Speakers offer guidance as audience members tweet, blog, e-mail and update Facebook during presentations
A decade ago, Kristin Arnold, president of the National Speakers Association, began noticing audience members who kept their heads down, typing away on their laptops, rather than making eye contact during speeches.
In recent years, the phenomenon has exploded, with the spread of BlackBerries and iPhones that enable audiences to tweet, live-blog, check a quarterback rating or e-mail their regrets about that dinner invitation.
These days, speakers everywhere are facing crowds apparently more interested in what’s going on in their own laps than in the talking head at a conference they forked out good money to hear. Meanwhile, audiences are finding more effective ways than ever to trumpet a good point—or register a verbal yawn that everyone but the speaker can see in real time.
How to cope
Though many speakers regard the typing as rude, others say audience members—those not catching up on their online holiday shopping, anyway—are processing the content in new ways. Either way, speakers say they must adapt to the new reality with a sharper message.
Some are even embracing Twitter and other media as tools that can enhance listeners’ experience.