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April 25, 2014

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Tweet During Presentations. Really.

jeff havens tweet 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Tweet During Presentations. Really.Jeff Havens is a keynote speaker and corporate trainer who addresses leadership, generational issues and other areas of professional development through a unique blend of content and entertainment. He has been a regular guest on Fox Business News and featured on CNBC, Businessweek and Bloomberg News. To read more from Jeff Havens, visit jeffhavens.com.

I’ve been a professional keynote speaker for eight years now, and in that time it’s become more common to tweet during presentations, mine and everyone else’s. (“More common” is sort of obvious, I guess, since tweeting didn’t even exist when I started. It used to be when we liked what we heard we all just grunted and pounded our chairs with the palms of our hands. Those were the good old days.)  Anyway, tweeting is often viewed as a tool for engagement, to keep an audience focused on the core pieces of information they’re taking away from whatever presentation they’re listening to.

But more and more, I’m not sure that’s the case. I know there are excellent reasons to tweet during presentations, but I also believe it that doing so can be far more harmful than beneficial, both to you and those around you. So here are five things to consider before you pull your phone out at the next presentation you sit through.

–You’ll be unable to synthesize what you’re hearing. Most of the tweets that happen during presentations are carbon copies of a phrase or sentence that the presenter has just uttered. And sometimes that’s fine. But what if—and I know this is going to sound a little crazy—but what if the presenter actually has five or even 11 interesting sentences all in a row? If you start tweeting the first cool thing you hear, you won’t have a chance to process everything and put it into a context that you’ll be able to remember later.

You’ll almost certainly ending up checking your email. Or sending a text to someone, or sneaking in a quick game of Angry Crush or Candy Birds or whatever’s popular right now. Before you know it you’ll have missed five minutes of the presentation, and it was probably the best five minutes of the whole thing.

Your neighbors will think you’re not paying attention.  Some of them will, at least.  And then they’ll have a harder time concentrating themselves. It’s like that really ugly dress you see in church sometimes. You want to pay attention to the sermon, but seriously, why did she wear zebra stripes with leopard-print shoes?

It’s impossible to have a coherent discussion on a Twitter feed during someone’s presentation. Although I have seen people try. But even if you somehow manage to follow the disconnected and out-of-order thread of conversation to put together a thoughtful narrative, you’ll still be trying to do so while someone’s talking. And while all of us think we’re masters at multitasking, we really aren’t. If you don’t believe me, try singing your favorite song the next time you write an email and see if you can do both of them without screwing up. I’ll bet $5 you can’t!

You’re already plenty smart, and more than a little awesome. I don’t have data for this, but I think about 70 percent of the reason people like tweeting during someone’s presentations is because they think it makes them look smart. That implies that you normally wouldn’t consider yourself especially smart. But you are. You’re one of the most interesting people I know, and sometimes I wake up at night in a cold sweat because I know I’ll never get to be you. You don’t need to tweet while I’m talking to convince me that you’re amazing. I already know it.

—Jeff Havens

12 Responses to “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Tweet During Presentations. Really.”

  1. Debra Eder says:

    Thank you, Jeff. I resisted the urge to tweet while reading your post! A phrase that’s worth repeating — “you’ll be unable to synthesize what you’re hearing” (carbon copy, I know).

  2. […] Kelby Carr from Type-A Parent shared a post on Facebook by Jeff Haven about the 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Tweet During Presentations. Really. She called it BS, and I agreed. Then I proceeded to write an exceptionally long comment on the […]

  3. I hope all are tweeting in my presentation.

    Using social media during a presentation is a way of note taking. Sharing the most important bits of information with your online community. Yes, you must be able to multi-task.

    As the presenter, how awesome is it to have your message – likely with your name – shared across social media! Great marketing!

  4. […] Gleason has written an excellent rebuttal to my recent Smart Meetings article, 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Tweet During Presentations.  Really.  She put the word ‘poppycock’ into her title, which is enough all by itself to convince me that […]

  5. Jeff says:

    Excellent points Christina, but I’m still not convinced. Here’s my rebuttal to your rebuttal!

    http://www.jeffhavens.com/news-and-updates/tweeting-during-presentations-rebuttal

  6. Lauren says:

    Thank you! I can’t tell you how many times I see attendees whip out their cell phones for some seemingly quick task only to see them still engrossed in it until the end of the session. It is distracting to people around them, the glow of the phone or taps on the screen is really disruptive. People can still tweet upon the conclusion of a session, after all, anyone reading it won’t get to the session in time to hear it anyway. The marketing appeal of tweeting is there but do it before or after the session and actually pay attention to the session or why are you there? Tweeting or using phones during a session really doesn’t cut it, no matter how much you try to justify it.

  7. Trish says:

    The speaker has probably put a lot of time and effort into preparing the speech and if you’re not paying attention, you are being incredibly rude and bad mannered, and yes, that includes tweeting, checking your email and playing Angry Birds.

  8. Karen says:

    I understand many of your concerns. However, as a person that cannot attend every conference or session that I would like, I have found that following a tweeted session has helped me learn through tweets sent by those who could attend. If you don’t want anyone to tweet your session just let your audience know. I would acquiesce but continue to take notes on my iPad because it is faster than writing. Unless I am taking sketchnotes. Sometimes I do both. Nevertheless, if I hear or learn something important the information will be shared with others one way or another.

  9. StevenB says:

    I’m not sure you can prevent it, especially when there is an official conference hashtag or when the conference organizers promote “tweets of the day” – then everyone is competing to see who can deliver the wittiest tweet.

    As a presenter, while you may want everyone to give you their undivided attention, you are also likely to want to see what attendees were tweeting about your presentation – hopefully all good and maybe some useful ideas. When there is a visible lack of tweets I am not sure if that means that I said nothing worth repeating or commenting on…or was I so engaging as a presenter that no one wanted to divert attention away from me to their twitter or email (I hope it is the latter).

  10. As a pro speaker, I often begin my sessions inviting attendees to tweet their aha moments.
    Sometimes, I pause during the presentation and give them a moment to jot down (manually) or tweet their take-aways, suggesting that they can read other people’s comments and get a sense of the hot points. If used correctly, it’s a useful tool. Telling people not to tweet is like holding up your hand to a tidal wave, and expecting it to stop.

  11. Jane Bozarth says:

    Not only to I encourage tweeting during my presentations, I make sure to display the hashtag repeatedly and often schedule a few tweets of key points (I know, more or less, what time I’ll be making them) to make them easy for attendees to retweet and build on. Tweeting during sessions is an excellent way to extend my reach and provides both formative and summative feedback for me in ways post-session “smile sheets” do not.

  12. Nick says:

    Any many great reasons why everyone should be tweeting, and reviewing their tweets:

    http://www.technkl.com/tweet-your-way-to-conference-success/

    And the results from a conference I synthesized very well, and reflected on:

    http://www.technkl.com/reflecting-on-the-national-extension-conference-nexconf/

    Overall I remember significantly more from a conference I live tweeted as opposed to not, and I have that to reflect on at a later date.

    If you’re getting distracted by phones and people Tweeting, rather than expecting them to stop Tweeting and benefiting from the conference, join in! You’ll love it if you do it, and learn more.

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