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Suggestion: Limit Comments From The Audience

By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter

Bigmouth Yesterday I gave a seminar on Social Media.  The fundamental advantage of social media is the "social" element.  It's all about people speaking up and sharing ideas.  The downside is people speaking up and sharing ideas - and sometimes you don't want to listen to them.  (That's also the pesky part of the whole "free speech" thing in a democracy.)   

I always encourage people to speak up at my seminars - because we can all learn from each other. However, it's a delicate dance to prevent someone dominating the conversation.  Yesterday, one of the attendees kept popping up with good comments...but...

it did make it a challenge for me to cover the material that the others had to come to learn. In fact, two of the attendees noted the distraction on their seminar evaluations.  One asked, "Is there any way you can get individuals to minimize their excessive comments?"

The short answer: No.  Not really - not if I walk my talk about social media.  One person's "excessive" is another's "great ideas!"   A presenter can manage the audience, redirecting and moving on, but you simply can't cut people off when you're encouraging conversation. 

So, social media - like life - can be messy. And, that's why some are so uncomfortable with it - in both big companies and small.   What happens if a commenter on your blog doesn't like you?  What do you do when they're abusive?  Do you let everyone comment, regardless of their views or statements?  There's no easy answer to any of these questions. 

I tell clients that to succeed in social media/marketing, you've got to be comfortable - and also be comfortable with being a little uncomfortable at times.  That doesn't mean, however, you have to let obscene trolls take over the conversation. There's a big difference between abuse and contribution.

For example, do I like it when a commenter on my blog says the post is boring? Or that I'm a "grumpy old feminist?"  Of course not.  But, those are valid viewpoints. After all, some days I am a grumpy old feminist ;-)   And - yep - I may even be boring to some.  So, I let those comments stand (and respond to them.) I do, however, have a long list of blacklisted words and reserve the right to allow comments or not.  It is, after all, my online office and I wouldn't let drunks roll around a real office, spewing obscenities.   

That's all for this Fried Friday - y'all have a great weekend!


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I once gave a series of seminars on leadership. At the first one, in the middle of my presentation I stopped and asked for questions, and it turned into a continuing debate for the rest of the seminar, which threw things off because I was recording it so I could sell CDs later on. At the next one, I said I'd be taking questions at the end, so that I could get through the whole thing, and it went off without a hitch.

I think it depends on what it is you're doing and what you hope your final outcome will be as far as determining whether you want constant conversations or not, because some people just have to share, and unless you set boundaries, if you need to, it really can be a major deterrent to the presentation.

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