Don’t get me wrong: I love Twitter with all my heart and soul. But this week, it started to get in the way.
Earlier this week, I spent a day at the New Media Summit. The event itself was a blast: the content was solid, and I met some new friends, greeted some old friends, and cemented a few “prelationships,” meaningful interactions I had with folks before I ever met them. (Hi Adam, Greg and Paul!) But during the sessions, my friend Matt Grant observed a phenomena that, once he pointed it out, started to bug me, too: Twitter was getting in the way of face-to-face networking.
The problem was that during some of the sessions, the presenters were asking folks in the live audience to submit their questions via Twitter, the online messaging tool. The folks onstage scrolled through their PDAs and picked out a few questions to read out and answer. And that was the problem: since the questions were coming through Twitter and read by the presenter, and not asked from the floor by an actual person, it was impossible to know who was asking the question.
Sometimes, the best way to get to gauge an audience is to listen to the questions, and see who is asking them. It’s also a great icebreaker: Many times at an event, I’ve approached someone after they’ve asked a particularly good question. But interrupting that process, by inserting Twitter as a filter between an audience and speaker, cuts down on the natural give-and-take and removed something I think is vital to a live event.
Twitter is an amazing tool. I am actually head-over-heels nuts about it. Among many other things, I had a good sense of who would be attending the New Media Summit, and could do some pre-event networking, to make the best use of my time. Because of Twitter, I knew some of the folks who would be there and felt excited to meet them. I feel the same way heading into next week, when I head to Phoenix for the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer.
But sometimes, it’s time to close the PDAs, turn to the person at the microphone, and turn off Twitter.
So what do you think? Have you observed anything similar, or do you think Twitter enhances a conference for those who are attending? Should I ask folks to Twitter questions to the speakers at the MarketingProfs event next week, or not? Leave your thoughts below.