Saturday Night Live was groundbreaking 35 years ago. I was young but remember the chatter; everyone wondered what would happen because they performed live to a national audience.
Now, as a speaker, Twitter back-channels change everything I’ve known for the past 25 years. Though first it scared me, I love it. What is it?
It’s a live feed Twitter stream where members of the audience comment live, during your presentation. They share a common hashtag for conversation. You may see the conversation live on a screen while you present.
This is the biggest change for public speakers since the advent of television. Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook first discovered its perils at SXSW in 2008, when his audience revolted via Twitter. Wired published an article about it, SXSW: 2008, the Year the Audience Keynoted.
How can you survive and thrive with Presentation Night Live?
- Tweet. Get comfortable with Twitter. Know how to follow hashtags. Set one for your presentation if one isn’t given. Share your Twitter handle with your audience. Have access to the Twitter conversation. Bring a device with you, view it from a screen, or designate a trusted friend to view it close to you and share information.
- Prepare. Prep your talk and publish the materials. Either use Prezi or Slideshare and show your stuff.
- Practice. Every phrase and sentence can be tweeted. Know your stuff and do it well, and you’ve got great publicity with a large audience.
- Seek. Feedback. Give sample presentations to the smartest, toughest friends you have, who will tell you exactly what they think. Listen to their feedback and adjust.
- Engage. Listen to your audience and adjust your talk to the feedback.
Five verbs: tweet, prepare, practice, seek, and engage. Giving a talk with a back-channel is as exciting as skiing down the tough slopes at the resort. You never know when you begin what will happen during the ride. It’s not easy. With practice, the ride can be the thrill of a lifetime. If you crash, you can view the instant replays via hashtag and figure out how to do better next time.
There’s a learning curve to backchannels for moms like me who remember when Saturday Night Live began. It’s worth the effort. As a speaker, it’s the new What to Prepare accessory for your Presentation ensemble.