How To Live Tweet A Conference

Posted By on May 13, 2010


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.

Pre-Event Planning

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.

45 Comments

  1. Mark,

    Good stuff! WTHashtag.org also has option where you can view the twitter stream and even download it directly to your computer. This has been helpful when I want to look over items later or attribute an idea or tweet to someone specific. I like to store the tweets in a pdf and offer them as a document blog readers can download at a later time.

    You might also consider using websites like Twubs.com or Tweetgrid.com to help you sort your tweets and follow the conference conversation by hash tag.

    Jessica
    @blogging4jobs

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  2. One more tip for live tweeting conferences.

    Avoid the platitudes please. Don’t need to see “google is your new homepage” or “the customer doesn’t care what department you’re in” any more.

    Thanks

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  3. Great post! If you want to test drive a live Tweet up so you would be ready for your conference – Join us everything Thursday from 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm EST for Travelers Night In #TNI – its a lively discussion around a different topic weekly. People from all over the world join in -you can be a “wallflower” or chat away -everyone is welcome! http://www.zipsetgo.com/travelers-night-events

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  4. Great post!

    I also find that some of my followers appreciate it if, when I am about to be prolifically tweeting, I send a warning so they can use Twitter snooze to pause me in their own streams.

    Thanks for posting this!

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  5. Terrific comments and ideas everyone.

    @Jessica Merrill – Great ideas on the extended features of WTHashtag.org. Invaluable stuff.

    @Tom O’Brien – Amen to that. Platitudes are tempting because of their apparent retweetability (is that a word?) but should be avoided.

    @Sue Densmore – Excellent point. It’s much better for forewarn than lose followers who are tired of the endless stream. Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Excellent advice. One more point I’d add is that if you’re tweeting the conference, tweet the *conference*. If there’s an exhibit component, don’t mix in tweets pimping your company’s booth demos or giveaways. No matter how tempting it is, let someone else take on that role.

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  7. Thanks for the great tips. Another tips: bring a brightly colored extension cord. Power is not likely to be next to you where you sit. A bright color stands out when people walk by.

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  8. I wrote a blog about live posting and being in the moment a couple of weeks ago. I’m wondering why 140 characters, which are usually out of context, are so important to do live. I wish that many of these conferences would not allow devices to avoid this phenomenon. Recaps are great. Take notes and share info there, but this live Tweeting/Status Update thing seems to be more of a “look at me at this event while you’re not here” type thing than a real attempt to share anything of importance.

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  9. @Lisa Gillette-Martin – I tend to agree. I usually leave the booth promos to the vendor’s social media staff to handle. However, if I’m walking the expo floor and something grabs my attention, I will throw out a tweet or two. Thanks for the comment.

    @Deborah – Love your tip. Let’s avoid lawsuits if at all possible. :)

    @Ryan – I appreciate your perspective but I look at this a bit differently. Many of my followers simply can’t afford to attend conferences. As a result, I try and bring them the essence of what was discussed so that they can still participate in the conversation. You did touch on an important issue however. Namely, the balance between being truly present at the event versus having your head elsewhere. That might be fodder for a different post.

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  10. You are one busy guy! Though I am not at the level of tweeting expertise to take all of your advice, I did get a lot of great ideas. Thanks for the clarity. My twin sis and I cover conventions with a humorous, back and forth conversational style. from blogs to tweets- we can do it! Interesting comment conversation.

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  11. Great Post Mark- Thank you!

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  12. Great tips. You might also want to take advantange of something like Tweetnotes to aggregate the content tied to your event hashtag. It allows you to review the conversation, respond accordingly, and keep the discussion going afterwards. And it allows non-attendees to pick up some of the best takeaways from your conference.

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  13. @Ryan ~ I was a bit taken back by your “look at me” comment! I NEVER feel bad about not going to an event. IF I can’t go, I can’t go. It is, what it is, but I am “always” happy to hear from those who can or are there to share! Why would someone resent hearing from those who are attending an event when they are not?

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  14. Great post Mark. Lots of good organizational information and tips here that one might not think of! Thank You!

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  15. This is a GREAT GREAT GREAT post. I love Twitter for butt loads of reasons but the #1 reason is because it’s amazing in terms of connecting with people at events. I rarely use hashtags but if I’m at a conference and am missing a panel I always keep track of what people are tweeting about. Also, I’ve found Twitter at events to be a fabulous way to break the ice. I’m naturally shy but if I’m following someone on Twitter and see them at an event I almost always run up to them to introduce myself in person.

    ALSO (I told you I love Twitter for events) as a reporter covering lots of conferences, saving tweet streams of panels at said conferences is the best way to “take notes.” That way I remember what people at the conference thought were the most important points (based on retweets and whatnot).

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  16. @Kymberly – The images on your site are hilarious! You and your sis have a great thing going (IMHO).

    @Andrea – Thanks for the ideas surrounding Tweetnotes.

    @Roz – I completely agree with your perspective.

    @Marian – Excellent thoughts for a “butt loads” of reasons. :)

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  17. Great post, I’d only add one thing – if you’re a regular conference/event go-er why not set up another twitter account that you use just for that purpose? I have m8nd1 as my general account, and mandylive for live tweeting. Just a thought.

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  18. Great tips here! I’d like to add one to the pre-event planning stage – establish an archive for tweets using the hashtag. I usually use TwapperKeeper but there may be others you prefer. By setting up an archive, you won’t lost any tweets when Twitter search stops displaying them, and can capture tweets from anyone using the hashtag (as long as it’s publicised!). It always helps me when I’m writing about an event, and acts as a great reminder of the key points.

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  19. @m8nd1 – That’s a great idea Mandy. Do your followers know the purpose of each of your accounts? If so it really sets expectations well.

    @Jo Alcock – Another good idea. I’m not familiar with TwapperKeeper so thanks for the tip!

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  20. Great post!
    Exactly what I was looking for. I will put it into practice soon!

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  21. If you want to tweet a conference try tweeting to the speaker or main account as a @ reply and use the hashtag – it´s less noisy for your followers. Intersperse it with occasional tweets but that way you won´t suddenyl takeover their screen and you still retain the history by using the hashtag.

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  22. @Paul – A good idea and approach (especially if you’re concerned about overwhelming your followers). Thanks for the comment.

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  23. I have done some very informal tweeting of events and sometimes realize I’m not sure how to spell a speaker’s name! Be sure to have a press release or program handy so you don’t look like a dork in front of your followers.

    This is a great post, and all the comments are helpful, too. We’re looking at tweeting a large conference later this year and all of the tips will help us do a great job!

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  24. Mark – I’m coming from the other side, I live-tweeted for a conference, not as an attendee but as the official Twitter feed for the event (SAP’s Sapphire Now). The tips you outline in your post are exactly what we’d want our social media savvy attendees to do! Especially important is confirming the hashtag – I felt this was essential to our social media success, and it allowed for our attendees and followers to dive deeper into the conversation amongst themselves. It was so great to see our attendees interacting with each other and following the conference via the hashtag’s twitter stream – #sapphirenow.

    I outline a couple other techniques I used for live event tweeting in a blog post: http://www.pageonepr.com/blog/2010/06/07/sapphire-now-twitter-techniques-part-ii/

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  25. @Jana – Always a great idea to have the program handy. Thanks for the great idea.

    @Susan – Thanks for sharing your expertise.

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  26. You missed probably the most important one: if you’re *not* a Regular News Source tweeter, then you’re going to swamp the timelines of your followers who don’t generally expect it, and they’re probably not going to enjoy it much.

    For my part, I use a secondary account, but if you have thousands of followers, that’s probably not practical.

    At the very least, you should notify your followers a few times in advance, so they can twit-snooze you.

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    • Sorry for the delay on this Baylink but I think you make a great point. I think tweeting several preemptive messages notifying your followers of your pending event coverage may be a nice compromise. Thanks for the comment.

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  27. This is certainly an interesting concept, however, one has to take into consideration the aspect of privacy, especially now that the Library of Congress has decided to put everyone’s Tweets on full display. How would one get around this?

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    • I’m not sure I’m following you here Fairfax. Are you questioning whether live tweeting a conference presentation is a violation of the presenter’s privacy due to the distribution and ultimate archiving by the LOC? If so, I would suggest that conference organizers advise their presenters that it’s quite possible attendees will be live tweeting an event to gauge their comfort level with this format. I hope that answers your question.

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  28. It would be great if the conference hashtag could be provided prior to the event via email, or at least posted on a sign as people enter the room. And, if the conference is streamed live, it could be posted on the page where you login. Great info! thanks!

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  29. this is a great tip that i have been trying to search over the internet. thank you so much!!!

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  30. Very nice topic. Also, I guess when the venue has a WIFI connection, be sure the router has settings that could block twitter while the conference is going on. :)

    Cheers,
    James Richardson

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    • Good point James. We recently participated in a live event where the router was overwhelmed and subsequently blocked all Twitter access. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  31. Excellent tips here. I’m about to attend my first event with a Twitter-enabled phone so I’m very excited to utilize it to the furthest degree.

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  32. Great posts!
    We are a one weekend free Conference (Every January), wtih about 30.000 people attending. We have over 100 seminars, and many other rallies and a Film Festival.
    What would be your advice in terms of hashtaging and human resources allocation? We’d like to plan well.

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    • Congratulations on your event Claudia. I would suggest you agree on a hashtag now to optimize the pre-marketing. It would optimally be something short so you don’t eat up too many of the 140 characters (perhaps #Missions11 or #MF11 would work). The other thing to consider is whether you’ll want to have screens showing the hashtag activity for attendees. Applications like Visible Tweets (http://www.visibletweets.com) are really popular and have a variety of options for display. Finally, it’s important to recruit folks to live tweet as either part of a special “social media squad” and/or event organizers and volunteers. Hope that helps get you started!

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  33. Great tips! Thanks a lot Mark.
    Our hope is to use Twitter in the most effective way to broadcast particularly our conference event schedule (i.e. what is happening, where and when) specially to the younger/cellphone lover generation who does not care/read our printed program magazine and finds our website very unattractive (we are hoping to raise funds to improve our website look).

    First, I am thinking of creating maybe 3 hashtags (chanels) strongly linked to Blogs:
    1) #MF12Now: to say what is happening now and where. Updated constantly
    2) #MF12Live: to let people Tweet live from different events and link to their blogs
    3) #MF12Stories: to broadcast people’s testimonies linked to our/their blogs

    Second, Is there anyway for me to organize a sort of a Trial/Test conference twitting as a way to prepare and see all my ideas in action before the actual conference? i.e. do some ‘fake’ twitting and ask others to follow as a test. My fear is that fake/trial tweets may confuse our followers.

    Finally, I researched a bit about VisibleTweets, and it seems great, but I haven’t been able to figure out how we could integrate it to our Tweeting strategy.

    I’d appreciate your opinion on this. And thanks again for taking time to share your expertise.

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  34. I would always get a second acct for especially this purpose. great post.

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  35. Stumbled on this while looking for a definition of live-tweeting. I agree with most of the points, but here are a few others that I’d add:
    Try to find the @ names of presenters as soon as possible, ideally before the conference starts (or at the very least do some quick googling while the speaker is being introduced). Using this in conjunction with the hashtag lets people know who is talking and allows for more fine grained filtering after. A lot of conferences include the @ names on the programmes, but not always.
    If you’re doing it from a personal account, think about putting the @ name first . I usually introduce each speaker with the @ name in the middle (so all my followers can see it, and then move the @ name to the front, so that my regular followers can’t see it and avoid getting their timeline flooded (thus saving them unfollowing) but those following the conference hashtag can.
    Extra: if you’re on a laptop, consider using an app that lets you compose multiple tweets at the same time (e.g. the Twitter App on Mac). Power user tip: this can be useful if you’re doing things like dropping in links as well as doing quotes. It also makes it easier to chop up long quotes (I think that Tweetdeck’s deck.ly is evil as it forces you to go to the site).
    And finally, if you’re really keen, think about bringing either a second battery, or even an extension cable. Or a phone and a laptop.

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    • Excellent additions, Vicky, thank you! This post is probably due for a re-write given the pace of change and maturity of live tweeting events. I appreciate your thoughtful response.

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  36. thank you for sharing this incredible piece of information

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