A marketing director was presenting at a conference.

He showed a social networking video which was familiar to many of the 300 strong audience. At first just a few heads tilted downwards to tweet their reaction. Then, more Mexican nod than wave, more and more of the audience joined in the twitter conversation.

Meanwhile, he was more drowning than waving…with barely any attention focussed on him.

Presenting at conferences has got much riskier. A few years back you could prepare something interesting, turn up, and if your billing and opening were strong and authoritative people would listen.

Now as presenters we have to negotiate for our audience’s interest and work our butts off to keep them engaged when other conversation tempts.

Here are seven suggestions to help:

1. Fixate on the attendees list, what they do, where they come from and how you can fit with their concerns.
2.Avoid deference or formality. Use personal experience and a goal of being of interest and relevance. You are not Steve Jobs. Not yet anyway.
3.Plan action for your audience, rather than just listening. Top presenter Dan Sodergren gets his audience to tell each other ‘I like you’. Hilarious, embarrassing and memorable.
4.Do reveal any assumptions you’ve made in creating your presentation.
5.Which may require expansion like ‘I’ve assumed everyone’s familiar with this project. If not to sum it up quickly…’
6.Don’t allow others to overly direct your content. Base it on your passion, beliefs and experience. You’re the one who’ll get the tweets, remember…
7.Worry less about being liked and attractive and more about engaging your specific audience, making impact and getting your point over.

And one extra and vital point:

Charge enough.Twitter is a huge help to presenters in creating reach for our messages. But all this is going to involve more preparation time to create great content. Value this.


Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. great post.
    It is getting ever harder to hold the attention of people at presentations
    I have been to sessions where the twitter feed is projected live onto the wall, so nothing is hidden from the speaker.
    Brilliant feedback mechanism, if potentially a little cruel.

    I’d imagine those people capable of adjusting what they are saying in response to the tweets really get it right and deliver a fantastic and gripping presentation.
    Not great though if you are inflexible type and read out parrott fashion a 100 word per slide power point presentation.

    Did you see on telly saturday night “Secrets of the Pop Song”, BBC 2.
    In it some performers who were also DJ’s said how they would refine thier songs by playing them in the clubs.
    They got instant feedback from the clubbers and would adjust the tracks until they got brillinant feedback.
    One anthem went through 16 versions before it worked.

    I don’t want to sit trough 16 versions of any presentation, but getting that sort of instant feedback is great.
    Nice one twitter.

    • That’s a whole new game, isn’t it, competing for attention with a live twitter feed? Can’t say I’d fancy it – could get tweets like ‘Has she never heard of Slimfast?’ Very challenging. But on the whole agree with you, these mechanisms for fast feedback are amazingly useful. And thanks for the illustration.

      Read the latest at Mrs Motivator.com : web and work psychology

  2. Very true. Perhaps one way would be to involve the audience in the presentation.

    I wrote some about facilitating on my blog here: http://www.christophsblog.com/2011/07/facilitation-vs-teaching/

    • Hi Christoph

      Thanks for commenting – and am sure the facilitating that you’re learning will be the way forward. We’re getting so used to chatting online and enjoying it , we’ll be expecting to do it more and more live. And it’s the best way to learn and move projects forward. All best for your projects.


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Presenting & Social Networks