Learnings from Tweetchats

Yesterday I hosted a Tweetchat for a client. The idea is simple: you set aside an hour, adopt a hashtag and talk about your given subject. Ideally you use a platform like crowdchat.net, which automates the hashtag for you. I had three experts on hand and it went well.

Some things to bear in mind if you want to do this yourself:

  • I grant you this will sound like vested interests talking, but it really does help to have someone on hand whose sole focus is to keep the thing going, fill in any lulls and ensure people are welcomed. If you’re the subject of the chat, you won’t have time.
  • Preparation is everything. In previous Tweetchats I’ve started off asking the experts to introduce themselves and there was a pause while they typed their responses. It can’t be difficult to type yourself a quick intro so that you can cut and paste it onto Twitter and get the intros out of the way swiftly – and establish some sort of pace for the event.
  • Likewise, send a few questions to the moderator in advance. He/she can cut and paste these to fill any lulls and it will take only a second, maintaining the impetus. Oh and for goodness’ sake read the questions carefully rather than decide on the day that they look peculiar or are difficult to answer. On at least one occasion I’ve managed to stump an expert with a question that they (or more likely their agency) had sent me only the previous week.
  • If you’re sending a question to the moderator in advance, have a cut and paste answer ready rather than allow for another pause. Try to leave the answer open to some debate – your objective is to engage with people and get them talking.
  • You’re likely to be on a conference call with the moderator while the thing is running. Stuff can happen in the background so if you need to have a conversation with someone else, put yourself on mute rather than distract everyone else. Also, listen to what the other people are saying: on more than one occasion I’ve drawn people’s attention to a question, someone has confirmed they’re answering it and a minute later someone else has asked whether anyone has seen the question we’d just spent time discussing…

And if you’re the moderator, remember your job is logistics and being alert to the imperative that everybody has to have their questions answered. The hour will zip past unless there’s a lull – in which case three seconds’ pause will feel like a lifetime…

Do you need help with Tweetchats or any other element of communication? Let’s talk – email me by clicking here.

MCs and Compères – give it some thought

I go to a number of conferences for my work, and I MC or compère a few. I’m gearing up for another now and here are some of the things I’ve seen going wrong at others – I’ll be watching for them:

  • No-shows from speakers. How many times have you had a speaker agree to turn up and find something better to do on the day? Or not turn up because of illness, or a misunderstanding? Your MC had better have an emergency keynote speech in his or her back pocket. It might not be utterly brilliant but if it fills the gap and offers something of value, the audience will be happy enough and won’t know there was a disaster behind the scenes.
  • Lack of audience control. I attended a conference last year hosted by a brilliant businesswoman – no, she was highly reputable – whose idea of getting the audience’s attention after coffee was to stand there with the microphone going “Ssh” repeatedly. The audience behaved eventually but they weren’t happy. Microphone close to the mouth and “Ladies and gentlemen we are about to start again, please take your places” is better – the voice fills the auditorium but you’re speaking quietly so it sounds respectful.
  • Timings. Oh good grief, timings. I’ve been up as “next speaker” to find the speaker before me overrunning by five minutes and announcing “I know I’m overrunning but this next bit’s important” and going on for another 20. Of course I cut my speech down – I don’t think I’m important as speaker, however I think the fact that people will find their lunch ruined or the coffee cold is vital. That’s what they’ll Tweet about and never mind the “importance” of a speaker of whom they’d never heard before they turned up. The MC on the day just sat there.
  • Timings 2: Controlling speakers is difficult and the audience can think it’s hilarious. A few years ago I was chairing one of the streams at Social Media World Forum, and we had the CEO of a guitar company as a speaker. We knew we were in trouble when a) his PR team told me it was my job to get him upstairs to a panel discussion for midday (my job??? Hello, you’re his PR team..?) and b) he started his speech talking about Elvis and Johnny Cash and how they never had social media. Ten minutes after he was supposed to finish I had to intercede, reminding him he had a panel: “But I’m not finished with these folks,” he told me. He reluctantly came off stage and I thought he was going to the other hall, but he stopped again: “Can we get a photo together..?” so we had to stop for a pic. I need hardly add that the audience in my auditorium loved every second of my discomfort; the audience waiting for him in the panel session might have felt very differently.
  • AV: I’m not an AV man but a competent MC absolutely keeps an eye on the AV people, brings coffees, makes sure they’re happy – they can make a good conference spectacular. I was at an event this year at which the speakers were on a low stage so difficult to see already and the lighting was poor so they were quite indistinct. The hosts had saved money by bringing their own audio kit and from the back the sound was indistinct. It’s an old trope but if you think it’s expensive to use a professional, see what it costs you (at least in terms of reputation) if you don’t.

That’s why I have my seven-point system as an MC when I’m working on an event. If you’d like me to come and help with yours, have a look at my Speaker/MC/Compere page by clicking here or just drop me a line by clicking here and we’ll talk.


No I won’t speak at your event or write for you for “exposure”

Here is a big cheesy picture of me speaking at last year’s Guardian Small Business Awards, which I was very pleased to host. My ears are smaller in real life I promise. I speak a lot and as you’ll gather from my presence at Guardian event, I write for the Guardian quite a bit too (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise).

One thing that paper, which goes to just over a quarter of a million people and which has a lot of prestige, has never asked me to do is to write for nothing. The exposure, a handful of other would-be clients tell me, will be invaluable. I get people asking me to speak or write because the readership or people attending the event will be useful contacts and may well offer me some work.

The logic is so flawed it’s jaw-dropping – but let’s run through it for a moment.


So, you want me to speak at your event. That’s fine, as long as I can add some value I’d love to. You only want me for half an hour and it’s going to lead to good exposure, you tell me. You don’t see that paying for only half an hour is a realistic expectation.

OK. As long as that half an hour speech is in my living room, I agree, it will only be half an hour. I warn you, though, you won’t get a particularly good audience in there. Parking for a crowd is terrible. A better idea would be to get me to go somewhere, in which case I’m going to have to allow for around half a day.

I’d probably better practice the speech as well. Oh, and maybe write it and do some PowerPoint, or at least know where I’m going with it. Hopefully by this time you’ll note that “half an hour” is no such thing, and that’s before I start to consider my price based on experience or relevance.

But what about the audience, you say? They might book me and they will be very useful contacts apparently. Well, fine, but this audience is watching me speak for nothing in your scenario. They won’t expect to pay me to go and do the same thing again at their event.

Sometimes I hear the argument that the audience isn’t paying to come to an event so there can be no fee; I suggest the audience should pay and the speaker fee should come from that, and I get told that the audience wouldn’t wear it. So now I’m expected to take part for nothing in an event with an audience that might hire me but actually doesn’t have the budget to attend the event in the first place.

You see how this doesn’t add up? Of course some speakers do it, but they tend to end up selling to the audience because they’ve got to make the event worthwhile for them. You don’t want me to come in focused on my business and thinking of your audience as my marketplace, you want me to add genuine value and to be focused entirely on your event.


Writing for your blog or publication is much the same. You want to take advantage of my time and experience to add value, you have to pay me to do so unless you’re a mate trying to start a business and need some content – I’ve done plenty of those – or you work for a charity I want to support. My dad died of a heart attack when he was younger than I am now, and if the British Heart Foundation ever needs any favours free of charge the door is firmly open.

If you’re a commercial concern, though, if you want to make a profit out of content  you want to extract from me or my colleagues, please don’t patronise us by claiming a payment isn’t necessary because we’ll get exposure or make useful connections.

There can be ways around the problem. If you genuinely don’t have budget but can offer me good pictures for this website, or a video for my showreel, I may well consider it. If you have no budget for speakers but are offering a goody bag to 500 delegates, I can get a deal on one of my books and extract my value in that way. 

But please, don’t sit in an office being paid for your time and ask us to work for free – that suggests you value your time at something and mine at nothing. See why it doesn’t go down well? The highest profile clients, including the Guardian, never ask.

For information on booking Guy Clapperton as a speaker or event moderator click here.

Pitching: it’s not about you (or your client)

I had a fine afternoon media training yesterday and in one of the exercises the PR team pitched their event to me. The idea was that they needed to get journalists to their show in another country, so they tried their real live pitches on me. Some were pretty good.

They all had the content. They told me about:

  • Speakers
  • Previous successes of the event
  • Other contacts in the audience

So, so far, so good. Except I would never have attended in a zillion years.

It’s not about ego, but…

If you’re talking to journalists, you need to be talking to us about our readers. Before we do anything at all we need to know there will be something in it for them, or else there will be no point in engaging.

Think of it as a headline and some bullet points. If your headline is “we think our event will be really interesting” then great, I hope you do – if you don’t, nobody else will. It won’t engage my attention, though, and I’m unlikely to attend. Massage that slightly to “your magazine covers X subject and there will be exclusive content at my event” and I’m slightly interested. Add “Your readers have shown interest in such and such a topic and the world specialist will be speaking exclusively for us” and I’ve gone past “interested” and am bordering on “fascinated”.

Then you introduce the detail. Who exactly will be there, what they’ll be speaking about and above all whether I can get some time with them away from other hacks – I’m looking for an exclusive story rather than something everyone else has as well.

Then feed me some proof points. At last year’s event, company X succeeded in getting its first round of funding, so it’s a heavyweight event (this is a real example from yesterday’s pitch).

Journalists get swamped with requests for our time so “no thanks” is still the easiest default answer. However, structure your pitch around my readers rather than around what’s important to you, and it’s a lot more difficult for me to write off immediately.

Guy Clapperton’s media training offering can be found by clicking here.