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  • Conferences: is a Twitter Wall Distracting?

    avril 16, 2013 : The speaker is on stage, attendees are quietly listening and dozens of small screens are lightening the audience. Behind the speaker, a big screen displays the Twitter flow. Everyone is listening, Tweeting AND reading the Tweets. Is the last action really adding something to the debate? Or is it distracting the audience? Any conference organizer had thought about this issue. As Twitter walls providers, let us try to answer…

    Their Words are worth a Tweet
    Over the years, laptop, tablets and smartphones have become more and more common at conferences. A second-screen conversation sets in whether you encourage it or not; and Twitter had established itself as a natural back channel. Attendees Tweet their questions or share their opinion on a topic or a speaker. As some may consider it as rude, others like speakers see the use of Twitter during a speech as a compliment: their words are worth a Tweet.
    Chris Bauer, founder and co-director of the Centre for Creative and Social Technologies at Goldsmiths, University of London had gave lecture with a Twitter wall. He shared is experience with Chris Parr. ‘I stopped getting annoyed at people using laptops and phones in my lectures a long time ago’. 'Lecturers', he continues, ‘have to come to terms with the idea of losing control in the world of interactive media. You are fighting a losing battle if you want to control it – you have to hope it leads to a constructive debate’. Why fighting interactive media when you can use them? Thanks to Twitter, people from outside can enhance the debate. Even if they could not make it, their voice can still be heard. A Twitter wall includes them in the debate on stage and let attendees who do not possess a mobile device follow the discussion.

    What if the Debate Runs out of Control?
    What if people start using the hashtag for jokes or unrelated topics? ‘Everybody experiences negative Tweets sometimes’, says Bauer. ‘If it is up on a massive screen behind you, it can be embarrassing and difficult to deal with, but I try to treat it like any other question’. The best way to avoid that is moderation. A person dedicated to the Tweets selection helps to limit the debate. In this way the moderator can avoid jokes, multiple retweets, negative and useless comments or unrelated Tweets. Another added value of moderation is that it reduces the number of displayed Tweets. If too many are appearing in the screen, the audience and the speaker will be tempted to read them all and forget the rest. A restricted number of displayed Tweets lets everyone focuses on what really matters: the presentation.

    Control when the Twitter Wall is on Air
    Another way to prevent the audience to be distracted by a Twitter wall is to go live only during Q&A sessions. We have seen customers opting for this solution to make sure people focused during the speech. Once they can ask questions, the Twitter wall appears on the screen and a moderator selects the best Tweets according to the topic.

    So yes, a Twitter wall might be distracting. Anyone reading a joke while the speaker is on stage will laugh, maybe answer, and will definitely not be concentrated anymore. But a Twitter wall is most of all an added value to the debate if you know how to use it. It includes people from outside and let people follow the discussion on Twitter in real-time. Furthermore, a Twitter wall makes the topic of the conference the center of attention on Twitter. As a result, the debate is enhanced and people are talking about the conference.





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