Should Twitter be Banned at Conferences?


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I was fortunate to be a keynote speaker last week at the LeWeb conference in Paris. It was definitely an amazingly well put-together conference. I cannot express enough gratitude to Loic and Geraldine for making us all more than comfortable during our stay. I did happen to notice one thing during the conference that bothered me a bit, so I decided I wanted to talk to you about it. Twitter tends to play a large role during conferences. However, I’m not so sure it’s a good thing.

Let’s face it – if someone is a presenter at a conference, they are there for a reason. The conference organizers invited them there to talk to you about something they felt you should hear. The day I spoke at LeWeb, there were several heavy-hitters who went before me that morning. These were dev-centric presentations, from people at Twitter and Facebook. My speech was less tangible, and more of something to really make you think about what exactly community is.

Not everyone in the audience was interested in what I had to say. That’s fine, I assumed that would be the case. You cannot make everyone happy. During the rest of the weekend, I noticed that many of the people in the audience were busy on Twitter. I also happened to realize that much of what was being said was negative, and sometimes even harsh.

The problem with people using Twitter during a presentation is that they are paying more attention to the voice that is in their head than they are to the voice on the stage. There’s a reason the voice is on stage, remember? I’m not sure what prompts people to not want to listen to a particular presentation. But I feel that if you don’t have something nice to say – then you should say nothing at all. People need to learn how to be negative properly.

We need to remember it’s not about us… it’s about the person on stage. Twitter almost takes away from the person on stage, more than it enhances it. People, again, are more interested in themselves than the speaker. If you aren’t interested in a paritcular speech, that’s ok! Just walk on out of the room and do something else. There’s always something else going on during conferences.

I can’t help but thinking Twitter needs to take a backseat when it comes to conference presentations. I’ve seen it detract too many times. Too much negativity can swell, and cause problems. It may be the thought of the crowd, but sometimes it’s ok to keep your thoughts to yourself. There are a lot of important people in the audience, yes. However, the person on stage is the most important one of all.

Those are my thoughts on the matter. It’s your turn. What do you think?

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