I’m e-mailing this post from a BlackBerry. That’s probably no great shakes by most bloggers’ standards, but not bad for a guy who typed Newswriting 101 stories on an IBM Selectric back in the day.
Count this as one small example of the always-on, to-and-from-virtually- anywhere nature of Internet-enabled communications.
While attending the Custom Publishing Council’s annual Content Conference earlier this year, I stood in the back of the ballroom during one session and did a quick headcount. Fifty-seven people seated for the session. Of those, at least 11 (that I could see) were Web-connected and typing away on laptops.
For all I could tell, untold others were sneaking an occasional peek at one Web-enabled handheld device or another. And it’s certain several in attendance were Twittering during sessions.
How do I know? One of the speakers at an afternoon session actually incorporated into his presentation some of the tweets that had gone back and forth during that day’s morning presentations.
Why am I telling you this?
This observation might be late in coming, but it struck me, counting all those “listeners” on their laptops — including several well-known bloggers — that we might have recently crossed a significant communications line when it comes to the possibilities speakers have to engage audiences.
The days when an emcee at an educational conference gets up and asks attendees to turn off their cell phones, pagers, etc. — those days might be coming to a close.
After all, with the proliferation of blogging, tweeting and Facebook updating, social media communicators could argue that it’s essential they keep their technologies on, and their communications capacity live, in real time,
In fact, speakers — and the people who write speeches and develop presentations — might want to start taking this into account, and even attempting to capitalize.
What if one of conference speakers had asked everyone who was Web connected to go to a particular site, or click on a specific tool, animation, case study or widget?
Or what if a speaker had asked everyone with a Twitter account to submit their 140-character opinion regarding a thought-provoking opening question? And then, late in the speech, read some of the salient tweets?
And what if that speaker told those who weren’t Web connected to get up and go look over the shoulder of their nearest Web-connected neighbor?
Sound like a recipe for chaos? Maybe.
But it might also have made that particular speech or session the most memorable and provocative of the conference.
It appears, more and more, that business-event audiences will be coming to conferences loaded for real-time, Web-enabled communication and social networking.
Rather than insist they shut down and listen, maybe a speaker’s goal should be to turn them on to something new, remarkable and interactive.
What do you think? Any thoughts or experiences you’d like to share on how speakers can leverage an audience’s Web connectivity as an advantage?