- From the annoyed attendee and observer: Here's a blog post from a PR consultant whose colleague was attending a conference where social media "courtesy" guidelines were published in the program, suggesting participants shouldn't post during talks, "oversimplify" speakers' remarks or make personal comments. After she'd blogged and tweeted about the issue, attendees at the meeting noted the conference had issued a hashtag, suggesting that people post on Twitter, in effect. Some speakers admitted to tweeting while on panels, and the attendee who first flagged the issue refrained, feeling constrained by the rules. The author's take: "if they’re going to decide for me how much attention I can or cannot pay while attending a presentation - well, I’m going to be thinking of spending my money elsewhere next time around."
- From a speaker and presentation coach seeking middle ground: Olivia Mitchell's a thoughtful speaker who coaches and trains speakers, as I do, and she's been exploring this issue in aid of her clients and herself. In "How to Tweet During a Presentation," Mitchell offers a measured discussion, including some academic research into this new trend, her own experience as a speaker and a Twitterer-during-meetings, and thoughts on what guidelines might say: "I like the idea of the principle that you should only tweet what you would be prepared to say face to face. But in practice, it’s quite challenging." She takes an example from her own tweets, in which she wrote of a speaker: "Being stimulated by Jeanne’s acting workshop. But not convinced that bringing acting techniques into presenting is useful. #pcampLA." Was that wrong? "Not necessarily," she says. Ultimately, she advocates the "face to face" guideline.
- From a scientific journal, a dose of practical realities: Scientific meetings are competitive sessions. Some researcher-presenters work hard to avoid coverage at such meetings to avoid incurring the wrath of journal editors with strict pre-publication release rules. (Traditionally, but not always, presenting findings at a meeting precedes publication in a journal.) The editors of one such journal have published this editorial after one laboratory issued the rule that meeting attendees must first have the presenter's permission before posting online during the talk. After considering some basic realities--researchers attend meetings to discuss others' work and have theirs discussed in turn, for one--the editorial says: "Critical discussion of worthy results should not in principle be restricted to walls of a conference hall or even the pages of a journal. Any meeting to which anyone can register is fair game for all available communications technologies — and any rules that cannot be policed will be ignored anyway." The editorial suggsts that those wanting complete control should close the meeting to all but participants who agree to avoid broadcasting the discussions, a model that already exists.
If you're struggling with this issue, take the time to brainstorm the potential benefits that will accrue from opening up live-tweeting of your meetings--and then experiment with them before you affix rules. You may find benefits you didn't anticipate if you give it a try. Or, as the Nature editorial suggests, you can make a tough decision to close your meeting and lose the benefits of a more open structure as the price of control. (Hat tip to Joe Bonner for pointing me to the Nature editorial.)
Related posts: Tips for using Twitter to report from meetings