Social Media at the #NAI2011 Workshop

I compare the annual NAI National Workshop to final exams. I spend most of my year building to this one week, during which I go sleepless, subsist almost entirely on buffalo wings and nervous energy, and then crash afterwards until someone wakes me for the holidays.

I have been to 10 NAI National Workshops, and I remember each one distinctly for different reasons. There was the 40 Days of Rain Workshop (Virginia Beach, 2002), the “Wheel of Fortune” Slot Machine Workshop (Reno, 2003), the Shiny Horse Incident Workshop (Wichita, 2007), and, of course, the Shorn Head Workshop (Las Vegas, 2010).

Last week’s Workshop in Saint Paul, Minnesota, will always be the Social Media Workshop to me. Smart phones and tablets were everywhere throughout the event, and there was a steady stream of Tweets and Facebook posts from participants. NAI promoted a Twitter hash tag, #NAI2011, which participants used when Tweeting about the event.

For those not familiar with Twitter, a hash tag is a short phrase or set of characters set off with a pound sign (like #NAI2011) that Twitterers use to link their Tweets to other Tweets. In Twitter, you can click on a hash tag and see all of the Tweets that have included it. Being relatively new to Twitter, I was struck by the following effects of the #NAI2011 hash tag:

It generated buzz:

It connected people—in person and online:

It made people feel bad:

It spread the message:

It expanded the conversation beyond the session rooms:

It gave participating organizations a line of communication to their people:

It provided instant feedback:

It highlighted some of the tangential benefits of the event:

And, of course, it encouraged shenanigans:

I co-presented two sessions during NAI 2011, one on blogging with my esteemed IBD co-author Shea, and one on using social media in interpretation with Friend of IBD Phil Sexton. Both were well attended, but in particular the social media session was packed so full we called it Occupy NAI, and our room monitor was turning people away. That session was popular for three reasons: 1. New media is incredibly important to the field of interpretation. 2. People believed me when I told them that Phil is actually Kenny Rogers. 3. I can’t remember the third reason.

I consider the #NAI2011 hash tag experiment a success. It was widely used by participants, encouraged conversation, facilitated connections, and generated buzz about the event.

Now, on to #NAI2012!

140 Characters or Less

Some of you came here today hoping to only have to read a 140 character post. To keep the tradition alive of disappointment on IBD, I’m sorry to inform you that that this post is much longer.

In my new job I spend a lot of time in my vehicle driving from place to place. I have become dependent on podcasts of all types to help pass the time. This probably won’t surprise you but I listen to several podcasts related to sports (Pardon the Interruption, Colin Cowherd, and Tony Kornheiser) as well as some of my favorite shows  from NPR (Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, Whad’Ya Know, and Car Talk). One show, BackStory with the American History Guys, has really grown on me and I look forward to each new broadcast. I have even been downloading back issues of the show.

BackStory takes on topics in history with a modern perspective and is very interpretive in nature. The three history guys (18th, 19th, and 20th century guys to be exact) make topics applicable to listeners today. Marking the beginning of the sesquicentennial (a super fancy way of saying 150th anniversary) of the Civil War, BackStory created a series of three shows that covered issues of setting the stage for war, why the war was fought, and questions that remain today. One of the sidebar conversations that I found of particular interest was transforming the entire story of the Civil War into a 140 character Tweet. The 18th and 19th century guys were remarkably unsuccessful (no surprise) and the 20th century guy even found it difficult. I tried in conversation with myself and found it difficult to count the amount of letters and spaces up to 140 so I gave up. Try it. It is difficult (to count that is).

I can’t claim to know enough about the Civil War to even attempt to take on this thematic Tweet but overall I was more interested in the exercise itself (insert your own joke here about me being interested in exercise). Communication through Tweets and texts today is commonplace but I’m not sure that many of us don’t put much thought into maximizing our messages. There are plenty of examples of celebrities and athletes who did not think before they tweeted.

As interpreters and interpretive designers we spend an extensive amount of time and effort into crafting our theme statements and placing emphasize on our themes in our programs and products. (As we should.) Here are some tips that you can use to improve the power of your theme statements and Tweets.

Write in the active voice.

Avoid personal pronouns. (I particularly like this one.)

Think before you write, then write, and then revise.

Don’t be afraid to punctuate! (I know Paul loves this one!)

Stay away from big words.

Make it meaningful.

In a great example of brevity Ernest Hemingway wrote his shortest story consisting of six words. Here it is: “For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn.” That’s 34 characters for those counting. Imagine what he could have said in 140.

Here’s the challenge for you today. Write a thematic comment below that sums up this blog (Paul or me) in 140 characters or less. Jeff Miller, I know this may be difficult for you.