In the book The Backchannel, communication consultant Cliff Atkinson writes about social media’s impact on presentations. The “backchannel” is the online stream of chatter before, during, and after your talk.

The backchannel is constructive when:

  • It enriches your message as people take notes, add commentary, and suggest additional resources on the topic
  • It’s constructive when it provides a valuable archive of information to review after the presentation
  • It’s constructive when it connects people in the room, building a community around the ideas
  • It’s constructive when it allows people who can’t attend your talk live to follow dispatches and engage in conversations about it
  • It’s constructive when it widens your reach to more people

The backchannel is destructive when it:

  • Distracts audience members so they pay more attention to the backchannel than to you
  • It’s destructive when it steers the conversation to unrelated topics
  • It’s destructive when it excludes audience members who are unaware of the backchannel or unable to join
  • It’s destructive when it limits people’s ability to convey nuance or context, because of the brevity of the posts
  • It’s destructive when it injects a rude or snarky tone, since people feel comfortable posting thoughts they wouldn’t say out loud.

Your goal is to avoid a backchannel revolt, where people rally one another to reject your message. How? By making the folks online feel heard.

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