Tuesday, 8 March 2011

@PRprofessionals - To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question #dilemma

It’s not an uncommon sight to see an individual nearly ran over because of mindlessly crossing the road whilst tapping away on their phones….I say this because it has happened to me, on numerous occasions. When I first got my Blackberry I was amazed at the amount of tasks I could do on it but has this fascination with multi-tasking gone too far?

I attended a conference in London and a comment was made about no one tweeting about the event. I personally was amazed with this, new to the whole ‘tweeting from conferences’ it felt completely alien to me to get my phone out and type on it whilst listening to someone talking.

But it’s not as strange as I first thought…

Rob Dyson (@RobmDyson), PR Manager at Whizz-Kidz, said: “I tweet from conferences. To share resources, tips and advice from the speakers with those who can't be there. Whenever I do, I always get people saying "thanks" so I keep it up.”

The more I have used Twitter the more I have followed conferences by searching for their hashtags, and the more useful I have found it!

There are plenty of advantages to tweeting from conferences such as:

- Speakers feel like they are making valid points which can be motivating and a confidence boost.
- Those who can’t attend the event feel involved and can keep up with the action.

-Could be seen as the new way to make notes. You could use them as a reference to look back on.

-It can be interesting to get an input from others and allows those who can’t attend attendance to get their pressing questions answered.

But is it in the spirit of sharing information or is it just an excuse not to concentrate?

The disadvantages can be:

- There is a high chance you could miss vital information.

- It is not guaranteed that the individual will just tweet as they might reply to an email or a text. There was a discussion by Richard Bailey (@behindthespin), a lecturer at Leeds University who decided to test out what would happen. It was met with contrasting responses…

So, we have established there are pros and cons but I think it raises a bigger question: Should it be socially acceptable?

I completely understand the benefit of tweeting from a conference and the insights that can be gained. The whole beauty of social media is the fact that you can gain hundreds of points of view in real time instead of waiting for an ‘official’ blog post which may not include questions that weren’t answered or the reaction of the room.

But if I told my grandma that I used my phone when someone was speaking to me she would clip me around the ear! Whatever happened to good old fashioned eye contact when someone is speaking to you?

However, it is completely dependant on the situation; it is different when being spoken to directly when compared with attending a conference with over 100 people in the room.

What do you find acceptable? Would you mind if someone tweeted whilst you were speaking? Do you actively encourage tweets during your presentations? Do you tweet from conferences? What’s your secret to multitasking?

For general phone use I have identified 4 types of phone ‘multi-taskers’, which one are you?!

The Ignorers:
They blatantly ignore you and concentrate on their phone. They don’t hear what you say and probably wouldn’t be interested even if they could.

The Pretenders: They are looking at you but they attempt to use their phone in their pocket or by placing it under the table. Another breed of the pretender tends to draw out sentences and fill them with ‘ermmmm’ whilst they try and finish whatever they are doing on their phone.

The Postponers: Their phone goes, they raise their hand and stop you from speaking and you must remain silent until they have finished. For me, the most irritating of them all...

The Touch Typers: This breed exhibits a high level of skill and practice. They maintain eye contact as they know exactly which buttons to press.


  1. Tweeting while watching a conference has to be one of those dark arts I am not really familiar with, the very thought about it kinda confuses me. It's comparable to live blogging, writing a live transcription of what is going on on the stage to let your readers know about it (I think of Lisa Barone's example).
    I am pretty sure I'd be too caught up in actually watching the conference/exhibit rather than live-writing about it, I just wouldn't be able to multi-task to that extent. That said, I really wouldn't mind people doing it instead, it clearly isn't a bad thing, they are actually putting so much attention in what you do or say that they are distributing it to the whole of their audience.
    About phone multi-taskers, I tend to pretty much ignore my phone while talking to people, unless I know in advance I am waiting for some important happening (be it a call or whatnot). If that's the case, I usually announce it beforehand (something like "I am waiting an important call so you will please have to forgive me a minute if and when I get it").

  2. Hi Gabriele,

    I shall have to look into live blogging and shall google the example you have given. I can empathise completely with what you say about concentrating on the event instead of tweeting. Tweets from events act as lifelines for me and the people I followed who tweeted from social media week in London gave me such great coverage of it I felt like I had attended the events!

    I like your idea of pre-warning people if you are expecting a call - I shall use that one!

    I thought it would be interesting to hear peoples thoughts on the topic - thank you for sharing yours!

  3. I've always wondered about this. I know the value I get from people tweeting from events, so feel as though when I'm at one, I should give something back. But then if I'm tweeting, I don't pick as much up.

    I think there's great value to be had from actually hiring live tweeters to cover events. And then getting audiences to add the odd comment/tweet here and there.

  4. Hi Mazher,

    I think it is a topic that a lot of people wonder about but because it has there are so many factors that are dependent it makes it difficult to start a discussion.

    I like your idea of hiring live tweeters for events, as it is a real skill and then others have the opportunity to tweet too.

    Thanks for your comment :-)

  5. I have benefitted from folks tweeting from events and it has helped me feel engaged with something I could not attend in person. However I do find it irritating to have students fiddling with their phones whilst I am teaching or we are engaged ina n activity. It is so hard to tell who is tweeting ina constructive way and who is continuing the morning's row with their better half via text messaging!
    So, as a rule of thumb I think it is important to get the permission of the host/speaker before you hit the buttons!

  6. I attended Social Media Week recently and tweeting during this was actively encouraged! Once I got into it I almost felt a responsibility to deliver the great information I was getting to others in my social sphere. It seems to be something that actually interests people too. I was RT'd on the day numerous times and gained around 20 followers both during and after the event.

    I wonder whose conference you were tweeting from Carli? ;)


  7. Hi Jane,

    Great point - You can never know exactly what people are doing on their phones. Especially in a teaching situation. It is a difficult discussion as every situation differs. I feel rude too if someone is speaking to me and I am on my phone...even if I am doing something constructive. I LOVE it when people tweet from conferences though, I agree that it feels like you are there even though you can't make it.

    Thanks for commenting :-)

  8. Hi Adam,

    Lovely to hear from a speaker themselves ;-) I wonder who's talk I was live tweeting from!

    I agree that it is a great way of letting people know you are at the event and you do pick up new followers as a result.

    Did you find it off putting to look at me in the front row on my phone?

    Thank you for your comment.


  9. I attended a conference where they asked us to complete a survey during the presentation so they could produce live data. I thought that was really cool.

    As for tweeting in public being seen as rude; sometimes it is. Even when the speaker encourages people to Tweet I have noticed some audience members not look up from their phones once, and other members dive for their phone as soon as they get a little bored.


  10. Not at all, it was the same for me to look at as someone taking notes in a pad, except these notes were being published online instead!

    I know I must be doing something right if those listening are making notes and even more so if they decide to tweet about what is going on.

    Thank you for your reply!


  11. Hi @LetticeWigby,

    That's a great idea about asking attendees to respond to a survey during the conference - as you said it's a great way to gain valuable data.

    Thank you for your comment!

  12. Hi Adam,

    Indeed - you were doing something right :-)

    Looking forward to your next seminar!


  13. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post, Carli! I truly enjoyed the visit.

  14. i always have the same feelings which you explained in your post. nice post.