The New Speed of Mass Communication
The past few conferences and events that I have attended witnessed the party-crashing technology of Twitter. If you are new to Twitter and not sure what it is, or haven’t even heard about it, here is the best way to describe it: imagine seeing all of your friend’s Instant Message conversations with each other and you – and being displayed to the world. It’s a new way of communication that is transforming communications and the speed at which news, articles, happenings and events are passed.

Twittering: A Speaker’s ViewPoint
As a conference speaker, I use the non-verbal communication of the crowd to determine if people are with me or not. Good amounts of my presentations are ad-lib and can go in vastly different directions depending upon how responsive the classroom or crowd is to me. Using that feedback is very valuable. In the past few presentations, people have been using Twitter via their laptop, cell phone, or iPhone. What is happening is that people are responding real-time to a speaker or presenter as a session is happening.

The Twitterbyte
My personal response is divided. While I enjoy the feedback and can go and review the “tweets” that happened during the session, it was very eye-opening to see what information gets twittered by session attendees. This made my realized that no longer can I focus simply on providing sound-bites for bloggers; I have to review my presentation to find the “twitterable” content.

Interestingly, the twitters by attendees fell into a few different categories. By order of my observation:
1. Off-handed and ad-libbed comments
2. Answers to questions posed during the session
3. Bullet points from the slides
4. Things that happened – (my Madden-style drawing stylus burned up in a session)

Speaker/Presenter Concerns
Interestingly many quotes from my presentation were put out on Twitter, but what was concerning is that the attribution I made to another author or blogger did not get published. The quote was published on twitter because I said it, but I was quoting someone else.

This happened at the Small Business Unleashed Conference this week, when I quoted Avinash Kaushik’s blog post about Analytics being 90% the person and 10% the software. What was twittered was, “Matt says analytics is 90% the person and 10% the program.” That type of attribution makes me shudder, as I quote people often, and I always try to include attribution in my PowerPoint slides or verbally. Neither the verbal nor the PowerPoint attribution didn’t make it into Twitter – maybe because of the character limitation.

I attribute as much as possible, as many times someone has said it better and simpler than I ever could. As a speaker it bothers me that many quotes and information can now be taken out of context on twitter, when they were properly attributed in the session.

Planning Twitterbytes
Now I feel the need to “Twitter-fy” my presentations and prepare for the inevitable Twittering of my sessions by planning “Twitterbytes”, along with the ‘sound bites’ for bloggers and note-takers. That means keeping more control of my ad-lib comments, knowing they could easily be twittered. Also, questions asked during a presentation get people’s attention, which makes it twitterable; and many times the person who asks the question will Twitter the answer. You may be surprised at what people latch onto and tell others. Be ready to give an answer or potential explanation for what was twittered. However, when the session is over, so are the tweets – as a speakers, you only get to see the feedback afterwards.

Other observations
One of the first ways that I saw Twitter coming of age was from the SWSX conference. During an interview of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, Twitter came alive with people criticizing the interviewer, who was becoming the focus of the interview. The crowd turned on the interviewer and I was able to view a live status report from hundreds of “tweeters” attending the interview at SWSX.

Mack Collier provided some additional observations from SWSX. One session moderator twittered during the session asking if there was content that was not being covered in the session that attendees would like to hear. She was able to take the twitter responses and shape the questions to the presenters in order to follow the request of the crowd.

It’s the dawning of a new age, where information is condensed into the 140 character Twitterbyte and transmitted to hundreds, maybe thousands of people in seconds. And the sound bite, which was known for its stunning lack of context and depth, which transformed the video age (most recognized in the realm of politics) is now looking surprisingly detailed.