Beyond PR

May 24, 2011

Optimizing Presentations for Social Sharing

Social networking has changed live presentations forever, providing instant feedback and audience interaction.   Additionally, tweets from the presentation find wider audiences for speaker messages beyond the conference center or exhibition floor.   If your goal as a speaker is to raise your personal profile, or that of the organization you represent, optimizing presentations for social sharing will build additional visibility for your messages.

A presentation I saw a couple weeks ago at Mashable Connect got me thinking about this, when I found myself frantically tweeting soundbites from Ian Schafer, the CEO of Deep Focus.   Over the 20-minute presentation, I tweeted more than a dozen times.

My tweets from Ian's 20 minute presentation.

Every other phrase Ian delivered, it seemed, was noteworthy  – and tweetable.   Ian generated quite a bit of conversation that day among the well-connected folk at Mashable Connect, and I’m sure if tally numbers of followers of those who tweeted his presentation, you’d find that the 300+ people in the room represented a larger audience in the hundreds of thousands.   The ability of social networks to amplify a message is truly undeniable.

Live blogging meets Twitter. MBooth Communications used tweets in their entirety as blog posts.

My thoughts on this idea of optimizing presentations for sharing in social networks is pretty simple – it takes time to put together and rehearse a presentation, and you’d be nuts to not fully leverage those efforts by ignoring the potential visibility social channels can deliver.

Ready-made audience targeting

One reason why thinking about the social layer when preparing a presentation is important relates to targeting. Marketers, public relations pros and digital media mavens all spend a lot of time targeting audiences.  Conferences and trade shows are appealing because they promise access to a focused audience. And as events grow increasingly virtual and interactive, smart presenters can tap into related conversations in the social stream.

Editing is crucial

When writing for the social layer,  editing is your most important tool.  Attention spans are short, and Twitter’s 140 character limit enforces brevity.   If you want to encourage your audience to share and tweet your messages, you need to serve up ready-made tweets from behind the podium.  The same qualities that make a line “work” in a presentation also make it easy to tweet – it has to be short, on point, and memorable.

Extemporaneous, or well rehearsed?

One thing that struck me about Ian’s presentation – both during the presentation and when I went back and looked at the deck – was the number of tweetable pearls he delivered (seemingly) extemporaneously.  Whether or not the tweetable gems sprinkled throughout the presentation were off the cuff or rehearsed, the effect was the same – they felt fresh and authentic, and captured the audiences’ attention.

Optimizing the presentation itself:

  • Write the tweets for your audience:  Keep slides sparse — text slides should display just one bullet point or phrase per slide, not a whole list or paragraph.
  • That said, rehearse pithy, tweetable comments that you deliver off-slide.  People multitask during presentations and may not even be looking at your visuals.  But they will hear you, and if you drop a tweetable gem into their laps, they are more likely to act.
  • Keep it short – very short.  The best tweets are the short ones.   They’re easier for people to tweet and are more likely to inspire reader actions.  Just because Twitter gives you 140 characters doesn’t mean you need to use them all.
  • Use visuals that will photograph well – from smart phones.  If you have a visual that really drives your point home, be sure it’s not too complex.
  • Rigorously employ hashtags.
  • Put the hashtags – and your Twitter handle – on each slide.
  • As soon as you can, thank the people who tweeted your presentation.  Using any related hashtags, offer them links to the deck and any additional elements.

This is just one more example of how communicators need to be thinking beyond the specific remit of a particular project, considering how to gain additional visibility by engaging the people following and tweeting about an event or topic.

What other tips would you add?

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

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