In case you missed part one of this short series, you can check it out here: Living in the Backchannel: Pre-conference and Day 1.
Day 1: 152 total #LEI10 tweets.
Day 2: 422 total #LEI10 tweets.
With a difference of 270 tweets between the two days, an argument could be made two ways; 1) more people started tweeting (true) or 2) those who were already tweeting, tweeted even more (also true). It was a combination of both of these scenarios that led to the explosion of the Twitter activity on the second day of the Leadership Educators Institute (LEI) 2010. I left the first post of this of this series with a few cliffhangers of the explosion of the backchannel, what happened when my phone ran out of battery, and an epic tweet-up. Allow me first to paint the picture of what happens when a backchannel explodes with a metaphor of sorts.
Imagine you have an idea, that idea is akin to a 40-watt bulb. It lights up your desk, and perhaps your office. Others locally recognize the work you are doing and often will sit by your desk to grab some of the light from your 40-watt idea. There are literally thousands of these 40-watt ideas in higher education let alone floating around a leadership conference. Now you might get a glimpse of what it was like to be a contributing participant of LEI – a place where my 40-watt idea joined other 15-, 25-, 50-, and 100- watt ideas and together they lit up the University of South Florida Student Union. Here these ideas led to sharing, contributing, and brightening the light from one another to enhance, challenge, and redistribute the glow to others.
This is fantastic! However, in this scenario, only those in the room can see the light and benefit from it. This is hardly a light that you can bottle up and bring home with you. (I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t get by customs if you tried.)
But what has 2010 brought to LEI? Twitter! Twitter blew the roof off of the USF Student Union and concentrated the light of from the ideas into a beam in the sky like the Bat-signal! Only instead of Batman’s trademark symbol it was “#LEI10” that served as a beacon to follow towards resources and dialogue about leadership practices.
Now practitioners from all over could look to the sky, err Twitter, and see these illuminating ideas. No longer was the light only cast on those in the room, it was cast to the world! Or well, those paying attention to their Twitter feeds but I digress…back to the point.
The backchannel had exploded and while over 400 tweets occurred on the second day of the conference, so many more were watching. I know this because during a session where we were asked to stand up and introduce ourselves, I was greeted by unmet colleagues who responded with, “So it’s you who has been tweeting all this time.” A combination of embarrassment and achievement rose within me as my cheeks flushed. The point wasn’t that they knew who I was or recognized my name which doubles as my Twitter handle, the point was and still is as @CindyKane has so eloquently put it, they were lurking and they were learning. Perhaps at their next conference they will take the jump and contribute to the conversation.
In my next post I will illustrate how my connection to Twitter was suspended for one session due to a dead phone battery shifted the way I now think about my conference experience. Stay tuned!