I recall the conference organiser asking me “what will you talk about?” when he called me up to invite me to speak.
At the time, I couldn’t think straight because the office was noisy. The first thing that jumped to mind was Twitter. As we explored the topic together, my mind raced and I blurted out, “Hey, I’ll do a real live tweet chat! I’ll explain how these tweet chats work and how they can be used to connect with a network!”
I had to explain what I meant. The long pauses on the other end of the phone made me realise that to some conference organisers, the concept of hashtags and twitter conversations is foreign.
“Trust me,” I said. “Let me get some thoughts on paper and write you a paragraph, come up with a hashtag and you can market this in your brochures and website! You’ll see what I mean on the day! It’ll be fun!”
(Famous last words).
And so the idea mulled in my head for a few months. (I don’t do things on the spur of the moment).
I came up with a hashtag #learnworktweet that was going to be used specifically for this audience. The key theme was going to be using Twitter to be the bridge to connections to people who you can learn from.
My main goal was: If I was to just leave everyone with a key lasting message was, “It’s just a tool. Don’t be afraid of it. Use it to your own advantage to connect with people who share your interests and passions.”
If I stuffed everything else up on stage on the day, if I had just communicated the message above – then I should pat myself on my back. I would have achieved my aim.
I wanted to demonstrate Twitter rather than talk about how I used it.
I didn’t want to be the lecturer who talked at people telling them they should do this or that without them at least having a go on it and making up their own minds if this was a tool that they could use for their own contexts. I just had to show them enough for them to have an “A-Ha” moment so they too could explore the potential of this tool in whatever way they wanted – whether it was for connecting with others in learning, antique clocks or whatever passion.
So when my time came to talk, I was introduced to the stage and I talked about my ‘Knit Chat’ story which was my introduction to Twitter through connecting with knitters around the world. Here is the slideshow that I used.
I encouraged everyone to “take out their phones, mobile devices and fire up their laptops because I WANTED them to use them” (strange, quizzical looks but you should have seen how fast those devices came out of bags).
I wanted the audience to be involved in a real live tweet chat where we were going to tweet about ourselves, our work and hopefully connect ‘in person’ outside that door during afternoon tea.
During the presentation, I explained what tweetchats were, how to read a Twitter thread and how to participate in tweetchats. I wrote the question and explained how to answer it while constantly refreshing the screen to see the thread of conversations. I saw people who had connected into the tweetchat from overseas and explained that this conversation was now global and social.
I think this is where many people had their ‘A Ha’ moments – and it really felt like the conference proceedings had ‘moved’ from that point on as the back channel then fired up for the rest of the event.
One small tweet, one hashtag, a collection of ‘a-has’ and…inspiration.
After the presentation, many people had thanked me for showing them how to use Twitter. Others had used Twitter for some years but had never realised how to use it in this manner. I sent out a tweet with some dates and times of current Learn Chats happening in Twitter and encouraged people to join in on the conversation.
So what did I learn out of all this?
People do have fears and anxieties. In a world where technology is pervading our everyday lives, I understand the hesitation and concern – the underlying angst about what these mean to our lives and our work. But the one thing that will remain true is that we are social creatures. We need others to show us the way but it’s up to us to make these tools work for us in whatever context we want. We can use these tools to connect with people who will challenge and inspire us because in doing so, we get inspired, energised and we then begin to see the world differently.