The Great Presentation Divide

One thing I’ve noticed speaking at things like Filmmakers Get Social: the film industry has a lot in common with the music industry and with business when it comes to social media. What I mean by that is that every event seems evenly divided at this point in the game between those who’ve been aware of social media concepts for years but perhaps not using them effectively, and those who just woke up to the fact that 3+ year old Twitter and other tools are out there at all and still need 101 level help.

It’s incredibly difficult to tailor a talk or panel to a room evenly divided between the more advanced users and the social media “noobs”. I like to think I do a good job, but I know I leave as frustrated as my audience when I’ve spent an hour or two trying to address both sides of the coin. Workshops and seminars I offer, educational things I do like PodCamp NH and classes and seminars via Magnitude Media do address the issue,  but only a few people at a time.

Learning how to take the temperature of the room at the start and how to read the crowd as you go helps a bit as well, but even then you have half of the room who thinks you’re going too fast dispensing information (and this while your discussing the basic trifecta of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and not even scratching the surface of the much cooler, more advanced stuff), and the other half who craves more detail, more help – more meat.

My call to action in this post for event planners: make a conscious effort to offer two tracks for your attendees if possible: 101 and Senior Thesis, so to speak. Then take it a step further and really screen the folks in each. Don’t be afraid to gently suggest to someone that they may want to attend the other workshop or session based on their knowledge level or skill set. I know social media is all about helping each other out, but at some point that comes with a cost for the more advanced folks in the room as every discussion devolves to answer simple questions.

My call to action for speakers and teachers in this space: let’s make our own tracks when the event planners don’t do it for us. If you want to teach advanced tools, and you have a room of advanced level folks ready to learn that includes  a few 101 level students, set the time up to reduce questions (offer to take them at the end, for example) and allow yourself to teach to the advanced level. If a 101 level student wants to insert a question that will veer the discussion off course, gently remind them that questions will be at the end – don’t allow them to derail the discussion for others. Then at the end, offer to help them with their questions between sessions or over drinks at the after party. If, on the other hand, your room is full of beginning social media stars, teach to that level, and make the same offer of a more in depth discussion to the handful of advanced users who may be in the room.

If you are speaking or educating in this space and are careful with your time, aware of your audience and perceptive, you can make a room of mixed knowledge attendees happy. It just takes care and practice.

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