Incorporating the Twitter backchannel in a presentation

In Using the Twitter backchannel at an event, we looked at how to make use of the Twitter backchannel both as a participant and as a presenter.

On this page we are going to look at how to actively incorporate the backchannel (and hence the audience) in your presentation.  This moves the presentation from one-way delivery to a two-way dialogue with the audience.

Backchannel tools

Firstly, you need to think about the backchannel tool you are going to use In addition to Twitter there are other tools that can be used to create a backchannel (which can also be used to show tweets with a Twitter hashtag), e.g. Backnoise and Today’s Meet

The advantages of using a non-Twitter backchannel are that

  • people don’t have to have an account to use it
  • it can be used independently of any Twitter backchannel

The disadvantages are that

  • anonymous use can more easily post personal comments, off-topic messages, etc
  • some people are more used to using Twitter and will be more familiar with that medium
  • you will have to spend additional time explaining how to use it

Once you have made a decision, you can start to prepare your presentation with using the backchannel in mind. for the purposes of this section of the Guide we will assume that it is to use Twitter as the backchannel.

Here are some suggestions how to engage the audience more with your presentation using Twitter.

1 – Create a hashtag for your presentation

In addition to using the conference hashtag, you could devise your own hashtag.  For example at the recent Online Educa Berlin conference, where the conference hashtag was #oeb, I used the hashtag #oebjh for a presentation I gave.

Display this hashtag on your presentation slides, and explain how you are going to use it. Encourage participation and contribution from the audience. They can ask their own questions or answer yours (see 2 and 3 below). Explain how you will be reviewing the Twitterstream (see 4 below) and who will be involved. Here’s an introductory slide I used in my presentation at Online Educa Berlin.


2 – Ask questions

Place these questions for your audience directly on your presentation slides, as in the example slide below.


3 – Devise tweets for your presentation

These could be the main points of your presentation. You could add them onto your slides tweet them yourself during the presentation This way you become part of the Twitter conversation yourself, e.g.

The 5 categories of social learning are FSL, PDL, GDL, IOL and ASL #pres #conf

Note: Make sure your tweets are easily re-tweetable, in other words allow for RT @yourusername to be added in front of the tweet.

Clearly, trying to type out send out tweets manually during the presentation would not be easy, but there are now a couple of add-ons for Keynote and PowerPoint to do this for you.

AutoTweet – (for PowerPoint by TimoElliott of SAPWeb2.0) Any text between the tags [twitter] and [/twitter] in your slide notes pages will automatically be tweeted as you give your presentation.  You set up your account details in the add-in itself, as well as an account on to authenticate your tweets.  Best to keep auto-tweet OFF until you are ready to present so that you don’t inadvertently send out tweets.  [Full instructions here

Keynote Tweet – works in a similar way for the Mac, text is tweeted when the slide is presented

Another way to include tweets is to schedule them in advance to be posted during your presentation. There are a number of tools to do this, See
Managing multiple accounts: Scheduling tweets

4 – Review the Twitter stream

There are a number of ways that you can review the Twitter stream:

  • as it happens – Use Twitter Ticker (by TimoElliott of SAPWeb2.0) to produce a Twitter ticker on all slides in a PowerPoint presentation. The information needs to be put in the slide master. [Full instructions here]
  • in scheduled Twitter breaks – This will give you time to review the Twitter stream. Here are some tools that you might like to use to view the Twitter stream instead of the normal Twitter real-time stream.  Use Twitter Feedback (by TimoElliott of SAPWeb2.0) to produce a Twitter Feedback slide in PowerPoint (as example below shows) [Full instructions here]


Other tools include:

If you are concerned about the Twitter stream showing “unmoderated” content or tweet-spammes, then there are a number of filtering systems that are useful.

  • TweetChat – you can pause the stream, slow down the refresh rate, and even block users who are tweeting inappropriately
  • – Twitter Fall – you can change the refresh rate and also exclude users.
  • – TidyTweet – helps keep your Twitter feed free from inappropriate language, users, and content (integrates with both Visible Tweets and Twitter Tools above)

Once again you will need to consider in advance how you are going to deal with positive and negative feedback, personal and professional comments.

5 – Use Twitter to invite feedback or vote in a poll

Here is a tool that you can use to collect and display votes from the audience in your PowerPoint

  • Twitter Voting is a tool (by TimoElliott of SAPWeb2.0) that lets you set up different voting options, collect the data via Twitter and display the results in the presentation.


  • Poll Everywhere creates real-time polls at events using mobile devices – they answer using SMS, Twitter or the web. Note: the web-based presentation tool, Sliderocket now supports Poll Everywhere as well as a live Twitter-stream and polling with.  Check out the demo.

6 – Pre-tweet the presentation

In advance and as it begins, to encourage external participation.  You could even invite initial questions.

7 – Encourage tweeting after the presentation

Add follow-up tweets to continue the discussion, answer specific questions from individuals, add links to resources you mention, etc.

8 – Capture the hashtag tweets

Once the presentation is over and the tweeting has died down you can capture all the tweets in a PDF.  Note that the Twitter stream isn’t retained indefinitely though. Use a tool like Tweetdoc


Jane Hart blogs about how she planned, prepared for and delivered a collaborative keynote at ILTA’s EdTech 10 conference in Athlone, Ireland in May 2010: Using Twitter to deliver a collaborative keynote

Nancy White reflects on the keynote she gave at the Instructional Technology Council’s annual gathering in February 2010: Online facilitation, Twitter, backchannel and keynotes

Further reading

The Backchannel: How audiences are using Twitter and social media and changing presentations forever (via Cliff Atkinson, 2009

How to present with Twitter and other backchannels, (PDF) Olivia Mitchell, 20 November 2009

Use Twitter in your next presentation, Business Week, 15 December 2009

Should you display the live Twitter stream on the big screen?, Olivia Mitchell, Pistachio, 2 June 2009

6 Steps for using Twitter for your conference or event, TwiTip, 28 February 2009