How Twitter is Like Public Speaking

By Laura Bergells on
  • “I just don’t know what I would say…”
  • “I can’t believe anybody would care…”
  • “I think I’ll make a fool out of myself…”

Speechwriters and presentation coaches often hear these three objections from new clients. Today, I hear the same objections from clients when they talk about approaching Twitter.

Stage fright? It’s being replaced with Twitter fright.

It makes sense, in an odd way. Twitter, in part, is a public speaking platform.

It’s much more, of course: it’s a public listening platform as well. And it’s much less, of course: each Twitter utterance is limited to 140 characters.

Fundamentally, Twitter is a new and growing communication platform. Learning to communicate well on Twitter may be every bit as essential as polishing and honing your public speaking and presentation skills.

When I hear someone who has yet to try Twitter say,

“I just don’t know what I would say…” — I often ask them to listen first. Use Twitter Search to find people who are Tweeting about topics that interest you. Or use Twitter Search advanced to find people in your local community who are tweeting about local events and issues. It’s easier to enter a conversation that’s already in progress about something that’s inherently interesting to you – than it is to be the one to start the conversational ball rolling. Eavesdrop on an interesting conversation already in progress. Ask a question or show support. Later, when you’ve developed some rapport, you might find that you have plenty to say — and you’ve got an audience that’s more predisposed to listen.

“I can’t believe anybody would care…”
— Why is this so hard to believe? Here’s a timeless truth: people care about people they know, like, and trust. And people care about their communities. And ideas they find interesting. People like to discuss topics of interest with others. And yes, it sometimes includes recipes and food and music. Sometimes it includes humor, jokes, and talk about the weather. Oh, and from time to time, the conversation turns to talk about business. If you really “can’t believe anybody would care…” — make them care. Get to know them first. Get to like them. Get to understand them. Be a mensch. Get personally involved. Chances are, if you genuinely care about people and let them know it with a few minutes of chat or a link to an interesting idea, they will come to care about what you say.

“I think I’ll make a fool out of myself…”
— Don’t worry. You’ll make a fool of yourself at some point or another in your life. No one’s immune from foolishness. But the people who look like the biggest fools are people who claim knowledge without experience. As in the people who routinely say, “I think Twitter is stupid. It’s a waste of time, so I’m not getting involved. But I will keep telling everyone I know how stupid I think it is…” It’s hard to convince me that Twitter is stupid when millions of people use it to a) find real-world friends b) get breaking news c) brainstorm great ideas d) build relationships that lead to new opportunities e) spread news about great causes and ideas… and a whole bunch more.

You’re a social human being that longs to connect with other people. Twitter is a communication platform that can help you do just that. Don’t be scared or intimidated. You’ll find the people and ideas you care about being discussed on Twitter. Join the conversation, develop rapport, and start building relationships.

Feel free to connect with me on Twitter. I tweet under the handle of @maniactive