Would You Include Twitter as a Fellow Panelist?

Twitbird Lots of people these days send Twitter posts or “tweets” during conference sessions. I’ve done it myself. So yesterday, completing a speaker submission for a conference later this year, I thought it might be interesting to have a dedicated Twitter account for the session I was proposing to present. I even set up the account in anticipation, so that the name would not be taken by someone else in the meantime.

Today I’m not so sure about the idea. Or at least about where we are headed with the concept of microblogging as part of the conference experience.

Checking my RSS feed reader I found a post about the use of a dedicated Twitter account as part of an interesting session at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco this week. Short Attention Span Theater: The Birth of Microblogging & Micromedia was billed as taking a look at the emergence of “micro media, short-form publishing by the masses”.

Over the past two years, we have seen a shift in the mode of publishing from long-form blogs to short-form streams. Micro media, at its core, brings forward a new approach to the creation and consumption of content.

A quick search revealed a number of blog posts about the event and people’s perceptions of how the experiment with Twitter had fared.

The event organizers had gone further than just having a Twitter account for the session. They had set up a screen so that everyone present could see what anyone was posting to that account, in real time.

Twitter had become, if you like, an additional panelist.

Fun? Evidently.

Great experience? From my reading today, the jury’s out on that.

Jacob Morgan was there and highlights the loss of control of the conversation by the panel but suggests that this was not necessarily a bad thing.

Lee Odden reproduces a bunch of tweets which are worth reading, to get some sense of the way the “out of control” discussion looked/sounded.

Andrew Mager has pictures including one of the panel, the big screen with the tweets on it and an audience picture with microblogging legend Robert Scoble in the foreground. Mager also has a record of points made in the discussion.

Jeremiah Owyang, one of the panelists, was of the view that, while “very, very entertaining”, the session “offered little insight or value“.

Stowe Boyd, one of the panelists, claims credit, with co-panelist Gregarious Narain, for the concept of the session and says they are going to “productize” it.

I’m really in two minds about the concept now. Thinking about how I would feel being a paid up attendee at a conference, hoping to get some value for money, my hunch is that, if it came to a choice, I would rather leave the event feeling better informed than simply having been treated to an entertainment. Not that the two are by any means mutually exclusive. But it is worth reading, for example, the comments on Jeremiah’s post on the subject to see a range of views on the subject.

On the other hand, doesn’t the sort of experience created at the microblogged session in San Francisco give us a sense of the kind of contexts, fast-moving, unordered, relatively unpredictable, featuring more empowered customers, within which businesses are increasingly having to operate?

I’ll be on the lookout for more stories of people using Twitter or some other microblogging service, “big screened” as part of the fabric of conference sessions, not just as a back channel as has been more the case until now.

Des Walsh

Business coach and digital entrepreneur. With coach training from Coachville.com and its Graduate School of Coaching, and a founding member of the International Association of Coaching, Des has been coaching business owners and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. Over the same period he has also been actively engaged in promoting the business opportunities of the digital economy. He is a certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) coach, and a certified specialist in social media strategy and affiliate marketing.

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  1. To me, it’s really a twitter meetup, or a twitter experiment, when you put the back channel as close as we did on stage.

    As a result, there were funny comments (that added no value, but were somewhat distracting) so you’ll need to set expectations up front to your audience and the conference organizer before doing this.

    BTW Des, I met someone who is moving to Australia and will be doing some tech work, and she asked who she should meet and I immediately said you. This was after my panel yesterday.

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