For this month’s newsletter, we interviewed Michelle Sara King, President and CEO of King Consults, to learn more about how public speakers can use social media to engage with their audiences before, during, and after a speech, presentation, or panel discussion.

During our interview, Michelle guided us through the best practices and also the biggest mistakes speakers make.

As a general rule, you want to be so engaging as a speaker that people put down their phones and listen. However, sometimes you can engage your audience even more by having them take out their phones and participate.

Michelle says, “I’ve been on both sides, as a panel moderator and as an audience member. As an audience member, I’ve tweeted questions and then heard them asked live during the event. It feels like direct engagement. When you’re a moderator, sometimes you see people on their phone and wonder if they are actually interested in the conversation or if they’re just on their phone… It’s really interesting to see people’s tweets and know that they are actually engaged.

A few months ago, I moderated an event for the American Society of Association Executives on doing business in Korea. I posted on Twitter before the event, engaged with people, and encouraged them to register. During the event, we had a dialogue on Twitter and people tweeted questions out that I could answer in real time.”

Here are Michelle’s tips to engage your audience using social media:

  • Do your research beforehand. Start following the organization and the other speakers’ Twitter handles before the event. Retweet or like their tweets, Direct Message them, and retweet any relevant follow-up tweets.
  • Post on social media before the event to encourage people to follow you and the event ahead of time. You can say, “Excited to attend next week’s event on XYZ!” with a link to the event page.
  • Send sample tweets to the event organizers. Include 3-4 sample tweets in your pre-event preparation materials so you ensure that the organizers promote your main messages.
  • Make it easy to find you online. Put your social media handles on printed materials, your slides, event signage, and even your business card.
  • Use hashtags. Use the event hashtag or create your own in addition, to let your brand stand out. That way, you can more effectively focus on your own perspective and you can continue using the hashtag even after the event to engage with people.
  • Guide your audience. Speakers and moderators should directly invite the audience to engage through social media. Keep the request goal-focused and action-oriented, such as “Send us your questions and we’ll answer them live.”
  • Answer questions in real time. If you ask people to tweet questions at you in real time, make sure you respond in real time to the entire audience. Both the speech and social media should feel like a real conversation with your audience. If you ask them to tweet for follow up after the event, be available to respond later on.
  • Continue the discussion. The most successful events are ones that continue the discussion or lead to follow-up activity. If you present unique solutions to challenging problems during the speech, keep your online audience updated as you implement those solutions.

At Global Public Speaking, we always encourage practicing before an event. In addition to the above tips, we recommend you build social media into your pre-event practice. You can invite a friend or colleague to tweet questions at you to simulate answering in real time.

Although Twitter is the most effective engagement tool to use during presentations, LinkedIn and Facebook can also be useful in engaging audiences before and after events. Use these platforms to post pre-event information and a summary along with a few quotes or photos from the event. Facebook Live can also be a great way to engage with a virtual audience and continue the conversation going forward.

When should you not use social media? 

  • When it’s off the record. The “record” now includes public sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
  • When the content is sensitive. “I go to events focused on cyber security or intelligence, and I don’t tweet from those events.” – Michelle
  • During internal meetings. To engage in a high-level or confidential discussion of an issue or strategy, people need to feel comfortable that their ideas will remain confidential.

What are the biggest mistakes speakers make when using social media?

  • Misquoting audience members or fellow speakers. The challenge in using social media at events is making sure you’re accurate. Don’t use a direct quote unless you’re sure of the wording. And if you’re going to quote an audience member, ask their permission first.
  • Not following up. Follow-up is key to gaining trust and credibility with your audience. If they ask questions on social media, answer them in a timely manner.
  • Using too many hashtags for one event. The fewer hashtags and handles you use, the easier it will be for the audience to engage with you.
  • And at Global Public Speaking, we’ll add this one: Not understanding social media before getting on stage. Familiarizing yourself with these tools in advance is critical.

Thank you, Michelle Sara King, for sharing your knowledge with our Global Public Speaking community. You can find Michelle at ASAE and Women in Government Relations events or networking in the Washington, DC area. Links for Michelle’s social platforms are below:

Twitter: @MSKinDC


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