Everything you know about traditional public speaking is wrong and Twitter is responsible. Conferences used to be a place where speakers could give audiences a forthcoming and candid look at their company.
There have been times I have shared content that was more confidential to give audience members an insight that only people in the room could learn. Now, speakers have to think of their audience, as well as their thousands of Twitter followers in every comment.
This is a huge shift and adjustment for all of us, but I think it’s a good thing as it allows the message to reach a wider group.
If you attend any industry conference, you will quickly see that everyone in the audience is on a handheld device during the presentations!
But knowing this is critical as the game has changed for public presentations.
Rude is the New Nice. Looking at your phone during a presentation used to be considered rude. Now it’s expected and encouraged by speakers. Speakers will have their Twitter handle or a hashtag on every slide.
We are the Media. Audience members now live tweet content and act as live reporters. We speak in soundbytes in hopes that people WILL look at their phone and tweet that phrase, stat or insight.
Stick to the Script. With the changing dynamic above, it means that every comment is on the record. Some execs are becoming more and more scripted with fewer “off the cuff” remarks to control their message in great detail.
On the Record. Everything a speaker says is now “on the record” with audience members serving like court reporters. At a recent conference, a speaker from a large U.S. company said something was “off the record” during her talk. Then she later said, “Don’t quote me on this.” I enjoyed both comments as an attendee, but neither is realistic. Just ask the PR Director for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
This is a double-edged sword for public speakers. Engage your audience and you will reach beyond the room. However, if you lose them, those same people will be checking email.
So, the next time you step up on the stage and see a room full of people on their phones, it could be a great thing. Or, it could just be rude.