It seems recently that the media watching world (whether they want to or not) are finding out about a technology that some of us have been attached to for quite some time. Twitter. Let me assume that you too are familiar or have at least heard of the  140 character microblogging phenomenon. If you have never actually tried it you have certainly heard about some of our Congressmen Twittering during the Obama address and other interesting moments in Twitter history that seem to be hitting the news with greater abundance as of late. And if you speak in public don’t be fooled, someone has undoubtly Twittered about you.

You may wonder why you should care about Twitter. This, I believe depends on your social needs and/or your professional expectations. I for one do not feel the need to announce to the world that I am about to wreck my diet on a pizza while watching a bad chick flick but I did recently feel the need to ask my community of professionals who are on Twitter if they know of any active library Facebook accounts that I can follow because we are interested in starting one. My Twitter community also keeps me up to date on the latest breaking tech news, conference chatter and  blog posts that are making the techy librarians buzz. For me, it’s all about my network.

Additionally, if you are a presenter of any kind there is a good chance that if your audience is at all tech savvy they will be Twittering about you during your presentation. Although on it’s face this may seem terribly rude and quite a distraction there are recent blog posts that have been talking about how to harness this backchannel of conversation for good. For example, Tamar Weinberg Olivia Mitchell wrote on the Pistachio Consulting blog about “How to Present While People are Twittering” which gives a great explanation about why people Twitter during presentations and how you can embrace the heard and use those Twitters for good. Olivia Mitchell also wrote a post recently called “8 Things I learnt about using Twitter as a Participation Tool” which is actually a tutorial on how you get those Twitters onto your presentation screen and use them as an interactive tool to enhance the quality of the experience for all. She even gives useful tips like “Let go of the illusion that you might know more than the audience”.

The fact is backchannel conversations will not be going away, weather people are IMing, Twittering or typing notes, people are going to be increasingly occupied with an electronic device while you speak whether it is at a conference, meeting room or in a classroom. I believe the key is not to fight it but to embrace it, communication looks different these days and if you want to be a communicator you won’t get very far any longer unless you go with the new flow and use these tools to your advantage.