This is one of those stories that you read and shake your head and ask, how did someone think this was a good idea?
Here is the blog I’m referencing: link The story circles around a presentation that Microsoft Researcher Dana Boyd at a recent Web 2.0 conference. I’m glad she told her story, it gives some good insight, and shows the inner voice of some “industry stars” who speak often at conferences.
Dana showed up to giver her talk at the conference and was told that she could not bring a computer/presentation. So she wrote up her speech on paper and just had a podium to lay it on. When she got on stage in the auditorium with hundreds of attendees, the lights were so bright she could only see a few people in the front row. Plowing forward, she started speaking.
I know from my experiences talking, that it is hard to gauge how well you are doing when you cannot see the audience. You want that feedback loop. It also takes a few minutes to get in the groove with any talk. The first few minutes are typically sort of choppy and a little fast- then everything falls into place.
So here is how the tweets took over….someone had the bright idea to integrate social media into the conference- via a live twitter feed running behind the speaker.
Take a minute to imagine this scenario. You are sitting in the audience listening to a speaker. As soon as she opens her mouth, a tweet shows up on the screen behind her “I’ve heard Dana talk before, hope this talk is a good one”, then a second later “She is talking a little too fast”, then “I agree, maybe she’ll slow down soon”. This scrolling backdrop takes all of the focus away from Dana. Your brain can’t focus on reading a something and listening to someone talk completely different worlds at the same time. You have to focus on one at a time and flip between to two.
Sadly the whole scene ends with an upset speaker for delivering a terrible talk and an upset audience for getting a terrible talk.
Just because it’s the newest, latest and greatest social technology, does not mean it has a place everywhere.
I know it is beneficial to take new technologies, try them out in new ways, and see how it works. With anything you try out, you have to think through what the results might be. I think if the Web 2.0 conference planners had spent just a little time envisioning how this would all work out, and maybe even trying it on a smaller scale, this disaster could have been averted.
A little lesson for all of us, creative ideas about implementing technology in a new way are good. Just take the time to envision the various possible outcomes of that implementation and maybe do a few small scale trials beforehand.