Last year I attended the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) 2013 Annual Conference and Exposition in Chicago. Over 15,100 people in attendance. Extraordinary keynoters like Blake Mycoskie and Dan Pink. Content-rich breakout sessions. (With any luck, attendees thought the breakout that Gary Jones and I co-led was one of them.) Throughout it all, to my dismay, there was a whole lotta tweetin’ going on.
In July of 2011, Charles H. Green and I engaged in The Great Twitter Debate on our She Said, He Said post on Trust Matters. I was transparent back then about the mixed feelings I had about Twitter—wrestling with issues of distraction, inauthenticity, superficiality, and more.
I must admit Charlie made some great points in that blog post. And yet, I still wrestle with some of these things two years later. I wrestled with them again at SHRM in Chicago, where Tweeting was encouraged and rewarded, even, with re-posted tweets on the ginormous screens in the main hall for all 15,000+ to see. (I confess to being tempted to tweet something so that I, too, could see my name in lights.)
I felt torn about the emphasis on tweeting, as both a participant struggling to stay focused and a presenter endeavoring to really engage people. So I inserted a slide early on in our presentation deck with the following graphic:
I told the nearly 700 people in our breakout how thrilled I would be if they got something so valuable from our session that they wanted to tweet about it. Then I asked them to kindly do it at 11:16am, one minute after our presentation ended.
I said my request was less about my narcissistic need for their undivided attention (though I admitted I did indeed have a narcissistic need for their undivided attention) and more about my desire that we all practice a level of attentiveness and focus that is (a) rare in today’s business world and (b) essential if we want to have the kind of influence and impact in our business relationships that we claim to want. (At The Get Real Project, we suggest that there are five core skills for getting real in your business relationships, including Listen, Partner, and Improvise—none of which can be mastered while multi-tasking.)
I don’t know if I did the right thing by the audience with my request, or if it made a difference for them. I do know it at least felt more internally consistent for me to make that request. And I’m pretty sure I’ll do it again as I prepare to speak at this year’s conference.
What say you?