“Many conference organizers are creating a
common hashtag to promote their events and
you should also create a specific hashtag for
your sessions, too.” Hashtags are ways that groups of Twitter users can search for each others’ postings on a particular event, using the ‘#’ character and a short label in the Tweet.
listeners by following their Tweets and
friending them on Facebook.
“I have connected on Twitter with
a lot of people before a speech,” says
Rich DiGirolamo, Chief Cook & Bottle
Washer of One Less Meal, Inc. and the
speaker with the beanie cap from Marion,
Conn. “Usually, I am searching for par-
ticular hashtags, conference names, or
meeting planners and selection committee
members to find people who are attend-
ing. This can help craft and customize
my speech, start engaging with attendees,
and introduce and market myself with the
Don’t forget about email, either.
Berkun says: “I always follow up with
questions wherever I find them. Many
people still prefer asking questions over
email—they’re not worried about embar-
rassing themselves. It is the modern era,
and your audience will interact with
you in a variety of methods. In my own
case, I have had comments on my blog,
Facebook messages, direct Twitter mes-
sages, emails and even Instant Messages
from my attendees post-event.
Many speakers have created extensive
social media plans that involve reaching
out to prospects prior to an event, publicizing an event and post-event follow-up, all
using various social media. For example, I
list my trip on Tripit.com before the event,
which will let others in my network know
my travel dates. At the end of my speeches,
I put up the link to Slideshare.net, which
has a copy of my PowerPoint® slides that
anyone can download.
The free Slideshare.net service can be
a very handy reference, and some conference planners are setting up special
accounts where all the PowerPoint decks
can be collected in one place for easy reference, which, in some cases, precludes
meeting organizers from publishing outdated printed copies of the proceedings.
(It also means that some speakers can wait
until the last possible moment to make
changes to their presentations, too!)
So how should speakers start learning
how to use the social media backchan-
nel? First, you need to set up Twitter and
Facebook accounts at a minimum, and
start engaging and understanding how
your audiences use these tools. A great
book to get started is Cliff Atkinson’s
The Backchannel (New Riders, 2010),
which has lots of examples, recom-
mended tools, audience and speaker
guidelines, and more. There are sample
chapters and resources at http://www.
For example, Atkinson talks about
having the following simple code of
conduct for audiences to use when they
Tweet during your presentations:
• Tweet unto others as you would have
them Tweet unto you.
• Be accurate.
• Say something good before you say
• Stay aware of your Twitterstream
Second, start thinking about how you
can include social media as part of your
natural business operations to market
yourself, extend your brand, and initiate
conversations with potential audiences
and clients. “I got work as a result of a
Facebook post on a client’s page and they
ended up giving me a referral to a new
client. I have also sold product as a result
of staying in touch with my audience
members,” said DiGirolamo.
“It isn’t technology versus the Amish,”
Hughes says. “It is about interacting with
my audience and taking questions in
whatever format someone feels the most
Berkun says: “If you prepare well and
speak well, Twitter amplifies your impact.
If you don’t prepare well and speak
poorly, Twitter amplifies the negative feed-
“I think we have a lot more to
learn from people in the non-speaking
world than from what other speak-
ers are doing with social media,” says
DiGirolamo. “Watch what your audi-
ences are doing with Twitter and
Facebook to educate yourself and
understand the interests of others.”
David Strom is a St. Louis-based speaker and writer who talks to IT audiences about new ways to use technology productively. His blog is at strominator.com
and he can be found on Twitter@dstrom.