If you want to improve the contribution you make a conference or event backchannel, to both get value from it yourself and add value for others, your job begins before the event itself.
One of the things that sets the best conference tweeters (I was going to include some examples here, but got so many suggestions it’s become a separate post!) apart from the average conference tweeter is preparation. Putting in a bit of time beforehand will also make it infinitely easier for you to be the tweeter you want to be!
So, first things first: why do you want to tweet from this event, and who for?
- Will you be tweeting for yourself, as a way of taking notes? If so, you may want to acknowledge this before starting to tweet at the event, for the benefit of those following the backchannel. They may well still get value from your tweets, but there’s no harm just letting them know that your tweets might not give them the full flow of the session, but rather more sporadic, note-to-self messages.
- Will you be tweeting for other people at the conference, for more conversational purposes? If so, your focus may be more on retweeting or replying to messages in the backchannel rather than making lots of your own contributions. But think about how you might still add value, for example by ‘introducing’ new people you meet to your existing followers or by sharing reminders about which sessions are coming up next.
- Will you be tweeting for people who can’t attend the conference? I would guess that most of us like to think that’s at least part of what we’re doing. But it takes some commitment and thought, and it’s easy to be distracted by other things at an event (interesting people, activities in a session, the lure of tea and biscuits…). So I think it’s fair to say that this is what we collectively do least well.
Assuming that tweeting for people who aren’t at the conference (or aren’t in the particular session) is at least part of what you want to achieve, here are three things you should do in advance of the event.
- Prepare yourself with the key Twitter details
If you’re a conference tweeter, you don’t need to be told to include the hashtag in every tweet. But the Twitter handle (@name) of each speaker is equally important. I try to reference the speaker in every tweet that’s a quote or point from their session, and ideally also in any tweets that are my own opinions on or additions to their content. Yes, it makes sticking to the 140 character limit a bit more challenging, but it provides useful context for anyone dipping into the backchannel mid-session. Don’t forget that, at larger events, you might be contributing to a backchannel that’s recording three or four different sessions simultaneously. Including the speaker’s name helps to make the stream from your session coherent and clear. And it’s much easier to find out names and Twitter handles (if they have them) in advance, rather than scrambling around in Twitter’s search at the start of the session.
- Review and research the session content
Don’t just read the summary for each session you plan to attend. Read it, and then consider what other information or resources you’re aware of that might be useful. Have you written – or read – blog posts on related subjects? Do you know of any useful infographics or videos that might illustrate or enhance the session content? Have any other backchannels or tweetchats covered similar topics that might be of interest to the audience? Whatever it is, equip yourself with a list of links that you can easily pull into tweets as and when appropriate at the conference. Again, it’s better to go prepared with things you might not use than to be racking your brains during the session for where exactly you saw that article that perfectly supports what the speaker is saying.
- Invite your Twitter followers to join in
Let your followers know that you’ll be attending the conference and which sessions you plan to attend, highlight any tweeting speakers that you’ll be hearing so people can start following them, and tell them that you’ll be tweeting on the day. Share the backchannel hashtag with them to make it as easy as possible to join in remotely if they can’t attend in person. Invite people who won’t be there, or who won’t be in the same sessions, to send any burning questions they’d love you to ask the speaker on their behalf. Don’t promise that you’ll do this, just in case there isn’t time, but offer to compile a list and tweet those questions into the backchannel at the right moment even if there isn’t the opportunity to ask the speaker directly.
(This guide is an expanded version of a post originally published as part of the eLearning Network’s 24 tips, in December 2012.)