Let me start from the beginning...
I'm a conference "lurker". By this, I mean that I try to find out what's being said at conferences that I'm not physically attending. I'm able to do this because those people that are actually attending the conferences are nice enough to pre-plan a Twitter Hashtag for the event, and they 'tweet' the highlights throughout the day. The "hashtag of the day" today is #legalit. (note: the link goes to the TwitterFall website which has a very, very cool method of following these types of hashtag or keyword searches -- check them out!!)
I'm all excited about learning what @stevematthews, @kevinokeefe, and @conniecrosby are going to tell us about social media and Web 2.0. Then the hashtaged tweets start coming in, and I see the same information I got while monitoring LegalTech #ltny or Legal Marketing Association #LMA, or the ABA TechShow #techshow.
This isn't to say that the message is wrong, but if I'm seeing the repeat of the same message at each conference, chances are, the people attending the conferences are also seeing the same message. The presenters are facing an audience that ranges from social media novice, to social media experts. Judging from what I've seen through the monitoring of hashtags, they are keeping the message focused on the social media novices.
After some thought on the subject of presenting to the bottom vs. presenting to the top vs. presenting to the middle, I've decided that probably presenting to the bottom is the right approach (with some carrots thrown in from time to time for the middle and top tier.) But, the present should now assume that he or she will need to have a more informal meeting with the middle and top group after the session. Not only does this give people a chance to go grab a coffee (or, my preference, a beer) at the end of the day, it presents a great opportunity to network with social media peers in a Web 0.0 way (you remember face-to-face, right??)
There are two obvious advantages of having the two-phased presentation approach, and a third no-so-obvious reason. First of all, it helps educate those new to the social media concept and encourages them to stick their toes in the water. Secondly, it gives both the presenter and the experts in the audience a chance to bounce ideas off of one another in an informal setting. And lastly, it makes lurkers like myself get off the hashtag monitoring, and actually attend one of these from time to time.