Tweeting during a keynote – does it really help you to learn?

At many large conferences whilst speakers are presenting their material, members of the audience will share quotes, take live pictures and generally report exactly what is happening to a wider audience. This works as it allows those not able to make the event to still gain value and keep up to speed.

The issue that’s a little more murky is not so much the reporting, but talking around the content whilst it is still actually being delivered.

If you are listening to a presentation, do you think you are able to absorb everything the speaker is trying to express if you are talking about something they covered a few minutes before?

The old school scenario of a speaker delivering as much value as possible during their time-slot, whilst the audience sit and wait for their opportunity to have a conversation around it afterwards is changing. Technology has a lot to do with that.

Taking part in conversations requires thought and attention – during a keynote, should 100% of this be given to the stage?

Some may say:

  • It is the speaker’s responsibility to hold your attention
  • You can learn as much from the conversations as from the keynote
  • Taking part in conversations helps the whole learning process

I am no angel – I have sat in an audience, taken part in the dedicated online conversation, looked up and realised I had missed a key point. It annoyed the hell out of me. How about you?

Are you able to learn from a speaker by listening and talking at the same time?
Does tweeting during a keynote really help you to learn?
Do you think the model is changing for the better or the worse?

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  • Richard

    This is a really valid and interesting question. We recently attended the LikeMinds conference in Exeter and my boss was pretty horrified that during the Keynotes he attended hardly anyone appeared to be actively listening to what was being said and he actually felt quite sorry for the speaker.
    I think we are in danger of missing the point of attending these things if we are not careful.

  • Carli_smith

    I think this is a very interesting debate and one which is quickly picking up speed and I think for good reason. I don’t think that it is possible to give the presenter your complete attention and listen properly when tweeting points, however I like to see tweets from major conference when I can’t attend them myself so it’s difficult. It has been said that it is a generation thing and that is mainly older people who think it is rude to tweet whilst someone is speaking. However I have to say, I have been lucky enough to be part of this ‘social media mad’ generation and I think that it is wrong to tweet whilst speaking to people. It is rather scary how far this will go in the sense that there seems to be a new ettiquete which says it is OK to multitask whilst someone is speaking to you. It will be a shame if we loose the ability to give something our full attention! Be interesting to hear others thoughts on this. Thanks for a thought provoking post Rob :-)


  • Robert Pickstone

    Hi Richard. I attended Likeminds too. Lots of people were reporting, and a few were also talking around the content. Whilst that is fair enough, I’m just not 100% sure that they can absorb everything that the speaker is trying to express if full focus is not being given. I know this statement may split opinion!

    I’m also pretty sure Scott decided against the Likeminds conversation being displayed on a screen behind the speakers out of respect for them and what they were trying to deliver (may need Scott to confirm this – sorry if I have got this wrong).

  • Richard

    I think it’s such a relevant topic. I use Social Media, day in day out, it’s a large part of my job so I am certainly not approaching this from a critical point of view. I also LOVE social media for my personal life and much to my wife’s annoyance my iPhone is glued to me, it’s part of who I am now. I do also however still really appreciate listening to an expert, or invited guest at least, talk ‘Live’ about their chosen subject. I really do appreciate that people want to be kept up to date with what is happening at conferences etc but why can’t we simply blog about it afterwards? Which is what I did incidentally.
    It kind of begs the question why do we invite speakers to talk live if we are all going to sit there tweeting it and no doubt missing some of the key points made? Why don’t we simply get them to video broadcast to us or Tweet their entire speech?
    We are in grave danger of losing the ability to sit down, listen and inwardly digest. We DO NOT NEED to know everything the split second it has been said in my opinion.
    I think perhaps Carly is right in that it is a generational thing but I know that I am 100% dead set on not allowing my 2 year old daughter to grow up not having the ability to sit and listen, and appreciate.
    Sorry if that got a bit heavy at the end there!

  • Scott Gould

    Richard, Robert

    I agree that focus should be on the speaker. At Like Minds, the whole day has room for talking and tweeting, and so the keynotes are a time to listen and take on board what is being said. This is why we don’t have a Twitterfall showing tweets or such stuff.

    But having said that:

    1. If a speaker is truly engaging, people will listen. That’s down to the speaker to do their job.
    2. Many people are making notes or tweeting their best parts, which is a part of learning indeed
    3. The more powerful Like Minds becomes as a brand, the less people will work on their laptops during the keynotes, because they respect the event more.


  • Robert Pickstone

    Thanks for clearing that up Scott.

    I definitely agree with your first point – there are some speakers who you can not take your attention of. They totally hook you in so you can do nothing but learn. Like Minds has already a few of those.

  • Robert Pickstone

    Maybe one of the reasons why people want to talk about issues at the very time they are delivered is because they may feel an audience won’t be there a day or two later, and the conversation may not take place.

    One of the most engaging speakers I have seen is Chris Brogan – I wasn’t paying much attention to the relevant hashtag at the time, but I do wander how many tweets were reports and how many were part of conversations, especially by those sitting in the crowd.

    No worries about getting heavy at the end! I totally agree.

  • Robert Pickstone

    Hi Carli,

    Have you ever sat in a meeting and noticed someone using their phone? Or been speaking to someone, asked them to repeat what you have just said, and they haven’t got the foggiest? Similar sort of thing. Some speakers may half be expecting people to be looking at their phones – one way of looking at it is that they are not holding the audiences attention, but the other may be that the audience is sharing what they are saying. Hmm – may be interesting to get some speaker perspectives on this.

    I think the tweeting points part can be done quickly (like taking down short notes) – it’s the thought and focus put into a conversation that makes it difficult to learn from a speaker at the same time IMO.

    Thanks for your comment and compliment on the post :-)