Conferences and Social Presentations

While at the annual conference of the CIPD, I look quite closely at the presenters themselves while on stage. They put themselves into a position of authority because they’re asked to and because they have some level of credibility in being there. It is of particular interest to me because I want to ensure that when I am delivering a presentation, I’m learning the right things, practicing them, and showing how to do it. In addition, I’m also looking for how to make presentations better.

So let’s assume some things are in the bag. You’ve prepped in advance. You like the shape of your story and you’ve practiced. Your slide deck is there to aid and build on your content. You’ve practices some more in front of others and gained feedback. You’ve chosen your clothes and you’re feeling good about it all. Things are in good shape, and you’ll deliver well.

Yesterday, Mike Collins taught me something I’ve completely dismissed – the social element. People will be tweeting about your talk, and those not there will be following the backchannel to follow the conversation. Before the talk, he was letting people know when he was talking, and he shared his deck through social channels. Here’s what Mike did which was just brilliant. He scheduled tweets to be posted that were in time with and in line with the content of his presentation. He didn’t just deliver his presentation, he was involving himself in the backchannel while delivering a live talk.


Too strong a description? No, it really isn’t. Think about what he’s done there. He’s giving his own context to any tweets about his talk. You know how a lot of people reading from afar get annoyed that soundbites are out of context and the hashtag doesn’t always help? Mike has shown us, quite simply too, how we get around that issue. If people want context, I’ll give it to them.

It takes concerted effort, and it takes careful planning. It also takes practice and a clear idea of where you’re going with the presentation. It doesn’t allow for going off piste, and it doesn’t allow for questions mid presentation. What it does do is allow the backchannel to have a full picture of what’s being presented.

There are some thoughts to consider when doing this:
– It can really only work if you’re prepping the audience to be involved in the backchannel before the talk. They need priming, and you need to be the one doing that.
– There has to be a hashtag which is in use, promoted well and a clear link to the event you’re talking at.
– It could work for keynote style talks, as long as the presenter is willing to invest the time in social tools. If not, they may need to partner with someone who can help them with it and get it right.
– You have to be sure you know where your presentation is going. A clear structure and flow will allow for the tweets to make sense, otherwise it will look very out of sync.

I thought at #ppia I was being clever by making it a social workshop, and trying to make the content interactive before the event. Mike has helped me to see that formal presentations can be made interactive in a different way.