Should Twitter be Banned at Conferences?

Yes, according to Joseph Jaffe. In episode JJTV #60, Jaffe pledges to personally escort disrespectful tweeters out of any conference he’s attending.

It’s a known fact that I dislike online video, but I was curious to see what Jaffe’s reasoning was. Was it that attendees are too busy on their phone to be fully paying attention? That truly great insights can’t be captured in 140 character sound-bytes, and when an audience of hundreds is parroting the same quotes, it’s questionable if there are any real insights being gleaned?

YouTube - JJTV #60 - Twitter Should Be Banned At ConferencesAs perhaps should have been expected, Jaffe is primarily concerned with the impact on the speakers. Either speakers are ‘left out’ of the conversation as tweeters are sharing commentary in real time, or in some cases they’re being expected to follow along with the tweetstream and respond. He also touches on the financial implications: tweeting attendees have paid for the privilege of learning; those following on Twitter have not.

What’s interesting about this issue is how others are impacted. Social media is ‘opt-in’: someone can choose to follow the hashtag to be a part of the conversation, or not. Individuals around me are not whispering or passing notes, they’re simply typing. (Yes, I will admit that I was once told that my typing annoyed another conference attendee: I was taking notes for my blog and she later thanked me when she went back to read them). If someone doesn’t wish to engage in the chatstream, they obviously have the choice not to.

So, I’ve identified reasons Twitter negatively impacts the audience experience, and Jaffe highlights the speaker’s challenges. But are we all so caught up in ‘being connected’, that we feel an obligation to engage even if it results in a poorer experience?

And ultimately, justified or not, is it really even possible to expect that Twitter will be disallowed at conferences, either officially or socially?

6 thoughts on “Should Twitter be Banned at Conferences?

  • As someone who is on the unwanted receiving end of conference tweets from people I follow, until I can specify #words that I don’t want to appear in my stream, I say yes.

    Follow me on twitter: melissabernais

  • This is a great post. Although I agree with some of the points offered, I would like to specifically address the paying attendees vs. non paying public issue.

    As a young woman just a few years out of college, I find it impossible to get time off and pay for the conferences that I would like to attend. Most of the tech conferences on my wishlist are not related to my job, so I would have to shoulder the financial burden of travel, etc.

    For example, I followed #leweb on twitter and learned some valuable insights that wil help me as I build my career in the tech industry. Someday I would like to start my own company, and it in invaluable to me to be able to follow conferences like FOWA and LeWeb on social media.

    Twitter will never be disallowed at conferences anyway.

    Follow me on twitter: invinciblekate

  • Melissa: I’m honestly surprised someone hasn’t figure that out yet: basically setting spam filters for tweets. I suppose the idea is that since you opt in to whoever you follow, you don’t need it, but I do think the idea of muting specific tweets or topics would be great.

    I’d start with blocking references to political leaders, tiger woods and reality tv.

    Follow me on twitter: afhill262

  • Kate: With the sheer volume of conferences held every year, it’s not really feasible for people to attend everything they need/want. I’d argue that part of the benefits to attending a conference are beyond the information presented, so I don’t see Twitter as somehow being the reason people decide to stay at home rather than attending something. On the flip side, it actually can help speakers who can ensure their messages are further disseminated.

    Follow me on twitter: afhill262

  • In the aspect of people receiving information they didn’t pay for, I’m sure that can happen with regular note taking as easily with Twitter, although the note taking cannot be shared as instantly. But if they can ban videoing and recording, they certainly could take the initiative to ban tweeting.

    I think that tweeting may take away from the experience for the attendee though. You’re reading tweets and responding, but not paying full attention to the speaker that you (or your company) paid money to hear. That seems a bit silly.

    ~ Kristi

    Follow me on twitter: kikolani

  • As Kristi seemed to focus in on, I think the issue people receiving information they didn’t pay for is an interesting one. It brings me back to the concept of freemium and how it is essentially inevitable in competitive markets that price approaches marginal cost which in the case of information is close to zero.

    Still, tweeting at conferences to any significant degree strikes me as plain silly.

    Follow me on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/simianz

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