E•Connections

For exhibit and event professionals  

Dilemma: Should tweeting be left to the birds?

January 31, 2011 By Editor

I know sending a Twitter message only takes a few seconds, but when I see my keynote speaker giving a presentation, I find it irritating to see so many people with their eyes focused on their BlackBerrys while their thumbs fly across the buttons. Plus, I’m getting tired of days later fielding questions on topics that were covered in depth during the session. Would it be acceptable to ask everyone to turn off these devices at the beginning of a meeting? Or should I just accept this as a new reality in the business world?

— Dana, Events Manager


Readers are atwitter about the issue

Dana, arranging an interesting, informative presentation requires a great deal of work on your part. And you want to ensure your presenter gets the attention and respect he or she deserves. But in today’s world, people are used to being connected at all times. So, is asking that all devices are turned off during a presentation the right decision?

Our readers are split in their opinions. They say:

  • Pull the plug.
  • Make usage conditional.
  • Leave your attendees alone.

Pull the plug

For some people, sitting next to someone who’s constantly texting or e-mailing is as distracting as a loud conversation. For their sake, one reader thinks you should tell attendees to put away their communication devices.

This trade show and event specialist writes:

“As an attendee, it’s very annoying when the person next to you spends the whole session texting or reading e-mails. I think it’s acceptable to ask attendees to turn off these devices, but experience has proven that even if you make the request, they won’t do it.”

Make usage conditional

If you think it’s a bit harsh to cut off communication completely, let attendees know device usage “comes at a price.”

Jill Gill, GSA sales at Gately Communication Co., provides a tactful option.

“Try making a sign that says, ‘We encourage everyone to focus their full attention on the presentation. If you must be distracted by your personal device, we ask that you refrain from asking any questions.’ Place it in the front of the room before the presentation begins.”

Leave your attendees alone

Although you may see texting or e-mailing during a presentation as impolite, some attendees have good reason to stay connected.

An events manager explains why you may want to take a hands-off approach when it comes to other people’s communications.

“With staffs cut to the bone at some companies, many people don’t have the luxury of being out of touch for any length of time. Plus, they never know when a situation may arise that requires their immediate attention.

“Be grateful they’ve taken time out of their day for your presentation, and face the fact that life must go on.”

Dana, before a presentation begins, it’s OK to ask attendees to turn off their communication devices or to refrain from asking questions if they plan on staying connected. Or you can try to understand where they may be coming from and not raise the issue. Remember, many of them may not have a choice in the matter.








Comments

  • I guess I’m a bit old school. If the speaker is there in front of me engaging me in the face-to-face space, I think I should respond in kind and give the speaker my face-to-face attention. There’s plenty of time to tweet and blog and FB at the break or afterwards.

  • I actually encourage people to tweet during my presentations. It serves as a great way for me to answer questions directly to people after the presentation is done and it is a great source for seeing what people found most interesting about the presentation.

    Let’s face it…if airlines struggle to get people to turn off cellphones what makes you think they will listen to any requests from a speaker?

  • Why not use the fact that people will be using their phones no matter what you say. Try to set up an engaging way for them to interact with the speaker. Perhaps you can use twitter to generate questions during the presentation, which can be answered in the Q&A. Better yet use texting, twitter or other social media to get more participation in the seminar. If you can’t beat them, join them.

  • Dana, arranging an interesting, informative presentation requires a great deal of work on your part. And you want to ensure your presenter gets the attention and respect he or she deserves. So, before a presentation begins, it’s OK to ask attendees to turn off their communication devices.

    Personally, though, I think I’d just try to understand where they may be coming from, and not take it personally if they stay connected. Many attendees may not have a choice in the matter.

    How would you handle this situation — without upsetting attendees?

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