spectacle at Web2.0 Expo… from my perspective

It’s fairly common for speakers at high-tech events to give their talks in front of a screen that displays a Twitter stream. The snarky backchannel compliments a speaker whose goal is to be provocative or entertaining, but what happens when the speaker is aiming for subtlety and complex understanding? Here’s a story of how the backchannel led an experienced speaker to self-combust.

The Twitter stream was initially upset that I was talking too fast.
My first response to this was: OMG, seriously? That was it? Cuz that’s
not how I read the situation on stage. So rather than getting through
to me that I should slow down, I was hearing the audience as saying
that I sucked. And responding the exact opposite way the audience
wanted me to. This pushed the audience to actually start critiquing me
in the way that I was imagining it was…. The Twitter stream had become the center of attention, not
the speaker. Not me.
Yes, I cried. Yes, I left Web2.0 Expo devastated. I hate giving a
bad talk but I also felt like I was being laughed at. People tried to
smooth it over, to tell me that I was OK, that it wouldn’t matter, that
they liked the talk. But no amount of niceness from friends or
strangers could make up for the 20 minutes in which I was
misinterpreting the audience and berating myself. —dana boyd