Living in the backchannel has led us down a path of what it is like to connect with people before you leave for a conference, how the knowledge sharing in the backchannel could become overwhelming and fulfilling, and how contributing to the backchannel led to a more focused approach to note taking during sessions. Now, in the finale of the series, I will share with you what happens when the backchannel becomes a reality channel.
It started with the keynote speech during lunch which featured not only a panel including Dr. Susan Komives but a table including Chris Conzen (@clconzen), Becca Obergefell (@OberBecca), Fred Kuo (@FredjKuo), and Robyn Kaplan (@Rkaplan13). Immediately the smart devices came out and the others at our table were curious about what we were doing. They listened to our explanation of Twitter, how we used it, and how it was a resource. By the end of the keynote, they had signed up and started tweeting but the best was yet to come…
With the keynote coming to a close, the moderator offered up a Q &A session for the audience. This meant the opportunity to ask Dr. Komives a question and get the answer straight from her, IN REAL LIFE! I was overwhelmed, I had no questions. So I did what any Twitter savvy person might do…I went to the backchannel and the backchannel didn’t disappoint.
I stood up and addressed Dr. Komives, “Hi, this question is for Dr. Komives coming to you via Twitter actually from Cindy Kane at Bridgewater State….” Snickering, she answered the question, commenting that she knew Cindy and that she didn’t know how to use Twitter but perhaps she would learn. I immediately offered to teach her if she’d like which was greeted with some subtle laughter from the audience. Nonetheless, it had happened, Twitter was brought to the forefront and people were now aware of the power behind it – the backchannel was in real life. (Social media side note: Dr. Komives mentioned that she knew Cindy because they are Facebook friends.) Still, the best was yet to come…
Throughout day 2 of the conference a tweetup was being planned and organized throughout sessions and the lunch, this would be the backchannel in real life to the nth degree. After sessions, a select group of professionals milled about the second floor lobby trying to match faces to Twitter profile pictures. At first it was like a massive blind date; you had known this person via Twitter, conversed with them via Twitter, now it was time to get together and talk. After a few familiar faces popped up and a few tweets searching for people as they stood on opposite sides of the lobby were sent – the tweetup was underway. For almost 45 minutes, opinions, knowledge, wisdom, ideas, thoughts, stories, tweets, and a few “who should I follow?” answers traveled within the amoeba shaped ring of professionals. This was the power of Twitter. It had brought conference attendees whose only contact with each other (for the most part) had been electronic communication (some of whom only knew of each other for a matter of hours!) together. This was one of the most unique experiences LEI 2010 offered yet it wasn’t on the schedule, it was purely attendee driven, and it was organized via Twitter. It had empowered new professionals, re-energized seasoned professionals, and inspired all to utilize the backchannel in the future.
As I am out of words for this post, I will leave you with an image courtesy of Mike Severy (@MikeSevery), showing upwards of over a dozen professionals networking and discussing leadership topics in more than 140 characters and in real life at the tweetup. The backchannel had become a reality channel.
Joe Ginese (@JoeGinese) is the Director of Student Activities and Orientation at Nichols College in Dudley, MA.