments will let you know at once!  As part of  your preparation know the rules of engagement.  For example at TED one of the mandates for speakers is ‘Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage’.  One speaker who was unaware of this or chose to ignore it received a verbal bashing on twitter.  Twitter audience is quick off the mark and unforgiving in this respect.

Two – Make every word count, no fluff, extraneous padding, jargon or mindless repetition.  Like Mark Twain said ‘The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lighting and the lighting bug’.  Make sure all the bugs are ironed out of your presentation.

Three– Having a very clear structure still matters, so the audience can follow you easily.  But try not to be clichéd or too conventional with structure.  Trust your audience’s intelligence in being able to follow you without an obvious power point hierarchy (yawn, boring).

Four– Be disciplined and have 2 or 3 key messages, only.  We can never stress this enough and to be twitter friendly your message should be in the form of a sound bite that can be easily tweeted.  Remember the twitter limitation of 140 characters.  This is great discipline for presenters as if you can make your key point in 140 characters you have it nailed. When your audience engages with a message it will be tweeted over and over again by different people and then retweeted.  This is GOOD and the presentation equivalent of a standing ovation except the everyone globally on twitter can see it / hear it.

FiveUse Storytelling.  Because how else could you convey complex information quickly and engagingly?  The only time people stopped tweeting completely during TedX Melbourne was when one of the presenters, Liza Boston, started narrating a story – she had everyone’s attention in the room for the 3 minutes.  And one of the first tweets after said ‘Liza Boston’s presentation alone has made the admission price worth it!’.

Six– Don’t be distracted by the lack of eye contact.  Even though everyone is looking at their phones , they are still listening to you, except they are listening differently.  They are listening to you and also listening to what the twitterverse is saying.

Seven – Be yourself, be authentic and use your personality.  People love that and will respond to you like a real person which of course you are.

Eight – After your presentation, take a big deep breath first, and then look at the twitter feed.  This is the best feedback you will ever receive as a presenter and a great learning opportunity.

This is by no means a complete list so please add to it.

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