How to live-tweet a conference
Since returning to academia, I have attended a lot of conferences and panel discussion events. Ever since I live-tweeted the Costume Society’s Study Day in 2012, people have been telling me that they really enjoy my reporting of events like this via social media. It started as an easy way for me to keep track of the day, but turned in to a way for me to share the event with others across the world and refer back to it afterwards.
I now use Storify to keep a permanent record of all my live tweeting (plus a few other interesting events that I missed personally but were live-tweeted by others), which is very useful for event organisers and attendees alike. I’ve recently been asked for advice on how to do this, so here are my top tips for live-tweeting a conference and keeping a record of it afterwards.
LIVE-TWEETING A CONFERENCE
- Be prepared. Make sure you have a schedule for the day that’s easily accessible. Ideally it’ll have the Twitter usernames of the speakers on it, but even just their names and the title of their presentation is helpful. Make sure you have a spare battery to hand if you’re using a mobile device that is likely to run out of charge before the end of the day. Pick a good place to sit in the auditorium if you are planning on taking photos of slides. Check in advance whether the event has a hashtag and use it. Get the wifi password.
- Don’t rush it on your first go. I’m used to taking notes in meetings and summarising what people are saying, so picking out snippets for a 140 character tweet is pretty straightforward. I realise that this isn’t the case for everyone! Try tweeting once to say who is speaking, with the title of their talk, plus one further tweet to share an interesting point they made and/or a good slide from their presentation. Two tweets per presenter is manageable and will help to get you in the mindset for live tweeting.
- Share something original. Conference tweeters who simply list who’s speaking without adding anything more about the talk or their conference experience are not really doing anything useful. They’re pretty much just saying to their Twitter followers “look where I am!” Even if you can’t manage to tweet the whole way through a conference, say something about what you liked or didn’t like, or give us your favourite quote from the day.
- Reply and retweet. If you have any moments where you want to share something about the current speaker but don’t know what to say, search for what others are tweeting from the conference and reply to them, or retweet the best. This gives your followers another perspective on the proceedings and might pick up a good point that you’d missed in your own tweets.
- Make it look professional. At one conference, I shared a comment during the Q&A discussion that one of my twitter followers had made about the keynote speaker’s talk, clarifying first that I’d been on my phone the whole time because I was sharing the best bits on Twitter. The speaker loved the feedback but remarked that she had just assumed anyone on their phone was bored. To combat this misconception, I now make an effort to sit up and make eye contact with the speaker as much as possible between tweets, making it clear that I’m paying attention and taking notes.
STORIFYING YOUR CONFERENCE TWEETS
- Add your own tweets first. If you’ve been live tweeting the conference, it makes sense to add your own tweets to your story first. Once you’ve started a new story, look for the Twitter logo on the right hand side of the Storify dashboard, click on ‘user’ and type your username. You can add all your tweets in one go and then reorder them so they’re chronological, but I prefer to add them one by one so that I can exclude any replies to other users which aren’t relevant to the discussion.
- Search the conference hashtag. This seems like a no-brainer but it’s always worth mentioning, especially if you didn’t know there was one and so hadn’t used it for your own tweets. Check the organiser’s Twitter account to see if there was a hashtag, then paste it into the Twitter search on Storify and select the best tweets. Try not to include too many which simply repeat what others have said.
- Add tweets from the organiser’s account. The organisation who has arranged the conference/talk will have tweeted in the lead up to it and I usually include some of these for context as a lead in to my story of the day. You can also add blog posts by clicking the chain icon and pasting the link to that post.
- Look at the feeds of other attendees. If you’ve added interesting tweets from people who’ve used the conference hashtag, it’s also worth searching for their username (the way you did your own) to see if there are any other relevant tweets. Sometimes there aren’t enough characters left to use the hashtag, so it’s always worth double checking people who have tweeted interestingly on the day. Look up anyone who’s replied to your tweets too.
- Add content referenced in the presentations. Sometimes speakers show a YouTube video so it’s worth adding in links to these afterwards (by pasting in the URL, using the chain icon) rather than searching for it to tweet on the day. I know from experience that clicking on a video to check it’s the right one can be embarrassing if you don’t have the media sound level switched off on your device!
- If there is a Q&A or panel discussion, consider organising the discussion by theme. When I’ve Storified lunchtime twitter discussions, I have added text boxes to explain how the conversation branched off into themes, to make it easier for readers to follow. This is also useful for panel discussions and audience Q&A sections at conferences, as sometimes the tweets make little sense on their own.
- Finish with links to reviews of the event. If you are putting this together a few days later and there are any blog posts from attendees on what they thought of the conference, add in links to these at the end of your story.
- Don’t leave it too long before Storifying! Make sure you get your Storify completed within 2 weeks, or you may lose access to the tweets you need. It also makes it more difficult to do when you’re sifting through everything that people have tweeted since the conference, and when your memory of the event has faded slightly.
Hopefully that’s useful to you. If you have any other tips of your own to share, please leave them in the comments. If you’re interested in fashion studies conferences and events, make sure you follow me on Storify.