Should there even be a backchannel?
At major conferences, there are always attendees to blog, tweet, and chat about the conference while it’s happening. This is known as a backchannel.
Many conferences and events share official Twitter hashtags (e.g., #eduweb) to help attendees find each other. At Railsconf a few years ago, someone built a tool that pulled it all together and displayed it in a real time visualization.
But that’s in tech-centric conferences. In other events I’ve attended, I don’t see any many laptops and phones out. A handful of people are tweeting, but there’s very little backchannel.
I’ve been watching the audience more while I speak. There are usually a few people with their phones or laptops out. Are they tweeting or doing email? Are they taking notes or screwing around on Facebook?
I find that I focus my attention on people who are engaged – paying attention to me and interacting. There’s eye contact, nodding, and they laugh at jokes. The people on their phones seem distant, disconnected from the event they’re at. It seems rude.
I’ve also noticed that I’m less engaged when I’m live tweeting. I hear the audience laugh and I look up quickly, wondering what I just missed. I was too focused on capturing a great quote and posting it somewhere. Am I getting the most out of the presentation?
Do you tweet at conferences? Have you been annoyed by attendees who are on their laptops or phones the whole time?