Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

5 tips for live tweeting conferences and events

Jan. 3, 2013, 1:25 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

The following is crossposted from the Communications Network's blog

Whether intended to expand the audience for a small discussion or curate content from a large conference, live-tweeting events is becoming the norm in philanthropy.

Too often people see it as an add-on, or even a hassle in the flurry of putting on an in-person event. Done right, though, live tweeting can be a core tool to spread information and engage people in issues important to your work. It’s also a unique opportunity for you to show the personality of your organization; people will respect you for being authentic and showing your true voice.

Below are some tips and tricks that may help you use Twitter to accomplish a range of goals. Although designed for organizations, many of the tips below can also be used to help conference participants who want to up their Twitter game.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

  • Have an up-to-date run of show or agenda. See if speakers or presenters are willing to share their remarks or speeches with you ahead of time so you know what you’ll be tweeting about (of course these things can often change up to the last minute).
  • Gather Twitter handles in advance. Ask attendees when they register for their handle and consider creating a public list of them so others can find people who will be participating in advance.
  • Pre-write tweets for the beginning of sessions – it’s often when you’re busiest, so this can be a time saver. Make sure you’re linking to content online, like a livestream page if available, an agenda or speaker’s bio. It’s helpful to give people who are following virtually the right context.
  • Create short links to content early using bit.ly or ow.ly so you aren’t frantically doing it at the last minute.
  • Know that no matter what you’ll never account for everything that could happen. Last year during the MIT-Knight Civic Media conference a bird found its way into the lunchroom, the irony of tweeting about a bird was not lost on anyone! It’s OK, even necessary, to take part in these kinds of dialogues because Twitter is fun.

Use hashtags wisely

  • Decide on a hashtag for your conference in advance and make sure all your promotional materials, both online and off, reference it. If you’re trying to find out which ones are popular to let others in the field know about your conference, use a free service like hashtracking.com or topsy.com.
  • After you decide on a hashtag, track it consistently. Make a column in your Tweetdeck account so you see all mentions of it. This will also help you keep an eye out for things you may want to retweet.
  • Don’t get too crazy with hashtags. Although research shows URLs and hashtags can increase engagement, it also shows that using too many can turn users off.

Make tweets accessible; engage others to participate

  • In order to engage others in the room, consider publicly displaying a Twitter feed. Services likeTwitterfall allow you to track hashtags over time and works well especially for larger conferences where the feed can be projected.
  • UStream, a popular livestreaming service, makes it easy to embed tweets with a certain hashtag on your site. If you aren’t livestreaming, you can still embed a Twitter widget on you site to make it easy to syndicate content.
  • Consider taking Twitter questions from people who are following remotely, it’s a good way to involve more people. Tweet photos to add visuals when people aren’t, or can’t, connect via livestream. (People love them and they add a human element.)
  • Engage others. Know a staff member who is a great live tweeter or knows the content well? Ask if they’ll tweet from their personal account for a session or two and keep an eye on their feed. Know a colleague who has attended your conference for several years in a row? Tell them you’ll be keeping an eye on their feed. This will also bring more of a personal and friendly aspect to your tweets.

Capture a conversation’s essence

  • Don’t try to be a court reporter: concentrate on tweeting out top-level insights. Look for sound bites that really hit at the core of a session or speech.
  • Make sure it’s clear to whom you’re attributing tweets. Make it obvious if it’s a quote, if you’re paraphrasing or if you’re adding additional commentary from your organization’s perspective. If you’re adding something, make sure it’s consistent with your own organization’s messaging and mission.
  •  Live tweeting requires you to think fast and on your feet so make sure you aren’t distracted. This can mean letting colleagues know in advance not to interrupt you (they’ll know it’s nothing personal!)

Be on high alert – but have fun!

  • There’s a heavy customer service component to live tweeting, so be on alert. If you’re livestreaming, folks following remotely may be the first to alert you of a problem. Others may want to know where they can find out more information about your organization or the conference. Try to respond timely to requests.
  • Be gracious. Thank others who are tweeting the event and retweet them. No matter how efficient you are, you’ll never be able to tweet insights from every speaker or session, so the more you can share knowledge from others, the better.
  • Never forget that you have a unique voice and perspective. Know who you are as an organization so you can tweet confidently with that voice.

An added bonus that shows why live tweeting is important and that you can actually learn from it happens after a conference ends. While you’re decompressing, take time to look back at your Twitter feed, notice what kinds of content got retweeted and which speakers or sessions set off sparks. Having this information can help you learn what to do better for the next time around.

By Elizabeth R. Miller, communications associate at Knight Foundation

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