When I say Twitter backchannel, what’s your first reaction?
Seriously, what’s the first thing that you think?
- Huh? What’s that?
- OMG, that’s a way to destroy the speaker’s presentation!
- We can’t do that. What if someone has something negative or childish to say about the presenter or the event and it gets displayed for everyone to see?
- We can’t trust people to do the right thing with a backchannel.
- People should not be looking at their smart phone, mobile device or laptop during a presentation. That is rude!
- I’ve used it and love it.
- It’s a great way for an audience to participate with the presenter.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions about the presentation backchannel. What it is, what it does and why it’s a good or bad thing for your conference.
It’s only when conference organizers shift their perspective from speaker-centric to audience-centric can they see the possibilities.
Transitioning From The Front To The Back Of The Room
Most conference presentations occur at the front of the room. A single presenter shares information with the audience. It’s a one-to-many style presentation. The presenter does the majority of the talking. The audience sits quietly and listens. The audience only talks if the presenter does Q & A.
When a conference organizer creates a backchannel, they are shifting the traditional arrangement. They are moving the presenter’s monologue to polylogues (many people conversing at the same time with many people.) They are creating a space where attendees can talk to each other. While the presenter is using a one-to-many model, the audience is using a many-to-many model.
Typically, presenters are not part of the backchannel as they focus on what they are saying. Some savvy presenters have capitalized on the backchannel and use it for Q & A and comments.
Transitioning To Outside The Room
If the backchannel is happening in Twitter (using a hashtag), then the conversation also becomes public and leaves the four walls of the room. People with Twitter profiles are now sharing information with their followers.
That means those conversations can have a larger impact, for good or bad.
Ultimately, a backchannel can create a networked conversation around a presenter’s information.
The Rewards Of The Backchannel
Here are some of the benefits of a conference backchannel
1. Reporting information.
People post highlights of what’s happening and what’s said.
2. Enhancing information.
People may add more facts or experiences to what is being reported. They may add links or images.
3. Commentary on information.
Sometimes people add their opinions to the presenter’s information.
4. Monitoring what others are saying.
People may search the hashtag to see if they missed anything that others shared. People see other’s perspectives and opinions.
5. Amplifying what is said.
People may retweet what someone said. They amplify that message as they share it with others.
6. Sharing real-time conference changes or reminders.
People may share room changes or reminders about upcoming conference events.
7. Helping others find something.
People may respond to questions from others using the hashtag.
8. Giving a voice to those that are afraid to speak up.
The backchannel helps those uncomfortable speaking aloud the ability to share their thoughts.
9. Harvesting ideas from the crowd.
The presenter can ask for feedback and ideas from the backchannel. People can text their thoughts and suggestions.
10. Reading the minds and insights of others.
Presenters and conference organizers can get authentic feedback about what some people thought about the presentation.
What are some of the other benefits of a conference backchannel?