In a previous post, I explored common concerns about Twitter usage in presentations and concluded that Twitter offers many benefits in terms of audience involvement and engagement. However, seeing the benefits of using Twitter and being able to incorporate it effectively into your presentation are two very different things.
So let's take a look at some best practices for integrating Twitter into a live presentation.
Set up a hashtag for the presentation. This is a keyword or phrase preceded by the # sign (e.g., #TwitTips) which then groups and archives all the tweets using that hashtag, so they can be accessed either as they are posted or at any time after. Even people not physically at the presentation can follow the tweeted comments. If you communicate the hashtag to attendees before the presentation, you can generate interest in your upcoming presentation by tweeting questions or recommended links and resources thereby facilitating a dialogue before you actually speak.
Use Twitter as a polling technique to gather attendees' opinions and answers. Let's say you are giving a presentation on the benefits of using social media and you want to know which sites attendees use on a regular basis. In the presentation, just ask them to tweet that information and then tally the responses. Now of course, you could also get this same information by simply asking for a show of hands. But that's not as engaging for participants, you'll likely get more detail in a tweet and the tweets will be archived, allowing you to refer back to them.
Use Twitter in a Q&A session to generate more involvement and give everyone an even playing field. Attendees may be more willing to tap or key in a question than they would be to raise their hand and verbalize it, particularly if the audience is large.
If you encourage attendees to tweet their questions, take frequent "Twitter breaks", (every 10-15 minutes), so you can process those questions and respond. You may also be pleasantly surprised when the peer-to-peer learning aspect of Twitter kicks in and other people in the audience answer the questions before you get to them.
Co-opt a helper to moderate all the tweets (the tweetstream) for you to ensure that you don't miss any important comments or dialogue. You could even ask for a volunteer from the audience. The moderator should pass you questions or comments that are insightful or represent a majority view so you can reflect this dialogue, offer further explanations and respond to opinions. To be fully effective, talk with your moderator before the presentation and overview your key points. That way, she can be sure to capture tweets that would add richness to the conversation.
Project the tweetstream (all the tweets being sent to the hashtag) on a screen at the front of the room. Use a tool like www.tweetchat.com to filter out non-hashtag tweets. This is perhaps the ultimate use of Twitter in a presentation as it allows everyone in the room to see all the tweets being sent in real time. There is the potential for the constantly running tweetstream to be distracting, for both the presenter and the audience, so I recommend showing it for short periods of time, when it adds value to the presentation, perhaps during the Q&A section. If you are projecting a live display, a moderator can be very helpful in organizing/summarizing the tweets and answering some of them directly.
Capture feedback during the presentation through Twitter. Rather than waiting until the end and asking attendees to fill in the evaluation forms, ask them to tweet feedback at appropriate points during the presentation. The feedback will be fresher (they won't have to think back to something you covered an hour ago), you may get a higher response rate and you may get more specifics than you do from a "scale of 1 to 5" type response.
Encouraging or proactively using Twitter in presentations is still somewhat uncharted territory. There is no doubt that you'll encounter a few twists and turns the first time you use it. But the enhanced audience participation, contribution and engagement are certainly worth enough to give it a try.
What experiences have you had using Twitter in one of your presentations?