I received an email on Monday from a respected colleague who asked -
“I’ve followed you on Twitter for some time now and always find your live conference coverage to be extremely helpful. How exactly do you go about live tweeting? Is there a protocol? Do other conference attendees find it annoying? Give me a few tips and tricks when you have a second.”
Although I am by no means the master in this area and there is no formal protocol, here are some common sense ideas to get you clicking away in no time.
There are a few basic things you must do before you walk into the room and pick up your badge:
- Get A Press Pass: More PR and media relations staff are treating bloggers and tweeters as “new media press” so try and secure a free pass. If your intention is to cover the event for your online audience be sure to emphasize your reach, influence and network effect.
- Verify WiFi/Cell Coverage: Ask whether the venue has either free wifi or strong cell reception. WiFi is typically very expensive for conference organizers and good cell coverage is often more challenging than you’d think.
- Confirm The Hashtag: As opposed to creating your own, ask the conference organizers if there is an official hashtag for the event. If they don’t understand the words coming out of your mouth and think a “hashtag” is some sort of drug label, feel free to get creative.
- Configure Your Applications: Whether you intend to use your laptop or smart phone, but sure to preprogram your tools (such as TweetDeck or Twitterrific) with the appropriate hashtag so that you’re not fumbling when the lights go down.
- Bring Your Charger(s): I know, I know, this one is painful and it’s happened to me more than once. Do not forget your charger(s)!!
“Live At The …”
The keynote is about to begin and it’s time to get to work. What’s the best way to cover the event?
- Be A Wallflower: Like it or not, most traditional conference attendees will think you’re being extremely rude by clicking away during the presentation. Shy away from the front tables and instead choose a spot toward the back of the room. You’re more likely to find power plugs and won’t disturb those around you.
- Set The Stage: Just like CNN, your followers may tune in to your Twitter stream at various points throughout the day. Level set with a tweet or two every few hours that describes the event’s purpose, location and name.
- Use Attribution: If someone says something interesting, either use “- per [name]“, actual quotation marks and/or a reference to their firm. If you don’t explicitly state the source, your followers will be confused and may take the statement out of context.
- Follow Others: Check the hashtag with some level of frequency to determine if anyone else in the room is covering the event as well. This is a good way to connect in real life and potentially divide and conquer across simultaneous tracks.
- Perpetuate The Conversation: Although this can be difficult, watch for those statements that triggered interest among your followers. To the extent possible, reply to their comments, retweets and thoughts during breaks or the sessions themselves.
Post-Event Wrap Up
The curtain drops and another event is in the can. Now it’s time to head home and make sense of it all. What’s next?
- Measure Your Success: Use sites such as What the Hashtag?! to find some amazing statistics on the event, including the number of tweets, contributors, tweets per day, retweets and the like. This helps to justify your impact the next time you ask for a free conference pass.
- Blog Content: For the past three events I covered, nearly every cogent thought and worthwhile nugget was tweeted. Upon my return I used tools like Twitter search to revisit the hashtag driven-content as source material for my blog posts.
- Thank Your Hosts: If you want to be invited back, but sure to tip your hat to the hosting organization. This is another no-brainer that I have seen my new media colleagues neglect time and time again.
- Thank Your Followers: Also thank those who participated in the conversation and helped get the message out. Remember that without them you wouldn’t be there at all.
If you follow these simple rules I’m confident that conference organizers, your fellow attendees and online followers will be pleased with the results. What did I forget? I’m certain there are other wonderful ideas so please share your conference tweeting tips and tricks and let’s keep the conversation going.