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Your audience is fairly social-media savvy, so you’re thinking about using Twitter to engage the audience during your panel discussion.  Sounds pretty simple and straightforward, right?  Just project the twitter feed where you show ONLY the tweets with the designated meeting hashtag and then you just pull comments off the feed!

Ummm….it’s not so simple as that.  You really want to think this through.

So here’s how I like to use Twitter, and you can use the same system for SMS/Texting:

First, since I want to focus on the conversation, I’ll ask a colleague or support person that I trust to be the “ombudsman” to monitor the “back channel” of tweets or text messages. I give the ombudsman specific permission to interrupt if there are any issues or questions that need to be addressed at any time during the panel discussion.

Midpoint during the session, I’ll check in with the ombudsman and ask, “What’s the buzz?” or “What are people liking or not liking?” I’ll also ask if there are any issues that need clarification.

And if you can’t find an ombudsman, you can periodically monitor the tweets or text messages through your smartphone or laptop. This can be hard to do while listening intently to the discussion, so think about taking a “Twitter Break” every 10-15 minutes to check the back channel.

Then, be prepared to shift the course of the discussion and adapt based on what you see in the back channel!

You can also ask a few Twitterers to step forward to share their tweets (both positive and negative) with the entire audience.

And if you are brave, you can display the backchannel on a screen that everyone (including you) can see. While this can be visibly distracting for some, and others will submit asinine tweets (Hi Dad!), you can respond immediately to any issues that come up. As a precaution, explain how you will respond to the Twitter stream at the beginning of the panel discussion, and they will be more likely to use it responsibly.


For more resources on how to make meetings, panels, and room sets better, make sure to check out this knowledge vault which is chock-full of customizable checklists, worksheets, templates, agendas, sample emails, video interviews and webinars with industry icons and professional moderators.

Related Articles:

10 Ways Panel Moderators Can Manage Time Effectively During a Panel Discussion

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

Tip #78 with Joe Calloway: How to Make Panelists Feel Comfortable During a Panel Discussion

Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high-stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.


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Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.
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