If you follow me on Twitter, you are probably well aware that I typically live-tweet conferences. (You can always filter out the hashtag if you get overwhelmed by the tweets!) I find it useful to go through the exercise of distilling important/interesting points, have an instant electronic record of my notes, and if I’m lucky, a tweet will spark discussions with other conference attendees or other people on Twitter.
Some conferences prohibit live-tweeting, but others encourage it. (If in doubt, ask the conference organizers, or the conference presenter.) For conferences promoting live-tweeting, some have good uptake, and you’ll see several live-tweeters sharing different perspectives, and/or notes from different concurrent sessions. (Check out the #MiMicrobe twitter feed for an example.) Other times, there may be one or two lone tweeters … and it gets lonely being one of them!
If you do want to encourage conference participants to here are some tips I’d suggest for conference/meeting organizers to consider:
- Choose your hashtag carefully. It should not be too long (eating into that 140-character limit), and hopefully easy to remember. A more tricky thing is to avoid choosing a hashtag that is being used by another event. If you have to choose a hashtag some time before your event, it may not be possible to discover who else will use the same hashtag. In general, avoid hashtags that are too generic. If you are going to use the year in your hashtag (e.g., #myconf2016), a Twitter search on #myconf2015 might be a good idea.
- Recruit a few live-tweeters BEFORE your event. Having even a couple of individuals live-tweeting an event can encourage other people to join the conversation. These people should be familiar with Twitter ahead of the event – it’s tough to learn how to use a new tool AND live-tweet coherently.
- If there are sessions that take questions from the audience, consider allowing people to submit questions via Twitter. This will likely mean that you’ll need a volunteer to monitor the Twitter feed to pass along the questions, but may encourage people to ask questions who might be reluctant to go to the microphone. This could also open the discussion to people following the conference in other locations.
- Keep a “leaderboard” of your “top-live-tweeters” and show/share this throughout the meeting*. Gamification FTW! (There are tools that make this easy – e.g., https://www.hashtracking.com/ .)
- On your conference website, put a link to your hashtag on Twitter.
- Discuss social media with the conference presenters ahead of time, so that they can let the audience know if they prefer NOT to have their session (or portions of it) tweeted/shared beyond the event.
* People often assume that the person tapping away on their laptop or on their phone during a presentation is doing something unrelated to the event at hand. Not so for live-tweeters! They are very much engaged in the presentation. (No need for the stink-eye!) A shout out to live-tweeters can encourage them, and maybe make other people aware that there is a wider conversation going on.
What other suggestions do you have to support/encourage live-tweeting?
We had our first #microhangout today! I really enjoyed getting to chat with other microbiologists (all of whom were hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from me, geographically). A huge thanks to the folks who participated!
I’ll likely post on some of the stuff we discussed (and topics for possible future discussions) soon. More generally, I just found myself reflecting on all the technologies we used in setting up and having our chat … Some early musings posted on Twitter to see who might be interested in a virtual meeting, a Doodle poll to find a suitable day/time, and Google+ Hangouts for the actual conversation (with some documents shared on Google Drive relating to our topic). It wasn’t all seamless – I’ve now learned that I must check and double-check time zones in Doodle, and there were some hurdles using Google+ Hangouts. Still, within a few minutes of our start time, we had folks interested in microbiology education from Canada, the U.S.A., and the U.K. all having a conversation in real time.
When the technology works, and allows us to make these kinds of connections, communicate, and collaborate, it’s awesome.