Live Tweeting – Go With The Flow

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Photo from the Library of Congress on Flickr – no known copyright/licensing restrictions.

Live tweeting of sessions during an event can be really useful both for delegates who are there in real life and for those people who are interested in following the session but can’t make it to the event. I’ve done a few sessions, and thought it might be useful to share what I’ve learned.

For successful tweeting, I’ve found it useful to remember that Twitter is a conversation. If you’re tweeting a session, you need to provide information about what is happening, but also be prepared to read and respond to incoming tweets.

Most importantly, the job of tweeting a session really is a job.  If you want to capture and tweet a session,  make this the main thing you will be doing. It’s too distracting to try and tweet as well as chair or have any other role in the session. If you’re actually speaking at any point, it’s definitely not something to do  –  you will be much too distracted to follow what’s going on!

If there are parallel sessions, hopefully each session will have a hashtag that is specific to that session and not just the main event. This saves a lot of time as it means everyone can clearly identify the session within the event. If  all sessions use the same event hashtag, things can get very confusing. Check with the organisers to be sure you know the session hashtag. If there isn’t one already, suggest a simple one that can be used and make people aware of it.

For example, the main conference tag for the Internet Librarian International conference in 2012 was #ili2012 . Each session could be identified with the project/session name hastag – e.g. the session on Project Scarlet used #scarlet (original I know!). This meant easy identification when tweeting, as each tweet had the tag #ili2012 and #scarlet. Some events have a single hashtag for a session. Using the Project Scarlet example again, this could be #iliscarlet. Just remember to use the official hashtag as the organisers will probably have designed a convention that works for them when archiving and saving tweets.

Start by tweeting the name of the event and link to the event information. Make sure to include the event hashtag in this opening tweet. Follow up with a brief intro to the session you are covering, giving the event hashtag and the session hashtag. Let everyone who follows you and/or is following the event know that you will be tweeting the session. People can then follow your tweets, knowing what to expect. If the speaker or speakers have Twitter accounts, find out their Twitter names ahead of time, so you can give both their proper name and Twitter name when they start speaking. Of course, check that they are OK with this information being sent out – most people will be, but best to make sure. If there is more than one speaker at the session, remember to introduce each one with a tweet so people know who is now talking and which presentation you are tweeting about. It can be useful to tweet a link to any further information about each speaker, such as a biography, blog or other online presence.

When tweeting a session, aim to summarise sections of a talk rather than try and replicate word for word. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, but with practice, you can get in the rhythm. If, like me, you have a tendency to over-tweet,  write your initial impressions as notes elsewhere. Then read back and summarise your notes into the 140 characters for your tweets.

Watch out for any links to online resources mentioned by the speaker. These are useful to tweet, so people can read some background and/or further information around the session topic. Links to things such as a project blog or website, journal articles/papers and current reports are useful for all of your audience – both those in the room (for later reference) and those who aren’t there in person. If the speaker has made the presentation available online before the talk, have the link ready to tweet so people not at the session can follow too.

Remember to check incoming tweets that are tweeted at you for questions and comments. Also check the tweets using both the conference and session hashtags as some people may comment on the session without tweeting directly at you.  Some comments could be worthy of a re-tweet if they are making useful points, adding to the discussion or asking a question. Questions can also be asked by you at the end of a talk (or during, depending on how formal the session is) on behalf of others. Discuss this with the speaker ahead of the session to make them aware you will do this. Make sure you tweet the answers back to the questioner, tagged with the session hashtag so everyone can follow the conversation.

Finally, don’t forget to tweet followup information such as a link to the speaker’s presentation if this wasn’t already available. Many events put slides up after a talk, so the link may not be available during or immediately after a session. If this is the case, it’s an important step to completing a useful live-tweeting session by making sure this link is available. Again, make sure it is tagged with both the session and event hash tags and the speaker’s name.

The first time you tweet a session, be prepared to feel overwhelmed! You will be trying to process and condense a lot of information from the speakers and audience. You will also be trying to open tabs to find and check links, keep an eye on other tweets and generally keep going at a very fast pace. You will make mistakes. You will miss some things. It’s not the end of the world. With practice, you will find you quickly improve. And you’ll find there’s nothing like a thankyou from someone who followed your tweets for making you want to do it all over again 🙂