Be a Good Conference Speaker; Twitter is Judging

Be a Good Conference Speaker; Twitter is Judging

by danperry on April 22, 2008

in twitter

I’m not attending SMX Social in Long Beach, California, but a lot of my friends on Twitter are, so I get all the scoop/opinions in real time.

It seems like Rand Fishkin, known for being a strong speaker (I thought he was the few times I’ve seen him speak), seems to really have stubbed his toe at this conference. Here are three comments I read, all within a minute of each other:

Smx – rand fishburn needs a few less tangents and a little more focus


I think Rand is on drugs. He’s full of tangents and making little sense. Someone send Mystery Guest to come collect him.


@smx @randfish is entertaining, but missing the gist with all his witty pop cultural asides


The point: Thanks to Twitter, not only the people in the room are watching and judging, but every follower of those people are as well. Personally, I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. Thoughts?

UPDATE: Per Kevin Heisler’s comment below, none of the three tweets above were direct messages. I apologize for not remembering who the first one came from, but the second is from Lisa Barone and the third from David Berkowitz. Since they weren’t private messages, and were available to anyone following them, I don’t see a reason to conceal the identities.

I originally didn’t post the names because I didn’t want to start a personal attack; I thought the conversation around the comments was much more important (and potentially interesting) than the comments themselves.

For what it’s worth, I think both comments are true to the authors: Lisa’s comment sounds exactly like her; truthful, in a fun way. Read any blog post she’s ever written, and you’ll see they follow the same style.

David’s is very relevant, truthful, and even considerate. He added the @smx so whomever is running that account could see his thoughts as well. In my opinion, that’s pretty admirable. A truthful, unbiased, real-time review, conveyed in a professional manner. Nothing wrong with that.

If you like this post you might enjoy following me on Twitter:

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anita Campbell April 24, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Some things are better left as private thoughts, not shared with the entire world. Have people forgotten good manners in public?

I didn’t see these particular comments, but I saw a different exchange about another conference on Twitter about a month ago. One of the people who was being most brutal is someone I’d heard speak once. The twitterer who was giving a blow by blow criticizing the speaker harshly was himself only a D+ speaker when I’d heard him speak the year before. He kept rudely interrupting other panelists, tried to wrest control of the panel from the moderator, and bored everyone into a trance talking about points only he was interested in.

Yet he had the nerve to criticize some other speaker.

People in glass houses and all that ….

Anita Campbell April 24, 2008 at 9:35 pm

I agree, Dan, it’s inevitable that people will talk about conference sessions.

Where will it go? Eventually it will backfire, because you make enemies and you will lose business opportunities because of it. Plus, speakers will start demanding that their sessions be Twitter-free as a condition of speaking. I just attended a conference where that was the case on Day 2 — no twitttering allowed on request of the speakers (for several reasons).

And a few thoughts to those who are trying to build a following on Twitter: focus on reporting key insights and great sound bites conveyed by the speakers, rather than critiquing the speakers.

As a follower, tell me something I actually can use. Share some data or a helpful point so that I can get value out of your reporting.

And a word about business opportunities: If I were considering hiring someone as an employee or as a service provider, this would be a deal breaker for me. My thinking is, if you said that publicly about someone else, what will you say about me and my company behind my back? Or someone looking for a referral? If you can’t hold your tongue, I would have no confidence that you would exercise the kind of good judgment and discretion expected in business dealings.

LORI April 24, 2008 at 10:26 pm

I believe this type of thing will take care of itself, eventually. Most of us do not have time or energy for so much negtivity. They will lose followers and will have to “adapt or die”. We just have to endure them through this growing pain.

Kevin Heisler April 25, 2008 at 12:40 am

Dan, you’re right on the money:instant feedback is inevitable at conferences. Twitter is just the easiest way right now but the Always On conferences have been streaming “live blogging” for a couple years now – from people in the audience AND people not attending. The audience, moderator and panelists can see the comments scrolling on a screen.

I think Anita makes some excellent points, Dan. What’s missing from your post is the identity of the people on Twitter who are criticizing Rand.

I wasn’t there either and didn’t see these comments posted on Twitter.

Twitter is transparent. If the people sent you DM’s, then they didn’t want their comments published (for whatever reason.)

So why not let the person come forward and say it publicly?

Otherwise, it’s just gossip and snark.

danperry April 24, 2008 at 8:19 pm

@Anita: This reminded me of the Superbowl commercial experiment that Jeremiah Owyang set up. That was a great experiment, where a group of Twitterers were judging commercials in real time.

I don’t think it’s as great for users to judge speakers in real time, but wasn’t this inevitable? I used to attend industry conferences a lot (3-4/year). Now every session is blogged by multiple people, including comments on each speaker. Judging speakers via Twitter in real-time seems like the natural progression, whether right or wrong.

Two things: 1, has this turned into a moral issue (manners), and 2, what’s the next logical progression/where does it go from here?

Kevin Heisler April 25, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Great update, Dan. Thanks. David’s a briliant guy; Lisa’s one of the smartest and funniest bloggers in the industry.

David Berkowitz April 28, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Dan, thanks for commenting. I’m a little behind on my reading after the event so it’s great that you shared this on my blog. And I’m also well aware that anything I say in public in Twitter may be quoted, which is one of those pros and cons with such forums, as it means we need to speak candidly while still still watching what we say. Meanwhile, it will also make any future speaking opps a little more daunting. It’s almost like being able to read people’s minds; sometimes ignorance is bliss, but it’s of course better to pay attention than brush it aside.

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