Sunday, 28 July 2013

A tweet experience

Over the last few years I have developed a strong attachment to Twitter. I look after several organisations' accounts and use it for promoting services; conversations, keeping up to to date, and what I most like using it for is to vicariously attend conferences via event hashtags.

A developing relationship
As much as I have always enjoyed reading event tweets, it was not until I volunteered for the task of 'official tweeter' for a conference that I fully appreciated the skill behind it. I have now completed this task for the two London Information and Knowledge Exchange (LIKE) conferences which have taken place and I have most definitely learned from the experience.

As the first conference was about social media, it was obvious that Twitter should focus quite heavily in the marketing so I tweeted social media related questions in the run up to the event to generate and maintain interest. Once I had got used to writing with an appropriate tone - professional, friendly and inclusive - it became easier to do this. The only downside was that it was quite time-consuming so I used to write them on my very long commute at the time to work and, unfortunately, this meant most people were still in bed. Had I discovered Hootsuite much earlier than I did, I would have used this to schedule a few tweets for during the day too.

Due to the nature of this first conference, it was expected that others would tweet too. I've heard of some events (not going to name names) where the speaker has specifically asked for attendees not to tweet. I think that a few years ago it would have seemed quite rude to have a phone or laptop during someone's presentation. Now it is expected and speakers are berated as being behind the times if they don't allow it. I can see both sides. I think that if speakers don't want their audience to tweet (perhaps because they like to see the front rather than the tops of people's heads when they are talking)  then they should make a real effort to make the session as interactive as possible so there isn't time to do it rather than announce a ban and face resentment.

I used to find it difficult to tweet while listening because, although it can encourage critical listening; picking out the salient points and formulating them into something short and pithy, I would find it difficult to carry on listening. I was able to write notes while absorbing further information but was unable to do this while typing. I tended to lose track of where I was and I think this is because I would never need to show my scribbled notes to anyone but tweets are there for all to see so need more care taken over them.

After that conference, I asked myself what I would have done differently. I would have:
  • asked who was following the tweets as I really don't see the point in just tweeting for the audience who are there anyway. I think mingling and networking are much more important for making connections at a live event
  • not spend too much time panicking about the quantity - I would have selected my words much more carefully. Quality over quantity
  • Sat closer to the action - I had sat near a plug in case my battery run out but this meant I ended up with rubbish pictures 
Fortunately I remembered my own advice so this time I was sat right at the front; I knew in advance that people were following outside of the event and I focused more on soundbites rather than recording everything word for word.  I also set up an Eventifier archive so I could share the collated tweets and images which was a nice way of amplifying the group and what it does. It all seemed to work and I felt much more relaxed about the whole experience. I have since tweeted at other events where people who couldn't attend have asked questions of the speaker so I have acted as a conduit for this, which I think is a lovely way to increase participation.

I now find it much easier to tweet and listen and regularly use my tweets as memory joggers to help me write up blog posts later on. I also tweet events much more often because I get so much out of it when I can't attend and others do so. I do wonder if attendance levels have fallen since people started doing this especially as the slides can often be found on Slideshare too; so far it doesn't seem to be the case. Personally, and where possible, I would always rather be in physical attendance. 


  1. Amount great post - I do so enjoy your blog! I like your point about taking time over formulating a tweet to make it meaningful. I followed tweets from Umbrella, but so many of them were incomprehensible without context. Some attendees were just trying to regurgitate phrases from the presentations, but much more useful would have been personal reflections or impressions - carrying on and adding to the discussion for those not able to.

    And I expect I've made exactly that mistake myself, but being on the non-attendees side will make me better at tweeting from events in future, I hope.

  2. Thanks Ruth - i think most people just go ahead and tweet so it's often luck of the of the draw whether it's any good or not. I think as it becomes more common people will improve. I know I have & i still don't always get it right!

  3. An interesting read :-) I blogged a similar post in March - I think Twitter can provide great CPD opportunities if you give it a go.

  4. Thanks for your comment Cara. I completely agree about the CPD opportunities, not just through the skills built up by using Twitter but also by often being the first to find out about interesting events and current topics. I would never have found out abotu Library Camp, for example, without Twitter which in turn opened up the chance to speak at a (un)conference.