Last night I attended my first KM4Dev (Rome) informal gathering in a quirky little joint just off Piazza Navona. Michael Riggs of the Food and Agriculture Organization and Roxanna Samii of the International Fund for Agriculture Development shared their take on the uneasy role of social media at the WSIS conference at which they presented in May this year. My mental capacity was a bit stunted by the two gin tonic, but this is what I can recall of what was shared:
- a few presenters who were speaking on social media admitted they didn’t know much about it
- one panelist who knew what he was talking about pulled out a twitter wall which showed scathing tweets about those clueless presenters
- at one point the organiser tried to pull down the twitter wall but was stopped by that valiant panelist
- fellow twitterers sought each other out at the conference
- people not physically at the conference were following the proceedings through tweets and participated in the Q&A session through SMS
All this is very amusing but probably not for those presenters who were called out by the twitterers. There is no escaping this groundswell of participatory engagement, so they might as well learn to live with it. I have had conference delegates asking me for the hashtag and sometimes even free wifi so that they can tweet. Presenters have to learn not just how to engage with their audience more but also how to deal – in real time – with tweet comments that tend to be more forthright and less sugar coated than face-to-face query.
On a lighter note, Piazza Navona is a lovely place to spend a summer evening. Nine of us showed up. Two Africans, one Iranian, one Italian, one Indian, one American, one British, one Malaysian and one Singaporean. Four Brazilian tourists asked me where we were from, and I replied, “the United Nations of course”.
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