The power of speech. The power of a speech. When you couple a speech, with a microphone and an audience with access to the social web,  you have a powerful tool of communication and an opportunity to reach the world. And with this power of the social web comes the END of anonymity. The END of control. The END of censorship. And the beginning of personal responsibility for what you say, Tweet or post. As a member of the Legal Marketing Association’s Los Angeles Chapter, Cheryl Bame (and all of us) have learned an important lesson. The boundaries of retroactive censorship have moved, and are perhaps erased forever:

What is the difference between a pen and paper, an audio recording device or a Flip video camera?  That is the question that came to me when I learned not all of the panelists from yesterday’s LMA-LA program would allow me to post the video I shot online or on my blog. (skip) Despite the private event, the panelists were speaking in a public forum.  What if someone in attendance took notes, quoted all of the panelists, Tweeted, wrote a blog or article and also posted to other social networking sites?  Why is there a difference between those forms of communication and my Flip video?

Cheryl is right. The ability to take notes and share information is not new, only the medium of social media (and YouTube specifically here) is. Now, we just need to let all the speakers know this. Social media is a powerful tool. Cheryl knows this, and so should every conference organizer and speaker:

Being a student of social media I know that video is a powerful PR tool, not just for my blog, but for the Legal Marketing Association chapter which would have gained a lot of exposure if the video went viral and was seen by hundreds if not thousands of people in the legal industry around the world.

Once you step foot on a dais, you, as a speaker and an organziation, lose all control. Your “official” scribe and videographer might be controllable, but then there’s the audience. Have you looked out into an audience lately? Almost everyone is out there tapping away on a smart phone which came loaded with Twitter, Facebook, and a WordPress applications, along with a camera and video. With an Internet connection, content from the stage is posted to the social web with only seconds of delay. Our industry is not the first to come to realize that you cannot control content. We are all caretakers of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. We are all reporters. We are all producers of content. We are all distribution channels. We, as a collective, cannot be censored. So what is a speaker to do? As a speaker you need to take care in what you say in private, and most definitely in public. Just ask Prince and Kim Kardashian who keep trying to pull YouTube videos off the Internet, but they keep popping back up. Or the NFL, NBA or NCAA who are trying to keeps sports stars off Twitter (good luck). Or the government of Egypt who lost the revolution, thanks in great part to social media. And now there are some who are trying to ban Twitter in U.S. politics? Double good luck there. You can try and ban social media all you want, but you won’t get too far. Once you step foot on that dais, everything you say can and should be recorded, Tweeted and shared. The problem here isn’t social media, the problem is that you can no longer take back something you say. You can’t erase it, spin it or whitewash it. Post a picture on Facebook, you can expect it to go public. Send out a poorly worded/thought out/stupid or insensitive Tweet and it can ruin your career. As for yesterday’s LMA-LA program, Cheryl mentioned that the program was private. It was not. It was a speech given to an audience of a professional association in a hotel conference room. ANYONE could have RSVPd to the event and attended.That’s about as public as you can get. The speakers all knew this. However, one said something during the program that he later regretted, and is refusing to give approval to posting the video. So, no, the YouTube video will not be posted. The official article will not mention the unmentionable. It’s going to be up to a social media savvy attendee to get out the news, and, unfortunately, it won’t me me. I had chosen to sit in the back of the room yesterday and listen to the program. I took some notes, but nothing intensive. I knew that Cheryl was recording the event and that it would be posted to YouTube. I guess not.