Frank Eliason, currently SVP of Social Media for Citibank, was an early proponent of using social media to extend customer service. He speaks 20-30 times a year, drawing upon his groundbreaking work as the original voice of @ComcastCares and knows more than most about the challenges of speaking in the social media era. I caught up with Frank at the Pivot conference in New York.
DN: Do you find it harder to engage an audience than it was 3-5 years ago before WiFI connectivity was a conference mandatory?
In my view, having a connected audience is better, especially because they help to spread the word to others. This spread of message is the ROI for participating in events like Pivotcon.
DN: At Pivot, at least 3/4 of the audience seemed to have a laptop or iPad open while you were speaking.
Do you find yourself wanting to say, hey turn those devices off and pay attention? Never. In fact many times when I present I have an iPhone, iPad or other device open on stage allowing me to see what others are saying. It is fun to respond to a tweet when I am on stage and it personalizes the interaction with the audience.
DN: Would it be worth trying to get the audience to shut down their devices momentarily while you speak?
I’d much rather have the broader reach, it is one of the better measurements of speaking at events.
DN: Knowing that your audience is on Twitter while you speak, are you thinking while you write your speech—gee that line will make a great tweet?
I tend to prefer a conversational style, so I do not think about that as much. The one thing it has changes about the way I present, is I no longer prepare slides especially because the audience is not looking up as much. I do try to be more animated in the way I speak to ensure I have their attention.
DN: Are social media conferences harder to engage than say a group of bankers who aren’t necessarily trying to be the first to share what they just heard?
I find them easier, but sometimes you have to go where they are engaging, such as on Twitter.
DN: Do you get any feedback from these events and if so, why kind of adjustments have you made based on this feedback?
My favorite feedback is directly from the audience via Twitter, or in person. I do also get feedback from conference organizers. When I get this feedback, I love to read verbatims, which often conflict with others in the stack, but this comes down to we all have very different ways of learning, so different styles help. I think it is important for organizers to try to have diversity in presentation style.