To live tweet, or not live tweet: that is the question

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Just put away the smartphone!

Joan Stewart posted a great opinion article on her blog, The Publicity Hound, last week on live tweeting.  Joan made the points that live tweeting during a presentation takes away from the experience, as a participant.  For example, while live tweeting, an attendee can miss points made during the presentation.

Live Tweeting Can Throw Off a Presenter

You know, giving a presentation is not easy!  It takes a lot of focus and nerve.  That’s the reason why I request that people not take photos during my presentations (although they usually do, anyway). But live tweeting is worse.  When I’m up there in front of an audience, it is slightly unnerving to see people bent over their Blackberrys and iPhones.  I don’t know if they’re live tweeting, or bored and checking their email, or what.  As a speaker, you need nonverbal cues and facial feedback from your participants — are you losing your audience?  Should you pick up the pace?  Did they get that last point, or do they seem to need clarification?  So I think paying attention and being in the moment is respectful to the speaker.

Live Tweets Lack Perspective of the Presentation as a Whole

In my experience, looking at the live tweets that have posted after my talk, I have also found that people who live tweet my presentations often focus on superficial details, and I can see where they’re missing points mid-stream.  They are basically missing the forest for the trees by focusing on the micro, instead of processing the whole.   Live tweeting can get a little “high school.”  It’s the digital equivalent of passing notes in class.  I’ve had people live tweet about my appearance (in a complimentary way, still, it’s beside the point of my talk), or about the kinds of pictures I use in my slides.

I see other drawbacks with live tweets, in addition to the ones you mentioned. Some people approach live tweeting like court reporting, recording every point, and I think that’s a mistake.  Once, I reiterated a point, and someone made a snarky tweet that I was repeating myself — but he was tweeting almost every statement I made!  But in presentations, repeating main points is important.

Live Tweets Are Not Effective Communication
I also think live tweeting can be a disservice to your Twitter followers.  Your followers may appreciate your insights from a presentation they can’t attend, but when that report is coming across the stream in disjointed bits and pieces, interrupted by other tweets — well, that’s just not effective communication.  (This is the same reason why I don’t like Twitter chats.)

Live Tweets Do Not Help Your Personal Brand

When I think about activities that enhance your image and raise awareness of your personal brand online, live tweeting is not one strategy that comes to mind.  That’s because Tweets have such a short life span, and almost no search engine results value at all.  That’s a lot of effort that could be diverted into blogging.  How much better would it be to take a few notes, snap a photo afterwards (with permission), and then write a blog post about your takeaways, which would elevate both you and the speaker (and wouldn’t evaporate from search engine results, the way tweets do).  Then you could tweet the link to your blog post.

Live Tweeting May Make You Less Social

To be sure, live tweeting can be distancing.  One thing I’ve noticed: live tweeters rarely come up to me and introduce themselves, before or after a presentation.  But bloggers almost invariably do.  It could be just my personal experience, but in a way, I think live tweeting can make you less social.

Live Tweeting is Probably Here to Stay

As a speaker, I can’t really do anything to discourage live tweeting.  It’s something people are going to want to do, and I don’t think collecting phones (some do!) or asking people not to live tweet is practical.  But I may think of ways to give preference to bloggers who connect with me, such as recognition, preferential seating, good quality photos, and special attention.

What are your thoughts on live tweeting?  Do you feel it adds to the experience, or takes away from it?

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on May 9, 2012, in Twitter Tips and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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