Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is Twitter like handling live Q&A and presentations?

Every once in a while, my world implodes and my two primary blogs -- this one, and The Eloquent Woman, my public speaking blog -- wind up with an overlapping path. Usually, that's by my own design, but this week, a reader saw some synergy between the two when it comes to Twitter. She wrote:
I'm relatively new to Twitter, and it occurs to me that much of the same advice you give on tone, presentation and responding to questions also apply to people's tweets. Although it's less formal, I've found myself thinking about the mix of what I tweet, how I word things (so they're a little clearer and more user-friendly), and being courteous, giving credit, etc., simliar to handling a Q&A or a presentation. I enjoy your mix of public speaking and cooking topics on @dontgetcaught. (Did you really make the swiss chard tart?)
I agree with this clever take -- so much so that I posted earlier this week on The Eloquent Woman about 14 ways to integrate Twitter into your public speaking.  Twitter differs from public speaking in that everyone has a microphone, if they wish to use it (and many on Twitter, like any live-and-in-person audience, just listen rather than pipe up).  Some choose to ask their questions on the backchannel, just as live audience members might prefer to speak to the presenter one-on-one afterward, or wait to write a note later, In this case, the reader's question came in via email, but in other cases I have long direct-message conversations going on on Twitter. 

From the point of view of one "presenting" information on Twitter, I think you need to have a balanced mix of personal and professional information on Twitter if you are using it for business purposes.  Here's an earlier post on how I balance the personal and the professional on Twitter, and yes, sometimes it involves sharing recipes...which inevitably leads to conversations and better relationships. And swiss chard tart recipes, about which more later.  The same holds true for speakers and presenters.  Personal stories are a highly effective tactic for presenters to use to underscore a point, drive home an image or detail, and to connect with the audience, whether you want to inspire, persuade or challenge that audience.

Just as speakers need graceful ways with Q&A, I agree with this reader that it takes good manners--plus time and practice--to develop a deft hand with social media.  Misunderstandings, however, can be magnified on Twitter, where things are fast-moving and limited by the character count.  And on Twitter, you're missing the one great tool all speakers and presenters should know how to use: Visual and verbal (and sometimes aural) cues from the audience. So you need to listen with care, and respond likewise.

And that swiss chard tart recipe? I shared that because I have another blog on my organic vegetable subscription through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) collective; my farmer grows a lot of chard and that recipe will come in handy for me (and a few readers) when I post it this week on Vegetables for Breakfast.  But I knew my Twitter audience would like it, too.

Do you think of Twitter--and post on it--as a presentation or Q&A-type rolling conversation? Chime in with your comments.

Want to handle Q&A and other extemporaneous presentation and speaking skills? Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

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