Why chat streams are critical to live events

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cc Some rights reserved by incognito2020

AK nails it!

Last week I was a virtual attendee at the annual Sloan-C conference. It was fun and educational enough to spend 3 days watching live streamed sessions, and a saturday catching up on some recorded ones. The recorded ones are not as fun since you dont have the twitter stream going :-

via Multilitteratus Incognitus: Campus vs. Online: fighting in the family.

This is what I’m ‘talkin about! And it is not just applicable to webinars but to all synchronous online interactions regardless of the tool. It applies to telephone calls. Providing and/or encouraging text based peer to peer and peer to the world interactions creates opportunities to engage those who would otherwise tune out. Does it distract? It sure can. Does it fracture engagement into smaller cohorts or with those “outside” of the virtual room? You bet. And we can use that as an asset, not a strength.

The risk? The presenter will become irrelevant. And that too may be a good thing. If the presenter cannot skillfully engage, and they become only a conveyance for content… well, maybe they should switch roles and we run a video with a chat channel. I’m only partly kidding. How often have you clicked into a webinar on one of those platforms which makes you send all your comments to a moderator, which has no participate peer to peer chat room and felt like a prisoner with your hands tied? Last night I was talking with the fab Michael Coghlan of Australia (we were talking about flexible learning, natch!) and those were the words he used. “I felt like my hands were tied.” Is that any way to have a meeting, to work together or to learn together? NO WAY, BABY! (yes, I’m ranting this morning)

There are  SO MANY ways we can use chat streams productively. Here are two sets of tips – one for the “presenter” or leader, and one for participants. This is just a starter. What are YOUR tips? COMMENT PLEASE (and feel free to SHOUT. This feels like a SHOUTING topic!)

A Few Tips for  Presenters and Webinar Leaders

  • Ask great questions and have people answer in the chat room. If there is no chat room in the tool you are using, make one else where or use a hashtag and Twitter. Don’t let the technology stop you. (I did in a webinar last month and I regret it. )
  • If you can’t track the chat room and present, get someone to help you to recap and weave in the chat with your work. Some people can do this while they are presenting, some need to wait until a designated Q&A time. Both are legitimate approaches but it is worth TELLING the participants what you need to best engage with them instead of feeling over stressed yourself. That does no one any good. Be honest. People will support you when you ask for their help. They will detest you if you simply ignore them!
  • If the topic is NOT suitable for public sharing via Twitter, say that upfront and ask people to “keep it in the room.” Don’t assume people will automagically know this. Transparent ommunication is a great thing!
  • Keep the chat transcript and or Twitter hashtag aggregation (ask me if you don’t know what this is) and look at it afterwards. If there is more to follow up with, create a blog post or other appropriate mechanism to share that follow up. (Example here) People love it when you show active listening even if it is asynchronous. They are being heard. That is part of being a #socialartist! (First link is explanation, second is Twitter hashtag)
  • Frustrated that no one is “listening” and they are all chatting? After the event, review your presentation and figure out how to make it more interesting/compelling and DESIGN for participation next time. If you are just delivering content or a performance, record it. Sweet!

A Few Tips for  Participants

  • Find out or ask what the practice/conventions are for chat in the event you are joining. If they don’t know what you are talking about, share some ideas. Don’t be the victim. It’s a waste of time and energy!
  • If you are a fast typer, be careful not to dominate and squeeze out others. Take  a break every now and again. A hog is a hog in text or through speaking!
  • Ask good questions if the presenter isn’t or is unable to. This helps engage your peers. Again, avoid victimhood!
  • If Twitter/public interaction is OK and there is no hashtag, suggest a nice short one and get things going. Leadership!
  • Capture and share Twitter and chat transcripts for the uninitiated. There is often a pile of gems waiting in these artifacts.
  • Think the presenter could have done better? Walk in their shoes a few times, and if you are great at it, offer to give them coaching. If not, remember the power of compassion…

OK, add your ideas! Let’s liberate webinar participants from listen only confinements.

5 thoughts on “Why chat streams are critical to live events”

  1. Tips for presenters:
    – Use explicit moments during the event to dwell upon the thread of the discussion. Ask the moderator to monitor this thread.
    – Don’t focus on the chat while presenting. Let a moderator do this.
    – Use polls in addition to the chat, and ask participants to discuss the outcomes of the poll.

    Tips for participants:
    – Divide your focus between the talk and the chat. It’s hard to focus on both, at the same time.
    – “It’s about the subject, stupid”. Please do not chat too much about technological issues.
    – Provide additional sources about the subject.

    1. Wilfred, thanks for jumping and and TERRIFIC tips. I’m going to be taking these w/ me on my Australian road trip coming up and we’ll put all of them to use as we work with improving our online teaching and learning skills.

      Anyone else want to jump in?

  2. Here are some tweeted by Bryan Alexander and Pat Parslow – Thanks guys!


    Join meeting early, if possible, to schmooze with whomever appears, @NancyWhite . Learn the audience, be accessible.

    For presenters, use other shared spaces if possible: whiteboards, coedited documents, as in G+ Hangout, @NancyWhite

    Presenters: respond to participants by name, to indicate respect and authorship, @NancyWhite .
    Nov 20, 10:36 AM via TweetDeck

    @BryanAlexander @NancyWhite but don’t overdo use of name though, or you’ll make participants feel like you are trying to sell stuff to them
    Nov 20, 10:41 AM via web
    In reply to…

  3. Hi Nancy,

    Great list of tips and tricks! Would you mind if I link back to your presenter and participant tips? I run the blog for BigMarker.com, a free web conferencing and social media site. And if you’d ever be interested in writing a blog for us, we’d love to have you!


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