Do you tweet at conferences? Have you been a speaker at a conference and noticed people typing on their laptops or seemingly texting on their phones – how have you felt? Is it rude to tweet/text/use facebook at a conference?
I’ve been to many social media conferences where at least half the audience is tapping away on a netbook, ipad or smartphone busily using the hashtag provided by the conference organizers. I love multi-tasking, love being able to listen to the speaker, type a tweet, check what other tweeters are saying about the conference by checking the hashtag and engaging with them.
However, I’ve also been to conferences where I suddenly felt slightly uncomfortable (and the odd one out!) for tweeting. At a women’s conference last week, as a member of the committee I was all ready to tweet and update the facebook page from the speaker’s content and the MC explained that I wasn’t on the laptop because I was disinterested but because I was tweeting. At a conference in April, the organiser asked people to desist from texting as understandably, it can be offputting to the speaker. I had been merrily tweeting away on my phone! I did stop, partly because the conference was so good I sat back and listened fully, partly because no-one else was tweeting or using a hashtag and it became a bit boring texting in a vacuum (not able to engage with other delegates) and partly because I felt a bit uncomfortable (and naughty!)
As an ex-secondary school teacher, I’d have loved to have handed an obstreperous 14 year old a gadget to use while sitting at the back of the classroom if it kept them quiet and stopped them distracting the other kids but instead I had to resort to other means!
Why You Should Tweet At Conferences
I was therefore intrigued when I saw the subheading of an article in Toastmasters magazine which read ‘Don’t be put off by those who text or tweet when you speak’, written by Tim Cigelske @TeecycleTim. Be different – don’t tell people to turn off their mobile phones. Follow the example of Chris Brogan, as cited in this article and tell people to send tweets, post to facebook, do what they have to do. Here’s the reasons why and I agree with everyone of them:
- This relaxes the audience, rather than feeling they are in a schoolroom situation
- Increases the size of your audience – their followers/fans/friends will also be hearing all about your presentation
- Those tweeting will concentrate more as they summarise your content into soundbites for tweets/updates.
- You’ll get instant feedback after your presentation by checking the hashtag.
- You can build on the relationship with members of your audience by following them, thanking them for their tweets and by responding to tweets.
- Some people listen best when doing something else while listening such as doodling with a pen or using a phone so assume their best intentions if you see them using their phone – do not presume they are bored!
- If the audience are involved by tweeting (or another means), they are more likely to be engaged.
I was at the Charisma Bootcamp conference last weekend, organised by Owen Fitzpatrick, it was absolutely brilliant and I have lots of content to share with you. So why is this post about hashtags rather than charisma? Because there wasn’t one in use at the conference and I really missed it for a variety of reasons. I’m not saying that the absence of the hashtag affected the content of the conference in any way but one effect it had was it pushed me right outside my comfort zone.
What Is A Hashtag?
A hashtag is a word that is used after the symbol #. It can be used for a variety of reasons but it is generally used to bring attention to a particular topic and to unite tweeters. Topics can trend on twitter depending on how often the word or hashtag is used. You may often hear television presenters or radio DJs announcing what the hashtag is so that viewers can engage in an online conversation and provide feedback or questions to the producers, for example, #vinb for Tonight with Vincent Browne
A hashtag is a word used to summarise the conference after this symbol # and if tweeters click on it, they can see all the tweets related to that hashtag. The conference organisers should test the hashtag beforehand (to ensure it isn’t been used for other purposes) and should announce it. We use #klck for all our KLCK meetings and for generating interest in the run up to our monthly meetings.
Using Hashtags At Conferences
I have been using hashtags frequently to promote upcoming conferences, to share the content at the conference with those who cannot be there and to connect with others at the conference.
As most of the recent conferences I’ve attended have been based on social media, a hashtag was provided and many of the delegates used it. Of last weekend’s conference, very few people were on twitter and of those, very few were tweeting. I really missed the use of the hashtag. Why?
- It was an excellent conference and I wanted to share some of the nuggets of wisdom with my followers.
- I often use my tweets with hashtags as a form of note-taking to look back at later. 140 characters is perfect for notetaking.
- However, as I was the only person using the hashtag I’d invented (I discovered later that two or three others had used a different hashtag and tweeted with it a few times), I felt I was tweeting in a vacuum, I really missed the engagement of seeing what other delegates thought of the presentations and how they were absorbing the content.
- I had forgotten how shy I am and how difficult I find going up to strangers at coffee and making conversation. Given that the conference was about ‘charisma’ I guess we were supposed to be practising what we were learning by chatting to strangers but I had become so accustomed to making connections with other tweeters via the hashtag and then arranging to meet at coffee.
- A hashtag creates rapport between people who are meeting for the first time – you gain a sense of the other person’s personality from their tweets and you know you have interests in common.
Teaching a class on social media this week, I was asked why and how would a blogger place a ‘tweet within a box’ in a blog post. As always when asked a question, I guessed if one person is wondering the answer, then it may indeed be a question on the lips of many so I decided to make it the topic of this week’s Find It Friday post.
Why Embed a Tweet in a Blog Post?
1. Embedding a tweet brings more attention to a tweet that you or somebody else has written, particularly as they are enclosed within a box and other graphical elements.
2. The follow box within the embedded tweet will work so people can follow you from the embedded tweet.
— Lorna Sixsmith (@WriteOnTrack_L) March 28, 2012
3. If there is a link to another website, a link to a video or a photograph within the embedded tweet, the link will work.
— Lorna Sixsmith (@GarrendennyLane) March 30, 2012
4. You could share any favourited tweets, particularly good for those tweets when people have said nice things about you, such as testimonials or interesting comments on your blog post.
@GarrendennyLane Just received the cute mugs I bought from you online at the weekend! 1st purchase (of many to come!)
— Keavy (@KeavyL) March 22, 2012
5. If your blog topic is based on a twitter chat or a hashtag, embedding some of the tweets will make the post more interesting and more visual.
How to Embed a Tweet in your Blog Post:
1. Go to Twitter.com and either click on your account to find your tweets or identify a tweet you wish to embed.
2. Hover over the top right of the tweet where it will say ‘reply, delete, favourite and open’ – click open.
3. Once you have clicked open, the tweet will appear on its own.
4. Click ‘Details’
5. Click ’embed this tweet’.
6. Then copy (control + c) the html code from the box that appears and paste (control and V) it into your blog post. Remember to click your alignment choice before you copy it.
7. And here is the embedded tweet for you to see. (by the way, it won’t appear in a box when you paste it in the dashboard but is enclosed once you click ‘publish’.)
— Lorna Sixsmith (@WriteOnTrack_L) March 28, 2012
8. You can even embed a whole conversation that includes replies.
Do you think you would embed tweets within a blog post? Can you think of any other uses for embedded tweets?
We often run courses in collaboration with Enterprise Boards or will run independent courses subject to demand – on all things related to blogging. Do check our Talks and Training section for details of upcoming courses or contact us if you would like one to one mentoring.
Graham Jones reports on the latest research findings from Harvard University which shows that the more you blog and post on social networking sites, the more successful you will be online because your social group of customers and suppliers will act much more co-operatively with you. Reduce the frequency of your updates, the study concludes, and you will also reduce your levels of co-operatively working with your network.
I am not sure I would agree with Jones when he says you should blog several times a day and tweet once an hour, but I do agree that you need to blog and tweet far more than once a week (read my recent post on how often you should blog).
I also find merit in his statement that “no longer can you think of the Internet as just one marketing channel which you “do” when you get the time after finishing your “real work”. What this study suggests is that if you want to benefit from the online social world, it is activity in this world which is your “real work” nowadays.”
What has been your experience of online engagement? Would you agree with the Harvard study findings? Or does all of this make you groan in despair at the thoughts of all the work and effort it would require? Do share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I feel organisers of conferences should be utilising the twitter tool for so many positive reasons, reasons that are also advantageous for the attendees. Here’s some tips on how to get it right.
How to Tweet at Conferences (for organisers)
- Decide on a hashtag in advance. Ensure it is short and easily understood. Test it first too – in case it is being used for another event or something totally unrelated. For example, the hashtag used at the Women in Agriculture conference was #agwomen.
- Ensure the wifi will be available and working.
- Announce the hashtag at the start of the conference and if there is printed conference material, ensure the hashtag is visible (serves as a reminder and allows latecomers to see it)
- Establish some rules when the hashtag is announced. Ask people not to be too personal in their tweets. If there is going to be content that is sensitive or confidential, ask people to respect this and not to tweet this material.
- Provide the twitter usernames of the speakers – this will allow them to gain more followers, engage with attendees after the event and spread the word about their business.
- Have a tweet wall so that attendees can read all the tweets without looking at their laptops/phones. This also means it is easier for you to monitor the tweets. Tweeters will also be more respectful too when they know their tweets can be read by everyone in the room.
- Engage everyone with the occasional twitter contest, put out a question on twitter using the hashtag and ask people to respond.
- Engage with fellow-tweeters by responding to their tweets or retweeting them.
- Have a designated ‘tweeter’ at the event.
- Take some photos of the speakers and the crowd – let followers of the hashtag (who aren’t there) see what is going on. Break up the textual with some visual.
How to Tweet at Conferences (for attendees)
- Know what the hashtag is. If it isn’t announced, ask! It can be really frustrating if there are 2 or 3 different hashtags being used at the same conference.
- 140 characters is a great length for succinct note taking. Your tweets will serve as your notes for reflection later and can be used to share the content with friends or colleagues.
- Don’t be rude, personal or derisory, remember that the speakers can’t respond in real time.
- Be sensitive, don’t tweet anything that may be confidential to the room.
- Find out the speaker’s username and use it within the tweet.
- Don’t be vague with tweets such as ‘great speech by …’, ‘inspirational talk by ….’ Provide readers with the key points of the presentation.
- Follow other users of the hashtag, you will gain more followers too.
- Arrange to meet fellow-tweeters at coffee, tweeting serves as a useful icebreaker and creates great networking opportunities.
- Network: Use twitter and the hashtag as a way to introduce yourself to the organisers, to journalists or to anyone else you may wish to speak to.
If you missed my post on why Tweeting is important at Conferences, you can read it here.
I have been to four very different conferences lately and 3 of the 4 were not using twitter to its full beneficial use at all. These three did not announce the hashtag, I had to ask what it was (one didn’t have one!) and in my opinion, they missed out on valuable free publicity.
First, just in case you don’t know what the hashtag is, I’ll include a brief explanation here.
What is the hashtag? Well, a hashtag is a word used to summarise the conference after this symbol # and if tweeters click on it, they can see all the tweets related to that hashtag. The conference organisers should test the hashtag beforehand (to ensure it isn’t been used for other purposes) and should announce it. The hashtag at the women in agriculture conference was #agwomen which was a good one – short and succinct and anyone could guess what it was about. At the Towns of Excellence conference the hashtag was #servebesttoprofitmost which was way too long. We use #klck for all our KLCK meetings and for generating interest in the run up to our monthly meetings.
Benefits of Tweeting at Conferences (for the organisers)
- It is free publicity. Those who follow the tweeters will notice the hashtag and might engage. They might be so impressed by the reports that they will sign up to your next conference.
- It provides you with feedback on the conference. Most conferences use evaluation forms but the tweets will also give you good feedback.
- Announce the hashtag at least a month before the conference and get all the speakers to use it – this is an easy way to generate interest in the conference and increase ticket sales.
- It keeps attendees happy – they feel they are engaging with the speakers, they can network with fellow-tweeters and especially important for anyone who is there on their own and doesn’t know anyone else, it serves as a useful icebreaker at coffee and lunch breaks.
- You can monitor the effectiveness of the conference – are people getting bored if they have stopped tweeting or are they so engaged they’ve forgotten to tweet. Are they getting hungry? Do they need a coffee break before the next speaker – this is important if your schedule is running late. Do you need to cut some speakers short or eliminate some Q and A.
Benefits of Tweeting at Conferences (for the attendees)
- It is great for networking and you can meet up with fellow-tweeters during the break, having already ‘introduced’ yourselves
- If you don’t know anyone else at the conference, it is a good icebreaker and conversation starter.
- Some people may feel that they would prefer to solely listen rather than listen and tweet but I find I concentrate more when tweeting, I use the tweets as succinct notes to look back on later.
- Limiting points to 140 characters is excellent for effective note taking.
- Be sensitive though – don’t tweet anything that may be sensitive or confidential to the attendees in the room. Don’t be contentious or personal, be respectful to the speaker as they can’t respond in real time.
- You can share the main points with colleagues or friends who weren’t able to make it to the conference.
- It is a lovely way to engage with the organisers and thank them at the end of the day.
- I wanted to speak to two specific people at yesterday’s conference and I wasn’t able to do so but I was able to tweet with 2 people in similar roles which may lead to business in the near future.
- Using the hashtag does get you noticed. You will also gain more followers from the conference or from others following the hashtag.
Do read my other post on how to tweet at conferences (for organisers and attendees) too.
What do you think of tweeting at conferences?