Live Tweeting Conferences

In a discussion on academics’ reluctance to engage in social media environments, Claire Warwick suggests that the heart of the problem stems from the fact that “[s]ocial media involves a loss of control and an exercise in trust and openness.” She claims that researchers worry simultaneously about plagiarism of work and critical scrutiny of work in progress. She suggests that we think about tweeting as an extension of the conversation, and, in the case of live tweeting at conferences, think about the entire exercise as “the simple art of communicating and connecting with other people, and the pleasure of doing so.” Live tweeting need not be an onerous chore; instead, let us think about live tweeting as an exploration of ideas in a different medium.

Live tweeting is a method of engaging conference delegates in an online conversation about the event in real time, presenting a coherent and immediate picture of the event for those who are interested but not physically attending, and co-creating a digital archive of the event that can be analyzed in terms of reach and interaction. In “How People are Using Twitter during Conferences,” Reinhardt et al. says that

Communicating and sharing resources seem to be one of the most interesting and relevant ways in which one microblogs. Other microblogging practices in conferences include following parallel sessions that otherwise delegates would not have access to, and/or would not receive such visibility.

Functionally, live tweeting is a way of keeping delegates up-to-date with conference changes to schedule or speakers, ushering people on their way if they dally over lunch, or any other number of practical applications.

There are a lot of great guides available online on the subject of live tweeting, so this page is just a quick starter on how live tweeting looks and how it works. If you are unfamiliar with Twitter terminology, check out some quick definitions before continuing.

In order to live tweet an event, organizers choose a unique hashtag to allow followers to find the conference and check on posts throughout the day. Make sure that the hashtag is unique (so that the event does not get confused with another); you can easily search your hashtag on Twitter before the event to assure yourself that the hashtag is one-of-a-kind. Prior to the event, organizers make sure that delegates know what that hashtag is and that the event will be live tweeted. Make sure that the hashtag is well publicized both before and during the event. Try to get some Twitter-savvy (or at least earnest) volunteers for live tweeting; an empty space is intimidating, while an interesting conversation sparks engagement. Look over the program and find speakers’ @usernames and note them down for live tweeting. Speakers that use Twitter will want to see what people have tweeted about them and their topic(s).

Make this a multi-media event. Use pictures as appropriate to set the stage, follow slides, make sure everyone has access to handouts, etc. A couple of videos are nice if you keep them very short. Try to provide links to material that is relevant in terms of topic. In his article, “Twitter as a Tool for Conservation Education and Outreach: What Scientific Conferences Can Do to Promote Live-tweeting,” D.S. Shiffman says that “[s]uccessful conference tweeters always attempt to make each tweet a stand-alone thought so that if it is retweeted, it will make sense without having seen the other tweets in the series.” Make sure to respond to tweets and keep the discussion going. Be sure to include the conference hashtag in every tweet!

I like quoting speakers, as it gives a sense of immediacy to the event. Make sure to cite clearly when quoting speakers using @usernames if available or just names if the speaker does not use Twitter. Tag relevant people and topics in posts, so as to spread word of the event and make sure that interested parties can find it. Be creative! Live tweeting offers the opportunity to create a virtual event, so think about how you are curating your tweets. Is the coffee difficult to find? Tweet its location.

Finally, the end of the physical event is not the end of the live tweet event. Finish things up by thanking participants. Write a blog post about the event and tweet it. Do a #hashtag analysis and tweet it, so that everyone knows about the popularity of the live tweet event.