Recently there was a terrific discussion about “Integrating Twitter Into Presentations” initiated on a Google Wave by Lara McCulloch-Carter. Fourteen (14) event professionals were invited to contribute their perspectives on the subject, including myself. Lara’s intent was to write a magazine article for an Event Industry periodical from the responses posted on the Wave.
The conversation generated by this topic has been robust, to say the least. Lara received far more material than she can use for her 500-word article. So, she invited the wave participants to use some of the information for blog posts. Thus comes this article…
One of the questions addressed caught my attention — “In which channel should Twitter be used?” (front, back) For clarity the concept of channels refers to the relationship of the Twitter discussion to the overall event. One possible definition (there are probably many) of those channels is as follows:
- Back Channel — typically a discussion, marked by an official hashtag for the event, taking place in the background between Twitter Users. At the very least it occurs simultaneously with the primary presentation. Often the Twitter conversation will begin before the event and then extend well after the meeting’s conclusion.
- Front Channel — In this context the tweets are part of the primary focus of the event. Examples of this are Q&A (Questions and Answers), Open Forum, Round-table discussions and Brainstorming.
A couple of my colleagues participating in this wave disagree with the concept of relating Twitter to a “channel.”
Jeff Hurt says “I don’t think Twitter should be relegated or labeled as a back-channel or front channel. I think that’s the wrong thing to call it. I see it as an audience engagement tool. Calling it the back-channel gives some people the image of a back room closed door private secret gathering.”
Ian McGonnical perceives it this way — “I never liked the term “back-channel.” I’ve always believed that conversations should be open and inclusive of all parties. Open conversations drive trust, and trust moves conversations forward. However, some presentations are designed as one-way communications, and that’s OK. I believe Twitter use should be examined on a case-by-case basis. Twitter is a tool. Like a Swiss Army Knife it can be used in many ways. Let the communication need or ‘job’ determine the right usage of the tool.”
Jeff and Ian both have valid points in their comments. Twitter is a diverse application with many potential uses for events. Therefore identifying its use as exclusive to only a certain channel is unproductive and unrealistic. The beauty of social media is its application is limited to the imagination of those engaging in it. Inevitably there are future event uses for Twitter that have not even been discovered yet.
For my part I am less concerned about “labeling” Twitter’s use a certain way. Instead I believe its most important to find the right context for its use at each event. We do not live in a “one size fits all” society and that is certainly true of the meetings business. Event professionals must think strategically about their programs by matching up the logistical requirements of the meeting with the best tools to perfect the event experience for their attendees.
Question — In your experience with meetings what have been the most impactful uses of Twitter for your attendees? Are you experimenting with anything new for future events and if so please share it with us!