Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is Twitter Ruining Public Speaking?

I "attended" a real time webinar the other day and as the presenter showed his PowerPoint slides, he deviated from his presentation every 3-4 minutes to answer a question posed from the moving stream of webinar attendees displayed to the left of the screen. I couldn't help reading the conversations going on during the presentation between the attendees, many of which had NOTHING to do with the topic at hand! I am easily distracted naturally and soon found myself more interested in what the participants were discussing amongst themselves than what the presenter was saying. I liken it to a crowd of people in a room having conversations while a presenter is trying to make a presentation in front of the room where no one is really paying attention.

Many attendees use their laptops during someone's presentation. My question is WHY? One could say it is for note-taking purposes (did you forget to write?) or emailing important information that simply can't wait until the talk is over (why don't you just exit the room and give up your seat to someone who indeed wants to be there and listen?) Some would even argue that it is now acceptable to use the laptop to Tweet or text to friends who are not able to attend the talk, and give them your opinion of the presentation being presented in real time. Am I missing something here? Can't you guys wait until you see each other in a few minutes out in the hall during a break or during lunch? Maybe I just don't get it. One thing I DO know: Good presenters spend many hours preparing a presentation for the benefit of the audience so that attendees walk away with the "nugget" of knowledge they came for. To be less than attentative by using electronic devices to Tweet or text is rude and disrespectful to the presenter.

Frankly, I wouldn't recommend having an app where the screen displays the discussions during live webinars. Way too distracting. It is also rude and undermines the value of the presenter and his/her information being presented. Presenters should either ask all electronic devices be turned off or for the diehards, periodically make a slide in the presentation with a Tweet set in quotes summarizing a key point(s) and give Tweeters a few moments to copy it into their Tweet or text messages. Other options are to open it up for questions at the end of the talk or use an app that has the "raise hand" option.

Irene P. Zucker
VerbaCom® Executive Development

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