Tag Archives: collaboration

Brilliant backchannel tweeting: what to do after an event

HandHoldingSocialNetworkIcons - MrLightmanA conference can be a fairly exhausting experience, and if you’ve been preparing for days and then tweeting throughout it’s perfectly understandable that, on leaving the venue, you want to switch off and spend some time away from the backchannel.

But to be a really valuable contributor, you need to switch back on and engage again before too long. There are a few simple things you can do in the days following an event to cement your reputation for brilliant backchannel sharing and to get the most out of the experience for yourself.

  • Say thank you

Take the time to thank the people who engaged with you during the event. There are lots of ways to do this, and I’m still working out what’s best. At the moment, I tend to send individual thank you tweets to anyone who I really conversed with online or who regularly retweeted my content. I always make sure to include what I’m saying thanks for: ‘Thanks for all your RTs and conversation during #learningevent’ is more meaningful and personal than ‘Thanks for the RT!’ Even better would be something like: ‘Thanks for your RTs and for discussion of Twitter etiquette during #learningevent’. I also send group thank you messages to people who retweeted me once or twice.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but doing something is just good manners. For some more ideas, take a look at this post exploring when and how to thank people on Twitter in a bit more detail.

  • Deliver on promises

Even with the most thorough preparation, you’ll probably find there are times during the event where you don’t have all the information. It might be the author of a book, the Twitter handle of someone who’s mentioned, a link to a website or video… Whatever it is, if you said you’d find something, do it. Find the missing information, tweet it and tag it with the same hashtag for continuity. If it related to a question or request from someone in particular, make sure you include their Twitter handle in your follow-up.

You might have made other promises, too: to connect two people you think would be useful to one another, for example, or to arrange a meeting with a new acquaintance. Review your Twitter mentions and messages from the duration of the event, and follow up on anything you need to.

  • Don’t abandon the backchannel

The backchannel doesn’t end when the event ends. People will be revisiting it for a few days as they catch up on sessions they missed at the time, and conversations will continue. Be part of those conversations: drop by every now and then to see what new resources or questions there are, and keep contributing. If you blog about the event or about something inspired by it, tweet the link into the hashtag stream. Or you might want to create a permanent record of the backchannel by creating a Tweetdoc or something similar.

Collating or curating all the resources from the backchannel into one place is a great way to add value to the community after an event. David Kelly is the king of this and has numerous examples and tips on his blog. I had a go myself after Future of Learning, but learnt the hard way that this needs to be done very soon after the event otherwise all that good stuff vanishes into the ether!

(This guide is an expanded version of a post originally published as part of the eLearning Network’s 24 tips, in December 2012.)

Image: Mr Lightman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brilliant backchannel tweeting: what to do during an event

HandHoldingSocialNetworkIcons - MrLightmanPreviously I’ve suggested some reasons why you might want to improve your backchannel contributions, and some things you can do before an event to set yourself up for success. Avoiding that feeling of not-quite-keeping-up as you tweet from the conference will be much more achievable if you’ve done the preparation!

But while preparation is key, it’s not everything. Tweeting well throughout a conference is hard! So here are some ideas for during the event iself to help you increase the likelihood of calm, collected and really valuable tweeting.

  • Provide an introduction and some context

Shortly before each session starts, send an opening tweet to set some context. Provide the title of the session, the Twitter handle of the speaker if possible, and a very brief summary of what to expect (if the title doesn’t provide that itself). Okay, you may need two opening, context-setting tweets…! Without this, it’ll be really hard for any backchannel followers to place subsequent tweets: don’t forget, you might be competing with two or three other simultaneous sessions all using the same hashtag.

Even better is to prepare these opening tweets in advance, save them as drafts and then just send them at the appropriate time. This will save you many valuable minutes on the day, and make you appear super-organised!

  • Be prepared to commit!

If you start tweeting a session, you need to stick with it. Even if you find the content isn’t as interesting to you as you’d expected, keep sharing the key points for those people following remotely who do find it interesting. Don’t just send sporadfic, apropos-of-nothing quotes when you hear a good soundbite; make sure you send at least one tweet for each point the speaker makes. I look at it like this: if I read back my tweet stream from this session, would it at least provide an executive summary of the content?

If you really find you can’t keep up or don’t understand the content enough, let backchannel followers know that you’re going to stop tweeting for now – don’t just go suddenly silent.

  • Take advantage of any visuals provided

If a chart, diagram or cartoon is shown, don’t struggle to translate it into 140 characters. Instead, take a photo and upload it to Twitter with an accompanying caption. Likewise, if the speaker provides a list of tips or takeaways, it’s easier to upload a photo of the slide rather than transcribe all the points before the speaker moves on. I did this in earnest for the first time at our recent Future of Learning event, and saw numerous benefits. It was much quicker for me to do; I was able to listen more attentively to the speaker; I had space to add explanation or my own thoughts around the visual; these tweets stood out a bit from the stream of text; and when I was reflecting on sessions afterwards, I had access to particularly useful visuals even where the slides hadn’t yet been shared.

Photos can also be a good way to share any last-minute changes or contextual information. For instance, I attended an event where speaker bios weren’t available beforehand, so I photographed and uploaded the printed bios when I got there, as a way of sharing as much information as possible, as efficiently as possible.

  • Focus on the speaker’s content first

I suspect others may disagree with this, but I think it’s important to share the speaker’s content first and your own opinions second. If I decide to tweet with non-attendees in mind, then I have a responsibility to share as much of the speaker’s expertise as possible. In some sessions, the pace might be such that it’s possible for me to add my own thoughts or opinion as well. But in many cases, the speaker is packing in so much good stuff that adding my own reflections would be at the expense of their content. I figure I can always share my own opinions later, either via Twitter or more often via my blog.

If you are able to do both, it’s important to distinguish between what are the speaker’s points (perhaps by adding their Twitter handle, which you should have from your pre-event preparation) and what are your thoughts.

  • Be retweetable!

This is something that’s worth keeping in mind whenever you tweet, but particularly so during an event. Twitter.com and some other platforms do now allow you to retweet without adding any characters, but often you want to add a few words. So you need to leave people room to do this – especially at an event where the backchannel will be fast and furious. If you aren’t easily retweetable, you won’t be retweeted. Keep your messages as concise as possible, rather than trying to use up all 140 characters.

I recently came across a post about working out ‘your number’ in order to increase your retweetability. It’s a few years old but still very relevant, I think.

  • Engage with other contributors

Whilst bearing in mind that you need to tweet the speaker’s content coherently, look for opportunities to engage in conversation with other tweeters. If the pace is fast, you may only be able to retweet someone else’s commentary – for example, if they’ve captured a point you didn’t quite get or if they’ve linked to a related website. If you have a bit more breathing room, you might respond to questions from non-attendees in the backchannel. As someone following the event from afar, you’d appreciate the interaction, so try to bring some of those people into the conversation where you can.

More challenging but also potentially very interesting would be to engage in conversation with people in different sessions, if there are links to be made between the topics, speakers or discussions.

  • Don’t delete anything!

I often find myself composing tweets which aren’t quite right for the backchannel: a slightly off-topic train of thought, a note to follow up on something back home, or a reference to a video or website that doesn’t make sense without a link. For whatever reason, you will sometimes find that you’ve written something that doesn’t warrant publishing to the backchannel, but don’t delete it – save it as a draft. Come back to it later: it might be something you can craft into a meaningful tweet with more time or information, or it might just be a useful prompt to yourself to explore something further.

As a pen-and-paper girl, I struggled for a long time with tweeting coherently whilst also taking useful notes for myself. I recently admitted defeat: if my tweeting is good enough and I save unfinished or imperfect tweets as drafts, that’ll give me all the notes I need. Be brave – leave the notebook at home!

(This guide is an expanded version of a post originally published as part of the eLearning Network’s 24 tips, in December 2012.)

Image: Mr Lightman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Superstar conference tweeters, bloggers and curators

I wanted to cite a couple of excellent and experienced conference tweeters in my last post about preparing yourself for backchannel tweeting. So I turned to Twitter, of course, and asked for recommendations. I’d expected one or two names to pop up several times, but instead I got a raft of recommendations – some familiar, some new to me – so I decided to share the list in full for the benefit of any aspiring conference tweeters (or experienced tweeters looking to up their game!).

Some of these people are expert tweeters, others do more live blogging, photo-sharing or curating. Some do all of those things! Either way, these are all examples of people who are perceived to contribute to event backchannels in a really pro-active, consistent and valuable way.

  • AnneMarie Cunningham – One of the names that was new to me, AnneMarie is a GP and clinical lecturer so is in medical ed rather than corporate L&D. She was so highly recommended as a conference tweeter that I look forward to following her at the next event she attends to see what tips I can pick up.
  • Aisha Taylor – I had the pleasure of meeting and tweeting with Aisha at BP’s recent Future of Learning event in Houston. I loved how seamlessly Aisha brought non-attendees into the backchannel by referencing previous conversations or other websites, programmes and events.
  • Craig Taylor – Craig is the master of speedy end-of-day recaps. Whether it’s on his blog, Tayloring It, or his YouTube channel, he shares the two or three key points from each session and his own personal takeaways or actions.
  • Dan Martin – Another new name to me, Dan is (amongst other things) editor of BusinessZone.co.uk and was recommended by Kate (herself an excellent backchannel contributer, mentioned below). He sounds like he knows what he’s doing with social media so, again, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can learn from him next time he live tweets from an event.
  • David Kelly – I have no doubt that, when he tweets from conferences, he does so brilliantly. But where Dave really sets himself apart is in backchannel curation. He describes himself as ‘a huge proponent of backchannel learning’ and his commitment to curating backchannels, even from events he hasn’t personally attended, is second to none. 
  • Justin Mass – I met Justin in the backchannel at Learning 2012, noticing his relentless enthusiasm and ability to capture the really resonant, retweetable soundbites. I’ve since discovered that he’d pledged to just share a single core learning takeaway at the end of each session, but found himself falling back into live tweeting, leading him to reflect on real-time activity switching.
  • Kate Graham – There’s a reason why Kate has become the go-to girl for backchannel organisation in the UK. She’s always aware of her audience and looking for new and better ways to share the event experience with her network. Most often, this is via Twitter and her blog, Learning As I Go.
  • Lesley Price – One of the most enthusiastic tweeters I know, Lesley can always be relied upon to inject a sense of the event atmosphere into the backchannel. She’s also a good person to follow if you’re interested in any tweet-ups that might happen.
  • Martin Couzins – Martin was probably one the first people I noticed uploading photos during conferences and events, as well as sending text-based tweets. He regularly shares round-ups and video or audio interviews from events on his blog, itsdevelopmental, and he’s also written about why live event coverage is so important,
  • Mike Collins – As well as presenting at a number of conferences recently, Mike always reflects thoughtfully and usefully on events he attends, and I believe has also ventured into live blogging – both on The Learning Asylum – as well as tweeting during events.
  • Perry Timms – I’ve not personally followed Perry as a conference tweeter yet but he comes highly recommended, and was also recently voted 7th in People Management magazine’s Top 20 HR Power Tweeters poll – so certainly one to start watching!
  • Steve Wheeler – When some people speak, you know you should listen. Steve’s one of those people. He’s much sought after as a speaker at conferences and other events, but his backchannel contributions are also worth following and learning from.
  • Sukhvinder Pabial – Sukh was another one recommended by Kate, an occupational pyschologist and proponent of positive psychology. Collaboration is a big thing for Sukh and he co-founded the L&D Connect community, so it makes sense that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to backchannel sharing.

Who would you add? If you know of someone who’s a role model for aspiring backchannel contributers, let me know in the comments below or via Twitter, and I’ll add them to the list.

Brilliant backchannel tweeting: what to do before an event

HandHoldingSocialNetworkIcons - MrLightmanIf 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.)

Image: Mr Lightman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brilliant backchannel tweeting: a before-during-after guide

HandHoldingSocialNetworkIcons - MrLightmanOver the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on how I use Twitter, observing how others use it and actively trying to improve my use of it. I think I’d reached a point where I was stuck in a rut, tweeting a lot but maybe not giving it the thought and consideration it deserves.

Last year, I posted about conferencing tweeting after an illuminating experience at a big event, but my thinking continues to develop with every event I attend or backchannel I follow. And – with Twitter unlikely to disappear any time soon – it’s an ever-relevant topic at the moment.

As a community, we cite Twitter as our number one learning tool and we’re vocal in our appreciation of our personal learning networks (PLNs). Both of these things are very evident at conferences. If you’re in L&D and you tweet, the likelihood is you’ve done one or more of the following at an event and felt like you were making good use of Twitter:

  • Started following interesting speakers or people you’ve met
  • Followed the backchannel using a hashtag
  • Retweeted specific messages from the backchannel
  • Replied to specific tweets in the backchanel
  • Tweeted interesting points from a particular session
  • Uploaded photos of the speaker or session

But I bet you’ve also sometimes sat at your desk trying to follow the backchannel from a conference you aren’t attending, struggling to understand the flow of a session, perhaps wishing you could get a bit more detail, or clicking through on links of photos only to find it’s a generic picture of dozens of people in a lecture theatre with an indistinct figure silhouetted in front of a bullet-pointed PowerPoint slide.

So, what can we do to improve our use of Twitter at conferences and share really valuable learning and insight with fellow L&D folk?

Over the next couple of weeks – in the run up to Learning Technologies, the largest event in the UK L&D calendar and one with an extremely active Twitter backchannel – I’ll be sharing my tips. These have been gleaned from constructive feedback from other people, observation of a few different backchannels, and some ongoing trial and error!

(This guide is an expanded version of a post originally published as part of the eLearning Network’s 24 tips, in December 2012.)

Image: Mr Lightman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Learning 2012: the 30 Under Thirty experience

When I attended Learning 2012 last month, I was lucky enough to be there as part of 30 Under Thirty: a group of 30 ‘future leaders’ in learning and development. Actually, there were 32 of us in the end: Elliott explained that he usually expects a few to drop out so overfills the spaces; that didn’t happen this year but contrary to his on-stage threats at the opening session, the audience didn’t vote on which two of us to evict and we all survived the week!

Although 30 is a fairly arbitrary cut-off age, I think the concept is a good one. I thought I’d share some of the 30 Under Thirty experience, as well as what I got from it.

What was the 30 Under Thirty experience?

Our conference started ahead of time, with a private online networking space so we could start talking and planning for the conference. Some of the conversations were just getting-to-know-you chit-chat, but there were also some more professionally-relevant threads about what makes an online community successful or our greatest frustrations about workplace learning, for example. The week before heading to Orlando, we were also given some prep work: three questions to think about and answer (via email) in three words or less. I’m actually saving those questions (and our answers) for a separate blog post, but we used them as a starting point for some discussions on the first day of the conference.

As the hotel and conference suite began filling up with people checking-in, catching up and exploring, our 30 Under Thirty group was kicking things off with a lunchtime welcome session. Bob BakerEmily Fearnside and Nigel Paine introduced themselves and the programme, and went on to be wonderful organisers and guides throughout the week. Over lunch, we each introduced ourselves, our background and our hopes for the conference. And Elliott dropped by to chat to us, opening himself up for a no-holds-barred Q&A and sharing some motivational words to encourage us to get the most from the experience. He later hauled us all up on stage at the opening session so we could collectively introduce ourselves.

See more official photos from the conference at http://emasie.smugmug.com/Learning2012

This lunch-and-learn approach really became the model for our extra conference experiences. Each morning at breakfast, we were joined in our little room by one of the conference speakers, and again at lunchtime. Being able to chat more informally to people like Jenny ZhuRichard Culatta and Lisa Pedrogo was great, in terms of both delving a little deeper into the topics of their sessions and seeking advice for forging successful careers. None of these sessions were mandatory, but we had pretty much a full house for each one, so it’s safe to say that we all felt they were worth the early start every day!

On the first full day of the conference, we became ‘reverse mentors’ for an hour. Anyone at the conference – provided they were over 30 – could turn up to do some speed mentoring with us under-30s. It was fairly fluid and unstructured: apart from the facilitator with a timer telling us when it was time to find a new partner, there weren’t really any ‘rules’. Interesting conversations were had all round, although not necessarily about the things I’d expected. Thinking about the reverse mentoring in advance, I’d anticipated conversations about designing learning for younger generations coming into the workplace, or other learning-focused topics. In fact, the majority of the conversations I had or heard were about young people in the workplace more generally – our drivers, ambitions and ways of working. I had a really interesting conversation about what I look for in a manager, in colleagues and in an organisation and how this might affect or be affected by the move away from a job-for-life culture.

I wasn’t personally involved in any real-time sessions (which I explained in an earlier post), but many of my 30 Under Thirty colleagues helped facilitate these or other, scheduled sessions throughout the conference. And our super-sized badges were designed to be an invitation for anyone to stop and chat to us, so the programme really did run across the entire conference for us. A few of us were called back up on stage on the final morning at the closing session to highlight some of our key takeaways, and the experience is set to continue beyond Orlando with LinkedIn discussions and a series of lunch-and-learn webinars in the pipeline.

What did we – and I – get from it?

Prior to the final closing session, we spent our last breakfast slot together sharing our thoughts and takeaways, and many of the same things came up time and time again:

  • ‘Ask for forgiveness, not permission.’ More than one of our guest speakers offered this advice and, while it’s not necessarily a philosophy to work by all the time, I hope that hearing this from people who are equivalent to our bosses (or our bosses’ bosses!) will encourage us to be a little more adventurous.
  • ‘You are your own CEO.’ We were reminded that we need to drive our own development and take responsibility for our own brand and profile. Hearing this from people such as Lisa Pedrogo and Brian Poland, combined with the inspiring story of what Jenny Zhu has achieved before turning 30, was a powerful message.
  • ‘Understand the business.’ There wasn’t a single sound-bite to summarise it, but this message came through loud and clear in so many ways. In terms of both personal career development and the impact or effectiveness of learning teams, getting under the skin of and understanding different parts of the business was the top tip.
  • ‘If you’d like a mentor, ask.’ Mentoring was another of the hot topics amongst the 30 Under Thirty, endorsed by Nigel, Bob and Emily as well as other guest speakers. The main advice here was to make it happen: if someone seems like a good fit for you, approach them with what you’d like to achieve – don’t wait for someone to come to you!

Being part of 30 Under Thirty was a positive experience for me in another way on a more personal level. There were around 1600 people attending Learning 2012. It was busy, it was crowded and it was loud! I enjoyed having the option of retreating to a group-within-the-group, both at scheduled times and more informally. I’m not sure if this will come across quite as I mean it, but 30 Under Thirty anchored me, and gave me a sense of belonging from day 1, which I probably take for granted now at UK conferences but which I would definitely have otherwise missed at my first US ‘super-conference’.

Of course, the experience isn’t over – and that’s another of the benefits of 30 Under Thirty. We’re all connected on LinkedIn and Twitter, and discussions are already cropping up or continuing from the conference. Plans are being made for coffees and catch-ups as people pass through each other’s cities, and a series of Google Hangouts and lunch-and-learn webinars are being scheduled. This is probably the most valuable thing of all to come out of 30 Under Thirty: the new relationships that were formed and will be cemeted over the coming months.

(Thanks to fellow 30 Under Thirty Jodie Bennett (@alwaysdancin84) for the picture at the top of the page.)

Tweeting from conferences: what and who is it for?

Since I joined Twitter in 2010, I’ve attended and tweeted from quite a few conferences and events, from half-day single-session events to multi-track conferences over a few days. But, if I’m honest, I don’t think I ever gave how and why much thought until attending Learning 2012 last week.

The different environment, a number of conversations from the conference itself, and feedback from Twitter followers in the UK all combined to make me really examine why I tweet from conferences, whose benefit it’s for and what impact it makes.

Thinking back to past events, I suppose my use of Twitter has been a little erratic. I would sometimes tweet quotes or points that might be of interest to others. I’m not sure I gave much thought to whether those ‘others’ were people at the conference attending different sessions, or people following the conference backchannel from further afield. I would sometimes use it to follow tweets from other sessions, if I was either torn between two options or disappointed by the one I’d chosen! Very often, I would retweet other people’s thoughts, if I particularly agred. And, probably more than any of these, I would tweet general feedback on the overall structure, atmosphere and success of the conference.

So what changed at Learning 2012?

First of all, the people. At UK conferences, I’m generally surrounded by people I know and am already connected with on Twitter. Learning 2012 took place in the USA, with a fairly small UK contingent, so it was a whole different group of people contributing to the backchannel. Without really thinking about it, I suppose this just made me hesitate before jumping back into old habits and simply doing what I’d always done before.

Second, I had a few conversations with people during the conference about Twitter, how I use it and how I derive value from it. I was surprised by the number of people who use Twitter as their note-making tool. I’m still very much a pen-and-paper girl – although I increasingly find myself looking back at my own tweets and those of others to supplement my written notes – so I’m clear that, when tweeting from a conference session, it’s not for my own benefit. It follows that I’m tweeting for the benefit of other people, and when I gave it some thought I realised that the people I’m picturing are those who aren’t at the conference in person. I want to give them a taste of the atmosphere and the benefit of the learning. Just going through this thought process made me pay more attention to whether my approach actually delivers on that goal.

Finally, I noticed some feedback on the backchannel from L&D folk back in the UK. There were comments that the tweets coming out of Learning 2012 lacked context and clarity, more stream of consciousness than useful sharing for non-attendees. This may well be, in part, a result of the fact that many attendees were, as mentioned above, tweeting as a way to take notes for themselves and therefore thinking less about what others could take from their tweets. Or it may be partly cultural: perhaps the concept of the backchannel varies in different parts of the world, with contributers and followers having differing expectations. I’m not sure – people like Dave Kelly, Kate Graham and Don Taylor may be able to shed more light. Whatever the reason, this feedback made me sit up and examine my own tweets as well as the backchannel in its entirety.

So, on the Tuesday and Wednesday of the conference, I resolved to really focus hard on my contributions to the Learning 2012 backchannel. These are some of the things I did differently:

  • Started each session with a tweet confirming the name of the session and the speaker, so that anyone following my stream or the hashtag could identify if this was something they might want to keep watching.
  • Tried to send a tweet for each key point of the session, so that both live followers and people reviewing the stream later could see the broad structure and skeleton of the presentation.
  • Took photos of key diagrams or slides provided by the speaker, rather than trying to copy down lots of text or describe graphics in a 140-character tweet!
  • Where relevant, distinguished between points that I was quoting from the speaker and points that were my own additions, opinions or reflections, to avoid misrepresenting any speakers and confusing any followers.
  • Posed questions from the session on Twitter, to invite non-attendees into the discussion sessions; I also made sure to collate and share as many responses as possible from the room on Twitter, and vice versa.
  • Tried to send more tweets about content and learning than about atmosphere, location and new connections; I think both are important but there’s a balance to achieve.

I can’t claim to have affected the conference backchannel to any great degree, but I think that my own tweets out of Learning 2012 became more meaningful and more useful to my intended audience as a result of these changes. And I’ve definitely not mastered it overnight – there are other things I’m planning to do differently or in addition at the next event I attend:

  • Decide on my session choices further in advance, allowing non-attendees to send me questions beforehand that I could bring into the face-to-face discussion.
  • Prepare myself with links to session descriptions or speaker bios and add them to those start-of-session introductory tweets, to provide more context to followers.
  • Consider setting aside some time to blog summaries of or reflections on sessions at the end of each conference day, offering something more substantial to non-attendees more immediately than I’m doing now, for example.

The organisers of conferences can also do their part to really maximise the value of the backchannel, for both attendees and non-attendees. I mentioned in my previous post that this was something of a missed opportunity for Learning 2012 and look forward to seeing if they take a more organised approach to the backchannel next year. I’m also really excited to find out what Don and Kate have planned for Learning Technologies 2013, as I know they’ve been talking extensively about the backchannel and how to build on previous years’ successes in January. And, for anyone else who – like me – wants to start thinking more deeply about the value of what they tweet from a conference, Dave’s blog has some great posts and tips (including this one about what a backchannel actually is and this one curating the Learning 2012 backchannel resources).

Let me know whether you contributed to or followed the Learning 2012 backchannel and what your reactions were, as well as any other suggestions you have that I can take on board at the next event I attend.

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net