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Presentations and Twitter

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The way we present is changing. The rise in the number of presenters actively publicising their presentations on Twitter has led to a huge wave of responses – some good, some bad. While there are associated risks, many presenters love the ease with which they can spread their ideas through the web.

Many presentations now are designed to be ‘tweetable’, in order to reach broader audiences, and increase awareness of both the presentation ideas, and the presenter himself. When this is done correctly, Twitter can be used to truly make presentations go viral.

However, if you are delivering an important presentation that needs to be engaging and convincing, or if your immediate audience are your main focus, designing your presentation to be Twitter-friendly could be detrimental to your cause. As we outline below, some of the tactics employed by social media experts have conflicting interests when it comes to Twitter and presentations.

So, if you decide to actively encourage your audience to tweet about your presentation – how should you go about doing it? And should these tips always be followed exactly?

Here are some pointers for encouraging more tweets about your presentations from social media expert Dan Zarrella:

Tip Twitter Benefit m62 Response
Utility Stress the benefit of your presentation to your audience. Really make sure that they understand what they’ll get out of listening to you, and what their audiences would get if they also listened. A useful tactic is to focus on teaching your audience how to do something. In any case, audience members should clearly see why they should listen to your presentation – and this will encourage them to share it with others. Dan is absolutely right here – audiences won’t always just assume that listening to you is worth their time. Explain how listening to your presentation will benefit them, and they will remain engaged far more easily. If this then leads them on to share your presentation with others, fantastic.
Be Likeable Make the audience like you. A liked presenter will prove a popular presenter. Dan goes as far as to suggest that the presenter should be humble and flatter the audience, by saying something like: “You’re probably smarter than I am. So when I say something smart, let me know by tweeting about it.” The trouble with belittling yourself in this way is that it could threaten your credibility. Presenters should be careful about suggesting that audiences already understand the presentation subject. Why should your audience listen if they know more about the topic than you do? It is best to retain some level of authority, and find the right balance between expertise and humility.
Relevancy As with any presentation, ensure that you keep your content tailored. What about your content is specific to your audience? What is specific to your audience’s audience? People listen to things that concern them. Keep your content as relevant as possible, and your audience will want to share it with those for whom it is also relevant. Relevancy is absolutely key to engaged audiences. Presenters should always target their audience’s interests as much as possible, and focus on tailoring their content to the audience’s needs. Throw in specifics that your audience can relate to, and they will be naturally more engaged – and thus more likely to share.
Self-Explanatory Sound Bites Provide sound bites that your audience can easily retweet, by summarising your main points on a slide. Dan advises that sound bites should make sense out of context, so that someone who has not attended will understand. Writing key takeaways in full on a slide is not a recommended presentation tactic. Self-explanatory sound bites may work well for Twitter, but they don’t for presentations. If your audience feel like they already ‘get’ the point of a slide, why should they listen to you? There is nothing wrong with summarising content learned – just make sure that this is done briefly, and via dual channels.
Time to Tweet Audiences can’t read and tweet at the same time. To combat this, include pauses to allow for audience members to tweet. If you’ve just revealed something groundbreaking, give them a chance to write it rather than simply continuing to speak, regardless of whether or not they are listening to you. This is a risky tactic. While pauses are a great way of allowing audiences to assimilate information, adapting your presentation for Twitter in this way cannot be the best way to give an effective presentation. Presentations should be structured to ensure maximum effectiveness, based on psychology and audience attention span. Constructing a presentation around what works best in social media could lead to audience members disengaging.


Optimising a presentation for Twitter is all about making tweeting as easy as possible
for the audience, and stressing that your audience’s audience will be grateful for the
shared information.

I have no doubt that following the above tactics will help you increase the number
of people who tweet about you and your presentations. But there is a big difference
between delivering a presentation that is tweeted about, and delivering an effective
presentation that meets its objectives.

If the main purpose of your presentation is to encourage it to go viral, then fully
optimising your presentation for Twitter is a great way to achieve this. However,
unless – like Dan – your entire focus is on social media, it is not worth compromising
your presentation objectives for a few tweets. When preparing a presentation,
sit down and ask yourself what you’re really aiming to achieve. Focus on reaching
this goal – and if you can include a couple of Twitter-friendly aspects without
compromising on effectiveness, you can do so with a clear conscience.

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