Live Tweeting – Go With The Flow


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 🙂

#uklibchat in RL!

First, my ‘blogging at speed’ disclaimer – This post is an attempt to capture some of the discussion that took place during a session at Library Camp UK. I hope I haven’t mis-represented anything that was said and I know I have definitely missed out some important points! Feel free to add info and thoughts via the comments. Views are not necessarily mine, except where indicated, but my attempt to show what we talked about as a group and the points people made. Now on with the post…

I’ve participated in some #uklibchat sessions on Twitter. These can be great – a place online where you can chat, using the hash tag, about a pre-set topic. More details about the usual, online,  process are available via the uklibchat blog. So it was interesting to see how the popular Twitter chat sessions translated into Real Life at Library Camp.

I enjoyed the session, and it was nice to actually see people as we talked. But I kind of missed the side chat on Twitter, and also missed the slower speed required of my brain when I can look back over what has been said! The original idea was to include ‘people who couldn’t be with us today’ via Twitter, but a slightly dodgy network made this tricky, which was a shame.

Career progression was the first item. It was quite frustrating to find that most library sectors seem to have the same slow career progressions and that is seems always to be hard to get on. Basically, waiting for people to retire seems most common/best option, which is a bit depressing!

Finding out about jobs brought up useful alternatives for job searching, including someone who got a job via a tweet! TES, CILIP etc were the main source. Agencies were not so well used, but some people find that they were sent unsuitable jobs, for example in the wrong location etc. Time spent in getting set up with an agency can be an issue, but may be a good investment. Temporary jobs via agencies seem most common and ost successful, although these can be useful if they are for a longer period of time – e.g. 9-12 months.

The next question was “Chartership- is this important?”. Many people made that point that other people (including senior maanagers) in libraries don’t know what this is. It also raised the interesting question of continued CILIP membership. If you are no longer a member of CILIP, how do you deal with chartership on your CV? Some people have mentioned it as a previous experience, which seemed fair to me, but it was seen as misleading on the CV by an interviewer and candidate was marked down. Although I could see why the person on the selection panel felt this way, I had mixed feelings. CILIP membership isn’t cheap, and may be unaffordable for someone who is out of work. However, this is probably the time you need to be showing off your chartership credentials. A potential vicious loop, I’m afraid.

PGCert seen as very valuable in Higher Education sector, possibly having more value than chartership? Comment made that this is not better/worse but different, as chartership is seen as affiliation with professional body not a qualification as such.

An interesting question was “What skills do you think your employer wants, and how might this be changing?”. Customer care/customer-facing skills were universally the most sought after currently. For public librarians, customer-facing skills plus ability to work with children seem to be a killer combination.

Academic libraries – another big push on customer services skills. Linked fee-paying students and their expectations. This has always been at the heart of the academic library, but improvements are very keenly sought. The expectations of fee-paying students is really making this the biggest single issue.

The accessibility of the library and specialist knowledge plus a deep understanding of the needs of users is what makes a good library service, and the most sought after skills are the ones that support this kind of approach. Flexibility and being able to turn your hand to anything are the most useful skills for smaller libraries/library & information services. In a small team, such as a special or private sector library, everyone needs to be able to do everything.

An interesting question next, “Are technical skills important?” Yes, as so many services are online. This has potential for promotion, to be able to deal with technical skills. The main thing is how to apply/use/teach the skills of using technology rather than the technical creation of things. Also, the skills of being able to brief a technical person are very valuable. However, being able to actually code or fix a broken system, useful though they are, are probably not essential or looked for skills in librarians from employers – they have other specialist staff to work in this area.

The subdued mood of the session wasquestioned – is it just early in the day, or are people actually negative about their careers? This comment, made tongue in cheek, was greeted with some positive comments and enthusiasm. An afternoon session was pitched at this point, on where librarians want to be in ten years time. Stress is felt, though – you can’t compromise on quality of your work, also have to be willing to move. Is the library sector dying as a profession? We need to ask about the future and what we THINK the librarian role will be. We need to define this and fight for this!

The point was made that librarians ARE the knowledge society that everyone seems to think is so fundamental to the national success. Anger at what is happening in public libraries is common, but this doesn’t mean librarianship is a dying profession. There may be more and more ‘librarians’ in many roles, using the key skills and at the heart of the economy.

The frustration of an employer being incredibly specific in their requirements and thus seeming to negate your valuable experience and qualifications was a shared experience within the group, common in every sector. There can seem to be a terrifying amount of competition for every job. This can be harshest at entry level jobs, where huge amounts of candidates can go for library assistant posts, many of who will be qualified librarians. This can be tough when trying to enter the profession or when moving across sectors. On the other side, if you apply for a library assistant job when qualified, you may well not get an interview as you’re over qualified. This makes it hard to stay in work and/or move sectors.

However, on the whole librarianship, tough as it is on the application front, is not *as* bad as many other industries – e.g. the music industry.

It was an interesting session, and I’m looking forward to the next online chat where I can keep getting my regular fix of  library chat tweets.