Sunday, July 10, 2011

Did You Just Tweet That?

I've spoken at a conference recently and just like most conferences lately, the discussion turned inevitably to social media at some point. Such conversations are always fun since I enjoy the diversity in people's opinions - from absolute addicts to the cynical denialists.

But at some point someone asked me if I was tweeting during the conference and I of course admitted that yes, I did. I like to tweet at a conference for multiple reasons:

1. Repeating a key point in writing helps me to remember it. This is Notes Taking 2.0, even if Twitter doesn't make it easy to go back to your notes after a while.
2. Sharing some of the key points of wisdom allows me to contribute to the community of my followers - those who didn't make it to the conference can get some of the key messages.
3. And then there is the personal branding aspect - tweeting about a particular session shows that I care about the subject and makes me part of the club and attracts like-minded followers.

Now, the other question that was raised is how polite is it to tweet while I am at a conference. Is it impolite to the presenter to see people staring at their iPhones or iPads? Is it socially acceptable to my co-workers or friends who are there with me? Am I just not paying attention?
Hobnobbing with Tony Clement

Recently, I was on a panel at a RTNDA conference (Radio and Television News Directors Association) and on the panel after me was no one else than Tony Clement, Canada's federal minister of industry. Mr. Clement is very much in touch with the Internet and technology and he's a very frequent, interesting and authentic Twitter user. Unlike many other politicians, he doesn't have a PR staffer do it on his behalf. Tony Clement tweets himself.

At the RTNDA panel, he was tweeting straight from the stage. I was in the audience and I've exchanged a couple of tweets with him as he was right there on the stage. And you know what, you can't accuse him that he wasn't paying attention when he was being asked a question.

Tony Clement (3rd from the right) tweeting while on a panel. And why not?

With social media and mobility, our culture is evolving. The mobile device is much more personal and intimate than a laptop which was always seen as a work tool. And working while listening to others is always a little rude (yeah, yeah, I like multitasking too). But using a personal communication device in the company of others is becoming much more acceptable.

I still don't think that it is acceptable in a one on one conversation and I certainly don't get away with it at the dinner table. Some of it needs to stay that way. But we don’t need to look far to see the future. Asia has been far ahead of North America in mobility and so is Europe. And we've all seen the pictures of packed trains in Tokyo with every passenger staring at their mobile device. While the culture in Japan might be different, mixing the in-person and the virtual social engagements will be becoming more and more the norm.


  1. I agree with you Lubor that tweeting during a conference can be very beneficial. Not only for the reasons that you mentioned above but it also benefits as a back channel for those that are unable to attend. I often follow the #hashtag of conferences that are of interest to me so that I can capture those small nuggets of information that come across in the Twitter stream. This is a good post that speaks on this theme:
    Thanks for the post!

  2. agree - when people come and tweet your event, they are giving it legs. I'm very grateful to the people who've tweeted about our events lately. though I often get jealous when everyone I know is somewhere cool, and I'm not :-)