How Presenters Can Deal With A.D.D. Audiences

Two things happened to me at the end of last week that gave me pause.

On day one, I gave a corporate seminar for about 40 people. On the following day, I was an attendee in a 200-person conference. (It feels great to occasionally be in the stadium seats, instead of down there with the lions).

In the first case, there was a very mild form of the seminar-business occupational hazard known as multi-tasking: desktops open, blackberries, Twitter, Facebook, email. It’s been getting worse for several years. I made my usual clever plea for paying attention, and got reasonably good compliance; though it did deteriorate during the day.

I find that doing workshops lately is a little tougher in some respects; it’s harder to get the audience to interact. They’re not leaving, they’re just slightly checked-out. It’s not just ADD—it’s ADOSO, as in “Attention Deficit—Oh! Shiny Object!” (Thanks @scobleizer)

In an attempt to control that behavior, I’m acutely aware that I’m stumbling these days in the no-man’s land between requesting, ordering, and pleading. When I’m doing keynotes, it’s fine; it’s the workshop scene that feels different.

On day two, I came in deliciously a minute late and sat down where I felt like—not my gig, time to relax and enjoy. It was a social media conference; they had a very large screen for slides, and next to it, a smaller one displaying ongoing real-time twitter notes (check it out at #bdi). Each presenter had about 20-25 minutes, including Q&A.

Pretty much everyone in the audience had their heads down looking at their newest super-lightweight portables, iPhones and Droids. When they looked up, it was often as not to look at the public tweet-screen. (Yes,I tweezed out a few tweets myself).

At first I cringed instinctively out of sympathy for the speakers. Until I noticed that they did not seem noticeably bothered by it at all. In fact, lots of speakers today are using Twitter as part of the real-time interaction. The line for open mics for Q&A was not empty, the questions were great, and the real-time twitter dialogue was on point.

The conference subject matter itself—like a Greek chorus—gave the meta-text of what I was seeing. Social CRM goes beyond seller-to-buyer dialogue to include buyer-to-buyer. The old line about one satisfied customer tells four but one dissatisfied customer tells 12—that’s history. They now tell 500,000, and do so instantly. The web is your new website. Inbound not outbound marketing.

In other words—the heads-down twittering was definitely multi-tasking, but that doesn’t mean there was no dialogue going on. In fact, there was a ton of dialogue.

More content per minute flowed through that room than if everyone had hung on every word a speaker said. One speaker is limited by the human ability to enunciate sounds rapidly, and—it’s only one speaker. We can all read much faster than someone can talk. Asynchronous one-off communication is bound to be less rich than everyone talking at once; it’s just that it’s harder to focus in the latter case.

There are 2 things you can say about all this. First, it’s not wrong, just different. There are deep intensive interactions with other human beings, and there are shallow, broad interactions with other human beings. We’re seeing a shift from the former to the latter–in terms of gross numbers at least.

There’s no right or wrong about this. What is important is the ability to go in either direction as the situation demands. And, there is a huge benefit. The involvement of others is exactly how you get collaboration. We are, at a large level, sacrificing some intimacy for the sake of collaboration.

It’s also true that, in a world where intimacy holds a smaller “share of relationship,” the ability to gain that intimacy will command a premium. It’s not gone, just more rare, and more valuable for its rarity.

The second point is simply, this is the future. Disapproval of the downside of social-babble has very little impact on whether it’s going to keep on happening. Our failure to approve of the downside simply keeps us from gaining the benefits of the inevitable upside.

Presenters, get used to it. The only relevant question is: how will you respond?

For starters, don’t stand there in front of the tsunami. But don’t just get out of the way, either. Grab your surfboard.

Trust and New Media: Request for Favorite Stories

I’m giving a talk in a few days to a large software company about trust and new social media.  I want to use examples to demonstrate the power of social media to increase trust–and to destroy it.

I’ve got several, but would love to hear from you.  What are some examples of trust creation or destruction involving new social media that you consider to be important, archetypal, paradigmatic (or any other big impressive adjective)?

Please add your stories via comments below: it could be a really interesting list we all could benefit from.

Thank you!

To Twitter or Not to Twitter: The Only Top Ten List You’ll Need

I’ve been twiddling with Twitter for a number of months. Only now I’m ready to get into it with both feet. If you’ve been following me on Twitter at cgreen23 or at trustedadvisors, please make the switch over to my new twitter account, CharlesHGreen.

Now: why should you care?

If you’re not a user, Twitter probably looks narcissistic to you. Why in the world should you want to read what thousands of other people are eating for breakfast? Answer: you shouldn’t, and you don’t have to. Nor does anyone else want to hear that stuff from you either.

The good news is, you can listen, or not, to anyone you want. And you can talk, but others will decide to listen to you, or not. It’s a (very) free market of ideas.

Twitter does a bad job of explaining itself in its invitation for users to state what’s going on. The real power of Twitter as I’ve come to see it is a new form of search, a new vehicle for relationship development, and a new form of promotion. And the last is least.  Or, if you prefer, twitter is the new email.  Or chatroom.  Or texting.  Or social network.  It’s a bit of all that.

Here are my top reasons to Twitter  (in ascending order of importance):

Charlie Green’s Top 10 Reasons to Twitter

10. To find out what all the buzz is about and who’s following Michelle Obama’s twitter account

 9.  To promote your name

 8.  To tap into current events well before the blogs pick it up

 7.  To do an incredibly fast, pointed, search that returns 1 paragraph answers

 6.  To find out perspectives about an issue–don’t forget to try Twitter Search

 5.  To aggregate information that people who like you would be interested in

 4.  To establish your own brand by coming up with a distinctive profile of information you offer up

 3.  To provide your followers with high quality information of use to them

 2.  To find 5-6 thought leaders you admire, and easily follow what they say, and what their followers say

 1.  To make new acquaintances who help you learn, grow, and do business with.

But don’t just listen to me. Here are some other, more experienced, Twitterers on the subject. If you want to decide whether and how to get into this, here’s a pretty good list to help you:

Top Ten List of Others’ Top Ten Reasons to Twitter

  1. Brian Critchfield’s Why Should I Use Twitter?
  2. Chris Brogan (from two years ago) on 5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good
  3. Business Week’s How Companies Use Twitter to Bolster Their Brands
  4. Guy Kawasasaki’s How to Use Twitter as a Twool
  5. Darren Rouse’s 9 Benefits of Twitter for Bloggers
  6. Lee Lefever’s Twittering for 1 Year – a Retrospective
  7. David Lee King’s Why Use Twitter?
  8. Sharon Sarmiento’s The Top 5 Ways Smart People Use Twitter
  9. Chris Brogan again (because he’s the King of Tweet, that’s why) on 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business
  10. Wikipedia on Twitter

And you won’t believe how much faster (most of) this might have been on Twitter.

Oh, and that twitter address again is CharlesHGreen.

The Cold War, the Hot Line and Twitter

August 30 was the 44th anniversary of the "Hot Line" linking the White House and the Kremlin, developed after the Cuban Missile Crisis as a way to prevent future such crises.

I recall vague images of a red, rotary-style telephone, with translators hovering over Krushchev and Kennedy, all ears glued to the receiver.

In truth, while it was dedicated, it was more a line than a handset; and it took 15 minutes to set up a call.

But the idea seems sound. By linking the Head of the Free World and the Head Red, world wars would be averted.

And—indeed, we’ve had no world wars since. Of course, we can’t infer from their absence that the Hot Line can take credit.

Yet we tend to treat communication as a panacea. How many times have you heard (or said) that the key to world peace (or a happy marriage, or racial harmony) “all boils down to communication. If everyone just communicated more, it’d all work out.”

What if the Red Phone had always been on? A permanent connection, picking up everything on each end?

What if JFK and Krushchev had had access to—Twitter?

Twitter is software that allows users to digitally emulate being a Siamese twin, sharing via cellphones or IMs material like “I’m going to go get a coke,” or “it’s really humid today,” or "I just had two bowls of curry." It tells you how many seconds old the news is. (Barack Obama is on Twitter. So’s Hillary. Rudy’s entry is a month old. No surprises.)

If some communication is good—isn’t more better?

Maybe not.

The world is already a-twitter. Think cell phone conversations on the bus or train. Popup ads. Spam. Facebook’s Wall. Everything-cams. Ads that address you as “America.” Message-based t-shirts and bumper stickers. Waiters who tell you their name.

Communication may be necessary—but it’s not sufficient. The world probably is safer when leaders look face to face, rather than demonize from afar. Sales and negotiation and relationships all benefit from greater communication.

But familiarity breeds contempt. Taking a bathroom break? TMI, thanks very much. And I’d prefer Snakes on Planes to Cellphones in the Friendly Skies.

Effective communication requires, three prerequisites:

  • Veto power,
  • Permission, and
  • Relevance

I want to be able to shut you out when I want; I need a mute button or kill switch before I let you in at all.

For me to re-up—to keep my channel open—you need to continually earn the right to my attention, by being relevant. And relevance isn’t a fixed function of content; it’s the result of constantly monitoring what my current hot-buttons are, and—respectfully—offering content to match.

Communication isn’t just an “always-on” shared experience. It can feel that way when young, when the heady sense of connection with an Other relieves the pain of teen-age alienation.

But as we mature, communication looks more like a constantly renewing process of gaining permission through observing, noticing, making assessments of the Other’s interests. With respect. Including knowing when to leave well enough alone.

Silence is often the best communication. The Quakers got that right.