- A speaker's take on the Twitter backchannel looked at one speaker's disastrous presentation--and how a visible Twitterstream behind her made it even worse. The meltdown made this our most-read post of the month. (Read more about the sexual comments made about the speaker on The Eloquent Woman blog, another popular post.)
- Can you learn from the backchannel as a speaker? I think so--and this post from October still ranks as November's 2nd-most-read item.
- And just in time to help you maneuver that backchannel, my post on Olivia Mitchell's new, free ebook for speakers on just that topic vaulted to our number 3 position this month. Timely, and the price is right. Olivia writes the very good Speaking About Presenting blog, a favorite of mine.
- If you don't have RSS feeds on your web-published communications, you're losing a major audience--and making it tougher for them to pull your information to them. Maybe that's why news of several new feeds from the National Science Foundation's Science 360 aggregator site got so many readers this month. Take a look at how they sliced their offerings into different, useful feeds.
- Figuring out how to brand yourself on social media networking sites? I've updated my thinking in this post about creating your own "me.com" -- the topic of a talk I gave earlier this year to the Science Writers in New York. Read this before you need to network or job hunt. As I said in my talk, employers are fickle--social media is your friend.
- The first review of the Kodak zi8 ultralight camcorder made its rock-n-roll debut on the blog this month, another reader favorite that lets you see video in action. Our reviews came to a mysterious halt this month, also.
- Sharpening our sense of local news is a post that looks at new trends in "hyperlocal" offerings, whether from news organizations or your organization. From the post: "You may think of your organization as a multinational corporation, a world-class philanthropy, a major player in national affairs or a widely recognized authority on your subject. But if you miss pinpointing what's under your nose in your location, you'll miss one of the hottest strategies in communications."
- In this social-media world, face-to-face events also are getting rebooted and made over. This post may challenge your thinking about how to turn some of your traditional communications--even things like publications--into successful live events.
- Must be close to year-end, since my collection of posts on retreat facilitation proved popular this month. I focus on retreats for communications teams, or for boards and management considering changes in communications.
- My utility belt for communications includes actual equipment, social media sites and freebies you should check out and adapt to your own operation's needs.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Danah Boyd's Twitter train wreck happened last week at the Web 2.0 Expo. She's a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and recently completed her PhD in the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley. Her specialty is social media and youth culture, and she got caught in the backchannel at the Web 2.0 Expo, attempting to give this talk on -- ironically -- "Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media." Through a combination of assumptions she and the organizers made about the setup for her talk, her own nervousness and an aggressive group of tweeters in the audience, the speech failed. And she's written a wrenching, thorough post about the experience here. She notes she'd have had a rough time even without the backchannel, but not the disaster that happened. (I'll have more notes for speakers about how to avoid some of her basic speaker issues, and about the sexual harrassment of this speaker via Twitter on The Eloquent Woman blog.)
So it wasn't just that the audience was tweeting, but that the stream was visible--and a surprise to the speakers, who also couldn't see it unless they turned away from the audience. Scott Berkun, who also spoke, adds more details in this thoughtful post that notes that other keynoters, like Danah, weren't warned about the placement of the Twitter stream directly behind them.
Olivia Mitchell's new ebook on presenting with Twitter does a great job on the nuts and bolts of what should go into speakers' planning for use of Twitter at a conference. Now, we just need the organizers to connect the dots. Both this episode and the one at the HighEdWeb conference in October--while different types of backchannel issues--tell me that organizers, even at high-tech conferences, need to do more than just say, "wouldn't it be great to display the backchannel?" when planning their meetings. Speakers need to be brought into that loop early and often, and the audience as well. And, as I usually advise my speaker-trainees: Don't get caught assuming these issues will be taken care of for you.
Twitter backchannel about Danah Boyd shows what women face as speakers
New ebook on presenting with Twitter
Tweeting at meetings gets controversial
Speakers: Learn from Twitter hecklers
5 ways to find out about your audience
Find out more about women's issues in public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog
Become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
This shouldn't just be a weekly exercise if you are keyboard-prone. Take a break once an hour during long stints at the computer and run through these stretches--they really help. You'll write better, I promise. Want to do more? Check out the rest of the ergonomic upgrades recommended by Lifehacker.
Friday, November 20, 2009
To the rescue comes New Zealand speaking coach Olivia Mitchell, author of the very good Speaking About Presenting blog. Olivia has published a free ebook on “How to present with Twitter (and other backchannels)” -- and you don't need to sign up for anything to read it, just download it directly here.
I had the privilege of reviewing the book before publication, and I think it's a must-read, even if you don't think you'll have tweeters in your audience (beware that assumption). One of the things I like best about Olivia's book is that it walks you through what a speaker needs to do about the backchannel before, during and after a presentation. Another benefit: She's reviewed some of the new tools that are emerging to help speakers do things like tweet from within their PowerPoint slides or monitor the backchannel. Olivia also went beyond mechanics to talk more about a subject dear to my heart: True engagement of the audience, which is the missing factor when speakers get heckled on Twitter.
Olivia also recommends the soon-to-be-published book The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever, by Cliff Atkinson, which you can pre-order on Amazon in advance of the November 30, 2009 publication date.
I'm using Twitter and the backchannel in my coaching and training sessions to help speakers understand what their audiences expect--and to engage with audiences while they speak. Check out Olivia's wonderful ebook, then contact me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz about your speaker coaching and training needs.
Related posts: What speakers can learn from Twitter hecklers
5 ways to find out about your audience
Tweet your way to better speaking
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
This feature just rolled out this week, and I've started my own experiment with it for The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, my fan page for The Eloquent Woman blog. Whom might you target? Leave your ideas and experiments in the comments, or email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for ideas and strategies.
Ironically, someone on Twitter just added me to a zi8 Twitter list. I'm not sure I have the heart to break it to him. I'm not sure I have the heart to break it to me.
There's a guest post and more video coming from one of the testers who did get to handle the camera, and I'll be sure to update the blog when those arrive. In the meantime, feel free to post your questions or thoughts if you've tested the camcorder.
Related posts: Our Kodak zi8 test
Kodak zi8: A video editor's dream?
Where's that Kodak zi8?
Rockin' the Kodak zi8: 1st review
Monday, November 16, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Tara Hamilton, Public Affairs Manager, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
Myra Peabody Gossens, President, Circle Consulting
Denise Graveline, President, Don't Get Caught
Nolu Ntonga-Crockett, Policy Communications Officer, CARE USA
Beverly Silverberg, President, Beverly R. Silverberg Communications, Inc.
Moderator: Pat Wheeler, Director of Marketing, Cultural Tourism DC
The event's a week from today. Here are the coordinates:
Thursday, November 19, 2009
12:00pm - 2:00pm
Ogilvy Worldwide- DC, 1111 19th St NW # 10, Washington, DC
To register, go to the WWPR website. I look forward to seeing you there!
We had great anticipation of testing the Kodak, but our turn and the Kodak arrived the same time H1N1 and a nasty respiratory illness was slamming our campus. Two scheduled shoots had to be canceled due to staff illnesses. Another was nixed when the researcher involved was sick. And another project in which we were going to videotape artwork that a researcher studies was halted because of copyright issues on the out-of-country artwork involved. We had planned multiple uses including using an external microphone on a visiting molecular biologist at a busy event, but it was scuttled by operator illness. Ouch on the week.
That said, our senior director of communications took the Kodak to a multiple speakers forum. He set the camera for 60 frames per second in a room with lights on speakers with a dark background. Sound quality was OK. He did not like the zoom effect of going in stages rather than smoothly, and did not like the on-off beep--he thought it was distracting to those in the room, but realized later it can be turned off. Worst case scenario is that he had experienced operator error when it came time to retrieve what he thought would be a great usable segment video … he had turned it off instead of on, so he missed the scene.
So our office's plans got smashed.
However, my son, UO journalism student Andy Barlow, who is interested in becoming a music writer, took the Kodak with him to Portland to capture his friends for a video to use on his MySpace page and on YouTube involving the Eugene rock band "The Last." The band members are friends of my son. The event was a battle of the bands to determine which band would open in Portland for a more well known band. My son made a long video (15-minutes plus for his MySpace page and a more-edited version for YouTube):
Andy Barlow's "review:"
- Very easy to use. Just turn on and hit one button and it's recording.
- Easy to change modes. One button and you can change the quality, type and options for taking video or still images.
- 5 MP camera
- 1080 P HD video quality
- Good pickup of sounds while recording
- Built in USB connector
- Overall look and style of device
- Easy to carry and fit in pocket
No cons with using camera.
Related posts: Our Kodak zi8 test
Is the Kodak zi8 a video editor's dream?
Where's that Kodak zi8 camera?
Buy a Kodak zi8 camera
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Snarkmarket blog calls this no less than the future of media, in this great post that reboots and reframes how we should be thinking about events, conferences and meetings. The post asks you to consider events as the creative engines of the next decade -- the next album, magazine or novel of the future -- particularly if they focus on "generation rather than recitation." That is, they're not just about speakers talking to an audience or reciting facts, but about all participants--including those remote from the event--creating something together. The five key factors to the types of events suggested? They should be live, generative, publishable, performative and serial.
This pushes the common notion of what we've come to expect at meetings and events, and I can see the appetite for this new model growing, sometimes uncomfortably, at every meeting I've attended in the past year. So communicators need to consider at least two things when figuring out where this fits in your rebooting efforts:
- How does this change the events you currently produce?
- What other creative engines in your current offerings can be rebooted as events?
I'll come back to the first question in a later post, as it's part of a larger discussion. On the second question, might you replace your news releases, magazines, annual reports, podcasts or even your Facebook page with an event? Snarkmarket looks at Pop-Up Magazine, a live event structured like a magazine. What would you do? What would the participants generate at your events?
I like the idea of making participation and generation the focus of events. Let me know if you have examples that I can share about ways to reboot your communications in this way.
Here's a great example of communicating science from the TED Global conference. Atmospheric chemist Rachel Pike uses her brief talk to describe the size and scope of the research behind climate change, a daunting prospect for many scientists seeking to help the public understand their work. Here's what she does well that you may be able to copy:
- She starts with the familiar: Headlines: Right up front, Pike shows headlines about climate change and smog research results, and makes it clear that she's going to show us what goes into the research behind those stories.
- She adds up the effort: Instead of shying away from describing the process, Pike dives into it and measures it for us, in numbers of researchers, numbers of research papers, the size of the supercomputers that do the modeling, and more. Then, later in the talk, she adds those numbers up again to show how much research goes into a major policy report--how many pieces of research, how many reviewers, and so on. The underlying message: Climate research is deliberate and thorough.
- She grounds high-flying research in places: Pike includes a field research effort to collect data about a single molecule, showing pictures of the location from the sky and from the ground, the plane used to make the measurements (inside and out) and the equipment, and talks about the people who make the measurements and what they have to go through in the field. Those concrete details make her points stick, visually and verbally.
- She uses analogy to translate the technical: At key points in her talk, Pike uses analogies to make clear the scale and size of what she's studying or how the process works. Listen for these -- she uses them judiciously, an important factor in making them work effectively.
If you're an academic scientist looking to improve your public communication skills, check out the Communicating Science workshops I facilitate for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Foundation. Workshops are coming up in February, March and April of 2010. I'm also happy to conduct a workshop customized to meet the needs of your team, scientists or not. Contact me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for more information.
My advice? Stop that. Break it up instead.
We've all had long-form writing to do: Major reports, annual reports, white papers, full-length articles, company histories. But today, right in the middle of the social-media revolution, I'm going to urge you to think like Charles Dickens, one chapter at a time. Break up those long written pieces into more manageable bites. Think serially. Seriously.
Consider this NPR interview with Tina Brown, editor in chief of The Daily Beast, who talks about the Times of London article The Internet is Killing Storytelling. She shares the article's take on the Japanese trend of "thumb novels," book-length novels that can be uploaded one page at a time--and the top 10 fiction bestsellers in that country all started with this format. Brown notes "we're adapting in a strange way to all these new devices" and the article, in fact, concludes that storytelling isn't dead yet.
But we may be back to the cliffhanger, telling stories one part at a time. So back to that video script: I urged breaking the patient's journey into shorter segments. Yes, overall, that would make the entire package longer--but if posted one segment at a time, say, weekly, it would take a long documentary few would watch and turn it into a telenovela of sorts, something viewers might tune in every week to see the next installment.
What can you revise--either an existing product, or your next long-form article or report--in this way? What kinds of chunks and chapters can you find to call out? This is a great exercise to do from both perspectives: By editing an existing piece and considering how it might have been written differently from the get-go, and by planning and writing a serial version of your next long-form project.
In that sense, this little local paper (which by the way, is delivered to my door for free) proves that everything old is new again, as it's now part of a larger trend toward what's called "hyperlocal" coverage today. It at once responds to technology advances, reflects audiences' desire to whittle the web down to a manageable focus, and redirects attention to the everyday news that's often most useful to audiences--or to news no longer covered by the diminishing number of news organizations. The savvy communications strategist will take all three of those trends into account when she's plotting--literally--a strategy for taking advantage of the local for communications. Here's what to keep in mind:
- The new local news outlet may not cover everything you're used to: Check out this article about the new Texas Tribune, one of the nonprofit hyperlocal news outlets springing up around the U.S. It chose to ignore the recent Fort Hood shootings, despite the incident's proximity, in favor of its strict focus on state government issues, a topic less covered by available news media. Don't make assumptions about what a hyperlocal news group wants from your organization before you pitch. Ask. Listen. Learn as they go forward.
- Watch with care as social goes even deeper into local: Twitter's hinting it will add "geolocation" to your posts, using GPS technology available on most cellphones to tag the sender's location. The feature might allow your followers to sort news by the sender's location--for example, during an emergency or major event, preferring more local posts to those from far-flung observers. And it will help users manage the flood of posts they see. (Facebook's introduced a similar feature that winnows your friends' updates into a lighter "news feed" as well as the more complete "live feed," and offering a "lite" version of the entire platform.) As platforms put more localizing tools in the audience's hands, it pushes you away (I hope) from merely counting fans and friends as your metric, since there's no guarantee they won't sort you out of their primary stream. You'll need to engage them--and using local tags is a smart strategy to target and engage audiences.
- Where are you? expands status reports: Services like Foursquare are expanding users' ability to tell their social networks where they are, and offer incentives for exploring. It capitalizes on another old phenomenon: Our fascination with the reporter in the field, our guy-on-the-ground, or reports from faraway meetings and travels. Think about how you can exploit this mashup between user mobility, GPS and social networking to engage your audience, whether it's a contest to see how many sites on a campus students have visited, a crowdsourced map of all the locations where employees have represented your company to a key audience, or a visitors' scavenger hunt to find all the special, secret or historic corners of your public venue or museum. How far into your location can you draw an audience?
Related posts: Reboot communications with a locavore on your team
3 location-savvy ways with social media
Where audiences are turning for local news: Not the paper
Using Twitter to drive foot (and car) traffic
How to reframe your view of local reporters
Why local is the new news
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
- At a Communicating Science workshop in Ithaca, New York, on November 5, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Foundation. I'll be facilitating the day-long workshop on the Cornell University campus. Future workshops are coming up in February, March and April in San Diego, Austin and Boulder; scientists wishing to apply should pre-register here.
- At a Washington Women in Public Relations professional development panel on "Lessons Learned," featuring some of my fellow winners of WWPR's Woman of the Year award, honoring career achievements in public relations and community service. We're close to setting a date and place for this November event; stay tuned for an update.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Related posts: Questions speechwriters should ask speakers
How to write a suite of introductions for a speaker
Using aphorisms: a guide
What to leave out of a speech
Creativity is a skill. You want to be creative? Read a lot, write a lot, and edit more. Public domain material gives you an excellent starting point....And when you’re done, there is nothing stopping you from, say, taking The Picture Of Dorian Gray, editing it down into 140 character bursts, and tweeting it. Or if you want to re-cut Duck And Cover featuring Burt The Turtle or make a soundboard, go for it. It’s the practice of doing this that will get you ready to produce better work of your own.So do it. You can find lots of public-domain material to download on Amazon, Google, the Library of Congress and other sites. Choose one free item and edit, rewrite or otherwise mash it up to make it something unique. Then take the time to figure out what ideas that process gave you for your own work. New angles? New formats? A respite from that pile of assignments awaiting you?