Distracting Tweets

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend a marquee social media conference called Mashable Connect. For those who may not know, Mashable is the leading “resource and guide for all things web,” and they created the Connect event to bring digital leaders together to share the latest trends, technologies and best practices. The opening keynote speech was given by Mashable’s accomplished CEO, Pete Cashmore, who created the web site from a WordPress blog just six short years ago. Unfortunately, his delivery was semi-hijacked by the audience, as a stream of mostly irrelevant tweets distracted Pete as well as the audience’s focus on his message.

It certainly depends on the type of conference, but I am one of those who generally believes that audience members tweeting during an event can actually enrich the experience for both the presenter and his/her audience. Contrary to what you might think, people typing away on their laptop or mobile device is more a sign of active engagement than apathy (it obviously depends on what they’re saying). I personally think it’s amazing to witness the live opinion-sharing and connecting that takes place while a speech is being delivered. In fact, it’s become my primary way to use Twitter and has led to some meaningful offline interactions.

But, what happened at this presentation was unlike anything I had witnessed before. Pete stood on the podium directly in front of a large screen that displayed a live feed of tweets that all vied for his – and the rest of the audience’s – attention. As soon as the first funny tweet hit the big screen (see below), the audience’s reaction was loud enough to make Pete interrupt what he was saying and turn around to look at the screen and see what was tweeted.

It was at that moment the power and control both shifted – all of the bold and (t)witty micro-bloggers from the audience realized they could get some notoriety…

Someone even created a Twitter account for Pete’s hair…


Sure, some are pretty funny (actually, all except the last one). Plus, the nature of the entire event was pretty relaxed and informal – especially at the start when everyone was uber-excited. But, instead of watching and paying attention to Pete and the knowledge he was imparting, the audience was completely distracted by meaningless BS. One audience member remarked…

Pete’s keynote speech was doomed from the time someone decided it’d be neat to simultaneously display the audience’s unfiltered reaction – good, bad and ugly. It’s hard to blame Mashable though – no way they could have guessed that outcome. It’s just that some audience members were less interested in listening than in hearing themselves talk, (= narcissism), and they brought the rest of us down with them. I think it ultimately diminished the power that the Mashable Connect opening could have had. Of course, the rest of the event was ridiculously awesome.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of my employer nor any other organization I am affiliated with. Also, please see the “About” page in case you are offended or even mildly irritated. Thanks!


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