Engaging backchannel during presentations

In the movie “Wall-e” the sparkling darling robot Eve, who is very apple-esque if you ask me, queries her new grimy friend, Wall-e, with the question, “Directive?” It was her primary mission to follow her own directive and that was her jumping-off point of engagement. At first, she’s a bit chilly and robotic, but she softens  up as the movie proceeds. The whole dang show is adorable.

At Hawaii Medical Service Association, the executives have a directive to give lunch-time lectures about their niche areas in the organization. The electronic sign-up sheet fills up fast and it isn’t because Human Resources puts a mini Quaker granola bar on each seat.  It’s a chance to interact with an executive in the flesh, in the safety of a crowd, and to maybe get an idea of what motivates them. After all, they’re a successful person within our organization. Why not see what makes them tick?

I’d say that 99 percent of us who attend these lunch-time events are on smart phones, and some of us are updating Twitter with what the execs say. It doesn’t always happen but once in a while a laptop is connected to a projection screen and the tweets are shown as the presentation proceeds. What an awesome way to follow both the speaker and the responses.

This is called the backchannel. Mashable  gives guidance on how to manage the Twitter feedback, or backchannel, that occurs during a presentation. The article is based  on not showing the live twit stream. But I think that speakers should consider, if the equipment is available, to show the feedback as it pops.

But what if the backchannel derails the speaker’s mission, interrupts instead of flows with the presentation? Twecklers might think twice about pursuing the derailment if their snarkiness is shown during the presentation. The best managers understand that engaging twecklers on the spot, and then perhaps delaying the line of thought by suggesting a follow-up conversation later, will put the presentation back on the tracks.

I’ve not seen tweckling at an HMSA presentation, and not all of them have larger-than-life screens scrolling the live twitstream. But I do think that option creates another channel of accessibility to executives who used to be seen as those unreachable in their ivory towers.

It’s important to know what executives think. But now we find that  executives realize that unless they know what’s going on with the rank and file, they’ll lose traction with both them and, consequently, their member base. Social media adds value by increasing participant awareness.

By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.


  1. Are you kidding me?!? The granola bars are the VERY REASON I go to those things. Just kidding.

    I actually haven’t been to one in a while. But now that my mid-days are free, I too would like to frequent these safe exec encounters. Especially if backchannel is available.

    I have yet to see a presentation use that feature. I can imagine that those streaming tweets can give the similar effect of watching an old episode of “pop-up video” where you actually lose track of the actual video because you’re reading all these lil’ quips.

    I believe that the current backchannel is probably a primitive, yet essential step towards interactive presentations. If a presenter shows a graph, maybe future audience members will have the opportunity to highlight a portion of the graph the see on screen and zoom in or expand it for discussion.

    As you said, these lunch lectures are a safe way to interact with execs so we might as well optimize the backchannel to have public discussion.

    Bottom line… your blog rocks!

  2. Fernando: I LOVED VH1’s POPUP Videos! They were hilarious and informative, plus I like the sound of the bubble popping up. I could use more of that concept in my life. There aren’t many of those kinds of presentations, but I think the exposure of the twitstream, which could be limited to the audience by the list feature, would be effective as well as strenthen the relationship between executives and rank and file. HMSA is already BRAVE with it’s intranet blogs, forum and wiki. I love that it doesn’t want to be a backward wallowing Enron or General Motors. There’s so many reasons progressiveness in social media works for our industry.

    Hope you had a good night manning the HOC lines!

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