There are more than 175 million accounts on Twitter, and its search engine processes 1.6 billion requests each day. Are you missing out on all of the buzz? Here are some tips for how learning professionals can use Twitter to great effect in their training sessions.
It is helpful to obtain participant’s Twitter usernames on conference or session registrations. Then you can create lists of the speakers and attendees using the Twitter Lists feature. Once you’ve created a list, you can send messages about the session specifically to those individuals.
If you find that many individuals do not have accounts, it will be necessary to provide them with a tutorial prior to the session if you expect them to use Twitter effectively. It is helpful to remind participants that they can be “lurkers,” or participants who follow the Twitter feed without posting any tweets.
You can have pre-session discussions with your participants, and get additional information on their learning needs and preferences, by doing an audience analysis on Twitter. This will help you tailor your presentation or training content to your audience. The audience analysis will consist of a series of questions for your audience to respond. You can either create the questions using a tool like SurveyMonkey, and insert a link to the survey in Twitter, or tweet each question individually. Whichever method you choose, be sure to include in your tweets the hashtag designated for your session!
If you decide to create the questions outside of Twitter, using a survey tool, your tweet to all participants alerting them to the survey may look like this:
Will b facilitating next week’s training. Pls help me tailor training 2ur needs by answering 5 questions: http://svy.mk/qkDFbC Thanks! #hashtag
If you decide to tweet each question individually, you may send a series of tweets that look like this:
Will b facilitating next week’s training. Pls help me tailor training 2ur needs by answering 5 questions. B sure 2include Q# w/response. #hashtag
Q1. What is your role and how long have you been in the position? #hashtag
Q2. What do you want to learn as a result of this training? #hashtag
Q3. How much knowledge do you have about (enter subject matter here)? #hashtag
Q4. In regards to (enter subject matter), what topics or issues are you most interested in learning or hearing about? #hashtag
Q5. As it relates to (enter subject matter), what is your biggest challenge today in the workplace? #hashtag
You can always add additional questions to the audience analysis; just remember that open-ended questions will stimulate discussion amongst the participants.
In session descriptions and information about the speaker or facilitator, it is important to list the speaker’s Twitter handle, so that participants who want to tweet questions about the session can direct them to the speaker. The speaker or facilitator could also provide the hashtags to be used for the session, so that all participants can follow the thread of conversation on Twitter. This information should also be announced at the beginning of the training.
During the Session
As previously mentioned, Twitter can be most valuable as a way to deliver information via the backchannel. As a real-time ongoing conversation using interactive social media tools like Twitter, the backchannel is a great venue for sharing knowledge at a live event. As a facilitator, you can get real-time feedback from your audience, as well as highlight key points from your presentation, and allow additional interaction amongst audience participants. As part of the introduction to your training session, let your audience 1) know that you plan to use the backchannel in your presentation and 2) show how it will be used.
Encourage them to tweet as a way to share their ideas with the group and provide insight from their experiences that enhances the learning event. Questions should also be tweeted as they arise; this can be a great benefit to learning events that have a large number of participants. In many cases, participants may be hesitant to interrupt a speaker to ask a question due to the size or format of the event. Using Twitter as a way to stimulate discussion also gives individuals who typically do not feel comfortable sharing aloud a way to get involved.
As mentioned in the Session Planning section, presenters should display their Twitter handle and appropriate hashtags on an introductory PowerPoint slide, or on a board in the training session. During your introduction, be sure to also explain briefly to the audience how the tweets will be monitored.
Using a Twitter Moderator
To help you monitor the tweets during a session, I strongly recommend having not only a Twitter moderator, but also a Twitter partner or administrator who can tweet for you. These individuals will keep you, as the presenter, from becoming overwhelmed by the flow of information coming from the Twitter stream. Having help will enable you to focus on the presentation and interacting with your live audience.
The Twitter moderator is someone who manages the backchannel so it doesn’t become a distraction or burden to you as a presenter. The moderator should be knowledgeable not only about Twitter, but also your subject matter. The individual should have also heard your presentation before (even if it is a dry-run) so that they know the content and how it will be addressed. The moderator can be given a copy of the slides and outline so that if a question is asked in Twitter that will be answered later in the presentation, they can respond and let the individual know that the question will be addressed shortly.
The moderator should be monitoring the tweets to clarify questions and comments with probing questions like “Why do you ask?” and “Tell me more about your situation.” The moderator should communicate with the presenter when there is a question that should be addressed, or if part of the discussion on Twitter should be mentioned in the live presentation (we can’t assume all audience members are using Twitter during the session).
A great tool for the moderator to privately communicate with the presenter is Today’s Meet (www.todaysmeet.com). First, name your room. This will create a web address for you and your Twitter moderator to communicate. Once you enter your name, the messages can be posted. Direct messaging is another method for private communication during a session. It can be used to clarify comments, or answer a question that would take the session conversation off-track.
The Twitter partner or administrator can reinforce content by posting your pre-planned tweets using your Twitter handle (these are the tweetable sentences that you prepared in the pre-planning stages). You can have these typed up in a Word document for your Twitter partner to cut-and-paste into Twitter when appropriate. Another option is to use the add-in app for PowerPoint from SAP Web 2.0 that will tweet them automatically during your presentation. Still another option is to practice your presentation and time it, so that you can estimate when you will be covering the pre-planned tweets. Then, you can schedule the tweets to be posted at a pre-specified time. Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck. com—requires a down-load for your desktop) and Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) both have this option; Social Oomph is another option with free and professional service options (www.socialoomph. com). The problem with pre-scheduling tweets is that it may not correspond with the discussion in the learning event, as a question from the audience could lead the discussion away from your practiced timeline.
While most of the interaction on Twitter will most likely be from your live audience, there may be individuals outside of your presentation that are attending or listening “virtually” through Twitter. The Twitter partner or moderator can post a quick tweet before the presentation starts, to alert your followers to the event to come.
Following up with your audience is a great way to establish rapport with your participants, and possibly found good relationships. Several types of follow up should be considered:
- A written summary of key points from your session, or a link to a blog article about your session topic or your website address. This can be emailed or posted on Twitter (or both).
- A copy of the session tweets. Archive the tweets. Continue conversations with those on Twitter.
- Provide additional resources or tools to the participants (another item to tweet as a link!).
Remember that after the presentation is concluded, it is good practice to respond to those who asked a question that wasn’t answered during the session.
Evaluating Your Success
Twitter can help you get additional feedback from your audience in several ways. First, presenters can tweet a request to complete a brief feedback survey (I usually give a link to a SurveyMonkey evaluation).
Next, the session tweets can help you evaluate and improve future presentations. Looking at your session transcript, you can assess how the presentation was perceived by the audience. Usually, I first review the tweets to see if my “tweetable sentences” that were prepared in the presentation were retweeted by the audience, indicating that the prompts provided were helpful, and the content resonated with the audience. Here are some questions you can ask yourself while reading through the session tweets:
- Did the audience recognize all of the key pieces of information? If these weren’t tweeted, did the audience not find them important? Do these elements of the presentation need additional discussion or emphasis? If the audience tweeted key data nuggets in a more succinct or effective way, you can make adjustments on your slides and notes to reflect the improvement.
- Did they understand the material? If there are concepts that were confusing, additional explanation or simplifying the content could be helpful.
- If there were tweets about something that was discussed only briefly, it may indicate an area that was interesting to the audience. Future presentations may include additional information about that topic.
- What resonated with them most (look for items that are retweeted)?
- If there weren’t a lot of tweets, it is important to ask why. This will help in making improvements and changes to the presentation for the next learning event.
This article is excerpted from Twitter for Trainers (ASTD Infoline, January 2012). Twitter for Trainers gives readers the tools and information they need to harness Twitters power to spread awareness of your brand, attract potential clients, stay on top of industry news and trends, and share knowledge with your clients and colleagues. By demystifying commonly used terms, such as retweet, hashtag, and trending topic, and explaining how training professionals might leverage these tools and more, Twitter for Trainers packs social media know-how into a quick and easy read.