To Tweet or not to Tweet: Conference Speakers and the Rise of Social Media

There’s a lot of preparation in the run-up to a conference, and we always help out as much as possible in booking conference speakers – arranging travel, speaker briefings, discussing dress codes (tie or no tie? The eternal question). But then the day itself dawns, the conference speakers step, blinking, onto the stage, and we’re back in the office wondering how it’s going, and if they remembered their packed lunch.

 

Mark Ormrod: one of the best conference speakers I have ever heard. Unsure of etiquette on blubbing during conference”

 

Twitter is to us as a baby monitor is to new parents. Perhaps I’m exaggerating for dubious comic effect, but in the last few years Twitter has become a fascinating insight into what an audience actually thinks about their conference speakers, awards hosts and after dinner comedians.

 

David Blunkett is not one of my favourite politicians, but I must admit he was a v entertaining conference speaker at ACCA Local Government Summit today”

 

Audiences tend to be far more honest on Twitter than they would if asked directly for feedback (sometimes too honest – “Mark Durden Smith is an uber DILF!”). Tweets have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, and there’s always something pleasingly surreal about only knowing half of what’s going on – “Interesting day in Moscow. Dinner with Nouriel Roubini and lunch with a cow”. Tweeters start conversations with fellow audience members, engage further with the event organisers and sponsors, and spread the word to their own followers.

 

“Fruitless trying to tweet during Susan Greenfield – too rich in content!”

 

Is all this tweeting a good thing? It’s tempting to take the school teacher approach – ‘put your phone away and listen!’ You want to make sure that the audience are really paying attention and taking away all the key points. But maybe Twitter actually helps rather than hinders – tweeters summarise the conference speakers’ content in handy 140-character sentences, and the act of editing and rephrasing a point makes it easier to remember.

 

“Sir Terry Leahy: Listen to the individual; if you listen long enough they will give you your strategy #seizing success”

 

The conference speakers themselves get in on the act too – replying to audience members, or talking about fellow speakers or performers they’ve seen. And sometimes there’s some good ol’ fashioned competitive spirit – witness this exchange between two conference speakers we booked for an annual event in consecutive years…

 

 

Alastair Campbell

@afneil Direct Marketing Assn said lots of your political predictions from last year were wrong!!!

 

Andrew Neil

@campbellclaret really? Such as?

 

Andrew Neil

@campbellclaret Still waiting for you to give me an example my little spinmeister-general. Or is this just more misinformation…

 

Alastair Campbell

@afneil probably. But they said I was funnier!

 

Andrew Neil

@campbellclaret My predictions more likely to be wrong than you likely to be funnier!!

 

Alastair Campbell

@afneil we took a vote. It was a landslide

 

JLA

@campbellclaret @afneil well gents, I think the only way to settle this is for you to speak side by side, and let the audience decide…!

 

Alastair Campbell

@jlaLIVE @afneil ok but at my fee not his

 

Andrew Neil

@campbellclaret @jlaLIVE I’m not cutting my fees!

 

Alastair Campbell

@afneil @jlaLIVE you wouldn’t have to dear… Big rise for you m’boy. Tell you what, we do a head to head, goes to vote & winner takes all

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