Tools of Engagement: Presenting and Training in a World of Social Media, by Tom Bunzel, is a textbook. There is an Instructor’s Manual online at www.wiley.com/college/bunzel. (Link to Instructor Materials at upper right of page. Registration with publisher required to access the Instructor materials.)
This is not a book about instructional design, but rather it is about using social media in ways that better engage the audience or learners when making presentations or delivering training. Tom Bunzel, who is himself a teacher, a presenter, and the author of a number of “how-to” technology publications, has compiled an extensive overview of the basic use of these new channels of communication for influencing people, for marketing, and for other purposes not necessarily including what we think of as instruction.
Who should read this book?
Tools of Engagement primarily addresses the needs of managers, executives, sales and marketing organizations, and customer service and public relations organizations. However, Human Resource (HR) managers and traditional educators and trainers who are not familiar with today’s Internet tools and Web technologies may also find it of value. But mainly, it is a text for use within a formal course on presentations, marketing, and corporate communications.
Because Tools of Engagement is a textbook, written with the expectation that it will be supported through instruction and discussion, I don't recommend it as a “do-it-yourself” book for the audiences I have just named. However, if you are planning a course on marketing communications, presentations, or mass communication within the context of higher education, a corporate university, or an executive development program, you should consider Tools of Engagement as a possible text.
What’s in the book?
This is a rather fully packed book, and in this review I am going to look at it in a little more detail than normal. It’s important to understand how it differs from other recent books on social media, particularly Jane Bozarth’s, so that anyone who buys it after reading my review will be making a purchase that meets their needs – for use as a textbook, not for their own personal learning or as a guide to using social media in instruction.
A good start, followed by a difficult transition
Bunzel opens with a short but useful summary of the reasons why social media should and must be integrated into an organization’s learning initiatives. These reasons include not only the additional functionality of social media, but also its impact on profitability and on critical communication (sales, marketing, executive leadership, and training and development).
After the first chapter, however, things slow way down. As you might expect in a textbook, Bunzel spends considerable time laying the groundwork for understanding what social media are and how they work. For someone who is very new to the idea, this is possibly a good thing. Bunzel helpfully provides examples and citations from other books, introduces various social media sites by name (although without their URLs – this seems a little strange to me, although he does provide these later, in Chapter Four), and offers examples and scenarios to help the reader understand the various categories and uses of social media. I didn’t notice many references to actual online resources and examples (Weblogs, wikis, etc.) that would be very helpful as examples or as ongoing sources of advice to guide learners in developing effective use of social media.
Each of the chapters ends with a section called “Questions to Ponder” and it is here that it is most obvious that Tom’s audience consists of those new to the whole idea of online collaboration. Examples from Chapter Two, titled “How the Presentation World Has Changed,” include:
“How do you feel about sharing the spotlight as a communicator? Do you see yourself as an authority figure who is above challenges from an audience?”
“How will you address the issue of the back channel? Is your audience likely to be online during messages that you deliver? Can you become comfortable accepting their input and interacting with them?”
These are important questions, of course, but readers already well adjusted to the omnipresence of social media may find themselves getting a little impatient.
On to the good stuff in the middle of the book
In the third chapter, “Engaging with Social Media,” Bunzel continues to explain how the nature of presentations has changed from being one-time events with a single purpose, to being integrated parts of an ongoing conversation. Presentations today must include interaction and dialogue with a community of interest. He provides a helpful list of six important strategies, which he calls “the new rules of engagement,” and I hoped he would build the rest of the chapter around these and expand on them, but he did not. Instead, he provides more scenarios, a discussion of who should participate in social media and how, a discussion of crowdsourcing (which seemed to me to be mainly directed to its potential as a marketing or business development tool, rather than for learning), and a discussion of social media as “a woman’s world.” The chapter goes on to address ROI as “return on influence” and to explain how to improve and monitor your influence and standing in the social world.
Chapter Four attempts to summarize the new tools of engagement. Bunzel begins with an extended discussion of Weblogs. Much of this deals with the use of Weblogs for marketing and influence building. He includes a short discussion of HTML that seems to me more likely to confuse executives and speakers than to enable them to better use their Weblog. The text moves on to a sparse two-paragraph summary of wikis before starting a four-page discussion of LinkedIn. His discussion of LinkedIn would help someone get started there, but that service is changing so quickly that I worry the screenshots may soon require updating. Bunzel then moves on to discuss the use of bookmarks and personal bookmarking services, specifically Delicious.com. After this, the chapter moves on to a discussion of Facebook, with information about Twitter, TechCrunch, and Mashable as sources of content for a Facebook page mixed in, in ways that may (again) confuse learners who are completely new to social media. Scenarios provide support, one of which introduces SnagIt, Photobucket, Flickr, Posterous, and TwitPic, along with Ning, plus a discussion of posting resource material online and of RSS. Bunzel finishes the chapter with eight pages on mashability, sharing Blog content, and using custom widgets. If you are designing a course around this book, I would advise planning your approach to this chapter carefully, or you may lose executives who are more at home with the big picture than with the details of putting together a presentation using these resources.
In Chapter Five, Bunzel narrows the scope of his discussion to Twitter and Ning. This chapter is very well written and should pose no problems to either the instructional designer incorporating the text into a course, or to the person teaching that course. Ning has changed a bit in character since Bunzel wrote this part, so you should approach the chapter with caution. Chapter Six addresses the challenges of crafting a visual message, using video within social media, as well as PowerPoint. This discussion stays at what should be a comfortable level for most of the intended audience (managers and executives), even while introducing advanced ideas such as displaying the Twitter backchannel in PowerPoint and converting PowerPoint slideshows into video files – with Camtasia as the suggested method for the latter. Chapter Six closes with a good discussion of storytelling as a tool for assessment, coaching, and facilitation. Chapters Five and Six are both well supported by very helpful scenarios that walk the student through the development processes involved and through some of the technical details.
Chapter Seven takes up the topic of Web conferencing, and the use of social media to promote and complement successful Web events. The long scenarios in this chapter provide good working examples of best practices, and should be extremely useful in teaching this content. Bunzel even suggests using Microsoft OneNote as a means that presenters can use to organize their content. I would have liked a discussion of Evernote at this point, but if you are building a course around Tools of Engagement, it would be easy enough to add this (if you are, like me, a fan of Evernote).
Some issues with the last chapter
Chapter Eight closes the book with the obligatory look at “What Lies Ahead in Global Communication.” In this chapter, Bunzel begins with a discussion of presenting from mobile devices. This is fine, as far as it goes. But then he also suggests Twine.com as an example of Web 3.0 or the Semantic Web. This surprised me because Paul Allen bought Twine.com in March of this year and closed it. The Twine URL now takes you to Allen’s Evri.com, which is a totally different concept and site, although it uses some of the Twine technology. The book follows this with a discussion of Google Wave – soon to be discontinued – and of Second Life, which is undergoing its own significant evolution. These changes will make it difficult to use Chapter Eight as written. The last pages of the chapter drift off into a discussion of nanotechnology, brain research, new technologies in general, and the Internet as a planetary nervous system. I have to wonder how useful this will be.
Although I thought the first half of Tools of Engagement was a bit uneven both in organization and depth, and the last chapter already in need of updating, this is still a book that I recommend as a possible text for use in an “academic” course for managers, executives, public speakers, and professionals in the marketing and corporate communications worlds. There is enough content that an instructional designer can pretty much find a path through it to whatever objectives there are for a course or a curriculum. As with any print publication that deals with the Web, the Internet, and Social Media, much of the specific content is liable to become obsolete rather quickly. This means that designers and instructors who use the book will need to keep up-to-date on changes in the online world.
Bunzel, Tom. (September, 2010) Tools of Engagement: Presenting and Training in a World of Social Media. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.