Four Voices from SXSW

Speaking and Twitter dominance

The experience of South by South West (SXSW) in Austin is like the
Wild West – it’s the frontier of Social Media converging with traditional conference,
dominated by Twitter. After experiencing it, I’ve modified my opinions since my last Twitter post here, and more will be coming on that (for a very good post on this subject today see Mark Ivey’s blog.)

First, four important (read ‘Rock Star’) voices from SXSW on the question “Is Twitter distracting, additive or what?” I recorded our conversations spontaneously on my iPhone – here are highlights:

@Armano – (Listen to iPhone recording here)

  • Good thing, not a bad thing
  • Speaker can broadcast his/her message
  • When I tweet in conference, use it as notes
  • Tweeting causes disconnect but you store up info and come back to it

@GuyKawasaki – (iPhone recording here)

  • Very good for speakers, can reach thousands through tweets
  • I like big numbers!
  • Tweeters disconnect – It’s like taking notes
  • Not too distracting for me as a speaker. But embarrassing when I’m speaking and someones sees a live tweet from one of my surrogates…

(iPhone recording here)

  • Tweeters can take over a conference – last SXSW
  • Great as back channel, speakers can see what audience wants
  • Opens up ways to broadcast our content world wide in seconds
  • Tradeoffs – can distract speaker, be rude, discount audience
  • Can connect with individuals in room and conference
  • One more things for corporations to assimilate, change “laptops down” policy

@ChrisBrogan – (iPhone recording here)

  • Important to be able to free flow and multi-task well
  • Many conversations can take place at the same time, all can express themselves
  • Note taking useful for in house audience
  • Real audience is the thousands outside the conference room
  • Twitter is like hamburger helper for the conversation – makes a little go a long way
  • We’ll learn to speak in ‘twitter bites’ (as Chris Brogan does!)

There’s a unanimity of opinion by those who are in the Twitter elite of course, and I share their enthusiasm for the possibilities. But there’s another side to the story in the traditional and more bureaucratic business world – which is perhaps 80% (or more) of the business population. They still think Twitter is the answer to the now irrelevant question, “What are you doing?” (The other day I asked the CEO of a billion dollar investment banking firm how he used Twitter and he said “What’s Twitter?”)

More to come on this important communication experience, and Twitter tips for the mainstream business population…


10 comments on “Four Voices from SXSW

  1. Jeff, Joan, DeAnna and Alan – thanks for adding to the conversation. Good thoughts.
    This subject is important and I hunch will get lots of diverse opinion before it settles out (in a year or so…)
    Obviously most important – speakers be intentional on what they want to accomplish, and be ABLE to engage their audience.

  2. As the speaker, it’s my job to engage the audience. I can’t let people hunched over a Blackberry distract me from that task.
    Is the Twitter audience as important as the live? I’d have to say NO. Two reasons:
    1. The live audience invested a lot more to be there.
    2. The live audience can and SHOULD get more out of the presentation. If you’re telling me your presentation can be encapsulated in 140 character streams, then I don’t think you’re missing a ton as a presenter.
    As a very new Twitterer/Tweeter/Twit, I can see the value in exposure and connecting asynchronously and across locale, but I think an effective presenter can get information and movement to action far better live.

  3. Now you know I had to put my .02 in on this convo. I think that person reading the tweet stream is just as important as the person that was able to attend the conference in person. There are lots of factors that prevent people from traveling. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to interact with people they interact with everyday anyway?
    I personally wouldn’t get distracted if people were tweeting while I was speaking. It’s the same thing as if people have their laptops open taking notes. Whatever helps them learn the material.

  4. As a performer and speaker I like to connect with my audience, eye-to-eye. The thought of everyone crouched over their tweetdecks feels like a big disconnect.

  5. Yikes! I wouldn’t want to be in Mr. 2%’s real audience. I probably wouldn’t want to be in his Twitter audience either.
    Big name presenters will never get real feedback so they may be alienating folks and not hearing about it. All I know is that when I am given the privilege of speaking I make a huge effort to meet the needs of my audience — the folks who actually showed up.

  6. Good point Jeff, and you probably are in the minority OF TWITTERERS, but in the great majority of non twitter business folks. One web2.0 Twitter said he considers 2% of his actual audience, and 98% of his ‘outside’ audience. I wouldn’t want to be in his real audience (and in this case not sure I want to see the tweets.)
    More on this coming.

  7. I am not sure that I buy into Chris Brogan’s statement that the real audience is the thousands outside the conference room. If that is the case why not just tweet and avoid the presentation.
    I believe that the “real audience” is the one who made the effort and paid the expense to attend. They should be first and foremost in the minds of the presenter. I bet I am in the minority in this belief;)