Remember that old-time saying “They’re talking about you behind your back.”? In today’s digital world of smartphones, iPads, tablets, Twitter, and Facebook, the “behind your back” is the wifi stream! Today’s technology gives everyone the ability to comment on YOU in real time to not one person but hundreds of people. And depending upon the situation, this can be a bonus or a career killer.
Mostly speakers at conferences have had to deal with the death by tweet. But if you think you are imune from this phenomenon, think again. Here are some examples I have personally encountered:
A college professor friend of mine whose presentations tend to be on the boring side got fed up with his students diverting their attention to their cell phones. What a shock he got, when after banning their use one person anonomously e-mailed some of his classmates negative comments that were posted during the class!
I’m sitting in a workshop quite enraptured by the presenter’s information on a new artist’s work. One attendee continuously breaks in with what she knows, which is more than the presenter. Where is she getting it? Google in real time!
On one of my favorite TV shows, a person is interviewing for a nanny for his kids. Right in the middle of the interview, the current candidate answers her smart phone and has the audacity to comment to the interviewer about how she must tweet about getting this position with someone so important. TV scripting? Nope, I’ve heard this from some of my friends who’ve conducted interviews.
On the flip side, positive tweets and Facebook postings spread the speaker’s reach beyond the flour walls. It’s an opportunity to brand oneself as an expert without excerting any effort beyond the presentation.
When people are open to sharing negative messages with the individual (along with positve sugestions for improvement) it can also be a valuable means to self-improvement.
In this world of mutlitasking it takes more to capture attention then ever before. Studies have shown that young people would be willing to give up their sense of smell for their technology. Thus technology has become a “6th sense”. To the digitally connected 24/7 technology gives them more friends than they could have without the connections, more power to express their opinions, and instant interaction with a community of like minds. Can you beat that?
So what can you do about this situation? Banning those devices is not the answer as my professor friend found out. First, you have to accept the fact that even before technology, people were making negative comments. Second, know your audience and make sure your subject matter “matters” to them. Be as entertaining as your personality, material, and situation allows. Keep in the back of your mind that your material should also be worth sharing. Ask for feedback from both the bodies in the room and the bodies in cyberspace. Remember, your audience is potentially a lot larger than the room you are in, and that can be a positive for you. Lastly, spend some time Googling yourself, your company, your topic, and see what comments are floating around in cyberspace!