Connecting the Online to the Offline

25 Jul

Being popular online is one thing. Maintaining popularity offline is another.

Your mom adding you on Facebook is bizarre. A company befriending you is as odd. But thanks to the Like button, organizations and companies have found their way into the colorful, comment-like-share world of social networking.

Some are enjoying the publicity; others are just for the heck of it.

Utilizing the Internet for any goal does not start with creating an account and end with posting regular updates. That’s too easy, too simplistic. New social media does not work like shoot-and-wish. The Internet is not magical, nor is it the best thing since sliced bread.

Working with social networks is not a three-step process. I wonder if it can even be deemed as a process at all. It has no structure, only stimuli. It has no organized flow, only spurts of humor and brilliance. But the spontaneity works.

Like what I’ve said in my previous blog post, the offline-online divide is quickly blurring – we are eaten alive in huge chunks by our online worlds that we consider them as the social world. So how, then, must we use the Internet to make our real lives better? How do we connect the online to the offline? How do we control new social media without it controlling us?

Let’s learn from experience, shall we? These are emerging and popular trends I have observed in different case documentations involving new social media. And they’re all for your consumption. I will be posting them separately for better digestion. Ooh, it rhymes! Anyway, let’s proceed.

Gel-O 1: React Online, Speak Offline

If you’re into conferences and public speaking, then the backchannel might just be for you.

A backchannel is a line of communication created by people in an audience to connect with others inside or outside of the room, with or without the knowledge of the speaker at the front of the room. Usually facilitated by Internet technologies, it is spontaneous, self-directed, and limited in time to the duration of a live event.

The audience reacts and comments to the presentation of the speaker real-time. The speaker, then, can choose to (a) respond to the audience’s questions, (b) alter the presentation based on their comments, (c) clarify points that needs some cleaning up.

One of the largest conferences that utilized the backchannel is the 140 Character Conference. The organizers wanted to know how real-time Internet affects business and the people working behind them. Twitter served as the conference’s backchannel throughout the conference.

The Tweeting Audience

Using new social media as a backchannel provides an efficient feedback mechanism to both parties. It provides a channel where the audience can evaluate the talk anytime, without restrictions. As for the speaker, it is an opportunity to improve the lecture (or save his/her reputation just in case the talk, well, sucks) without disrupting the flow of the activity. The presenter can integrate the concerns of the audience into the talk itself, making it less time-consuming and more temporally gratifying than those talk-open forum kinds.

A note of caution though: the backchannel is an efficient tool to make a presentation more satisfying to everyone, but it takes a good, attentive speaker to present ideas while monitoring feedback through the backchannel.

Multitaskers will excel in this one. But for the backchannel to be an effective tool, speakers must anticipate reactions they might receive from the online community. Responses online are wilder than those offline. A surprised presenter is rarely a good presenter. Practicing how to switch back and forth, and respond to the backchannel before the actual presentation will help a lot.

You must learn how to enjoy the wild ride while maintaining control. Never let the backchannel overwhelm you. Have a little “me” time with new social media to understand how it behaves. Only then will it be a tool and not a distraction.


6 Responses to “Connecting the Online to the Offline”

  1. Karen July 25, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    I think we should do this in our speech classes, haha! Kidding aside, I think this is a very effective way of getting “real” feedback from people because they could voice out their concerns via the social media. I mean, let’s admit it, some of us find it rather difficult to tell people that something’s wrong with their presentation; and because of the social media, we could say those things without thinking twice because we don’t have to tell them personally.

    “…it takes a good, attentive speaker to present ideas while monitoring feedback through the backchannel.” Excellent point, Angel! 🙂 Sometimes, people (including me, actually) become overly affected by the feedback that they already forget what to do next.

    • Gel July 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

      We need to learn how to be more receptive of feedback while taking them in consideration sincerely. They might sometimes, well, hurt. But people are thinking less before they speak. So we might as well be prepared for it. 🙂

  2. Cleve July 25, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    Sana we can use this on our classes ‘no? It saves time plus it’s really helpful sa mga discussions especially those that are two-way. 🙂

    I’mma try using this backchannel mechanism sa General Assembly ng mga SCs around Manila. It will be helpful kahit hindi mismo sa presentations pero kahit sa open-forum parts. 🙂

    • Gel July 26, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

      Yes. I agree! Minsan kasi kahit madaming gustong magtanong, hesitant sila kasi malayo ang mic. Haha. Or nahihiya, o nakalimutan na yung tanong. Haha. So it’s better to utilize these new tools for traditional purposes, like the academe. 🙂

  3. Rhea Lorenzo July 31, 2010 at 11:43 pm #

    This ought to be utilized not only in our classes but in all our other public activities. I mean, this idea of a backchannel is just too useful to be ignored. We people love to make side comments (some useful, some not) and I think it would be helpful to both the speaker and the audience if feedback is given real-time. Also, there’s the idea that if the audience cannot give their feedback immediately, people end up deciding not to listen or forgetting their ideas altogether. Being able to give feedback via social media and in real-time, I think, would be easily embraced by everyone. 😀


  1. Angel is getting ready to rob a convenience store « - August 4, 2010

    […] could put this example, planning online and doing crimes offline, in my Gel-O typology but I chose not to. Friends, there’s a reason why companies don’t do executive meetings […]

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