How to tweet a conference

by Alexey Bersenev on November 21, 2012 · 1 comment

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I’ve been using twitter for more than 4 years. I use it, mostly, for professional communication. One thing I’ve tried to optimize is tweeting of conferences. I “live tweeted” at least 5 conferences in the last few years. Today I’d like to share my experience and give some advices on how to make conference live tweeting more valuable for your peers.

Why to tweet?
There are a lot of reasons and possible motives to tweet. For example:

  • to share your excitement with the world (you were able to make it!);
  • to inform your peers and the world about progress in your field;
  • to inform your peers about your booth/ poster/ mini-event;
  • to make electronic (online) notes of talks for yourself;
  • get new followers from the field of your interest (community will value your input!);
  • to discuss some controversial issues with your peers online;
  • to transforms online connections into real ones.

If you have a mobile device in your pocket or laptop with you and if you’re looking to enhance your professional communication online, why not to tweet? You should try it!

Type of tweets
I’d highlight 4 major types of tweets from the conferences:
1. Atmosphere. Some people start from: “Heading to #ISSCR2012! Woohhoo!” and once the got in “Just checked in, ready to meet and drink. Is anyone around? #ISSCR2012”. And during the conference: “It’s freezing in ballroom A Brrr! or “WiFi is dead! FTW?” or “Free lunch was great! Thanks Invitrogen!” or “Wine and cheese reception at the poster session 2! Wow! #ISSCR2012”. These kind of tweets reflect the atmosphere of conference.
2. Talks. I’d say that this is the most important part of tweeting a conference. The whole point of tweeting it! More about it below.
3. Tweetups. You can set up a meeting with your peers/ online friends via twitter. It’s quick and convenient. The conference is the best place to meet! Twitter is one of good tools to transform connections from virtual to real. One would use a phone or email of course, but twitter could fit better in the case of not well established connection (you exchanged a couple of tweets before and share common professional interest).
4. Links/ resources. This type of tweets includes links to media coverage of conference, blog posts, photos and videos from conference, archive of all tweets and any other useful resources.

Value of tweets
This is very important thing when you tweet for community. If you have this motivation, you have to be very valuable. I’d roughly divide tweets for low, medium and high value. Low value tweets contain a minimum information about the talk, for example:
“George Daley is taking a stage! He addresses the problem of stem cell tourism. #ISSCR2012” Your peers, basically, can learn this information from conference agenda on a web-site.
Medium value tweets contain more information about talk, such as: some interesting /provocative thoughts/ advices from the speaker, research which was published or reported (but you didn’t know about it). Some examples of my medium value tweets:

High value tweets contain the following info:

    • new unpublished/ unreported scientific or clinical data;
    • first public updates on current ongoing research project/ collaboration/ clinical trial;
    • sensational announcements;
    • numbers/ statistics
    • expert’s opinion on current hot and important problem;
    • interesting info from Q&A;
    • links to previous/ fresh publications.

Some examples:

My advice: If you want to be very valuable for your professional community online, focus on “high & medium value” tweets and minimize the number of tweets with low value and “atmosphere” tweets. Sometimes I see people who post only “atmosphere” tweets and nothing from the talks. It creates a lot of noise.

The structure of a tweet
Ideally tweet from talks should consist of:

  1. name of speaker (+ affiliation – optional);
  2. the body – main info;
  3. hashtag.

See examples, embedded in this post.

Tweeting policy and professional ethics
Currently, conference’s organizers are not prohibiting (there is no official policy), but, instead, encouraging tweeting. All info around you and everything you’re hearing is a public info. So you have a freedom to tweet anything you think good and useful. But, of course, you have to keep in mind professional ethics. If you don’t like a talk or speaker, don’t express your emotions, keep your tweets in positive professional mode. Also, be careful to expose unpublished data. It’s tempting to tell the world about a scoop, but if you have professional relationships with a speaker, you may limit the degree of information disclosure. You can tell about new discovery, but without further details. This is just my suggestion. Example:


I named a new marker, but didn’t go to further details. The paper was published 6 months after conference.

Hashtags
Hashtag is a tag prefixed with the symbol #. It’s essential for following conference coverage on twitter. You can search all tweets with this hashtag and archive, favorite or retweet them. If you decide to tweet a conference, it’s important to include an official conference hashtag in your tweets. Official hashtag usually posted by conference organizers and includes abbreviation letters and a year. For example: #ISSCR2012 = International Society for Stem Cell Research 2012 Annual Meeting or #TMM2012 = Till & McCulloch Meetings 2012.

How to live tweet
Ideally, tweets from conference should be in “live” or “real time” mode. But in reality, sometimes it’s hard to type fast on mobile device and focus on a talk in the same time plus making some notes. You can easily lose the main thread of the talk and be distracted. Also, attendees frequently complain about weak or disappearing wi-fi signal. To avoid distraction, I frequently live tweet between the talks or in breaks between the sessions. Sometimes I hand write notes and tweet it later during the day. If I have issues with wi-fi signal I tweet from hotel room at the end of the day. The latter case is not exactly “live twitting”, but if your coverage is valuable for community, it will be appreciated.

Archiving tweets
Why do we need to archive tweets from conference? The problem is that twitter significantly limits or completely abrogates search options soon after you label it with a hashtag. So, I started to archive tweets from conferences via storify service. To illustrate the usefulness of archives, you can try to search tweets from 2012 ISSCR Meeting via hashtag #ISSCR2012 (No Tweet result) and compare it with archived tweets on storify. So, few months later, twitter search unable to find anything by hashtag.

My conference tweets archives:
ISSCR 2012
Till & McCulloch Meetings 2012
IBC Cell Therapy 2012
Roddenberry Symposium on Cellular Reprogramming 2012
Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa 2012
The last meeting finished just 3 weeks ago, but if you will try to search tweets via hashtag now, you will get nothing. So, archive is important.

Concluding remarks
I’d like to encourage you to tweet from conferences! This is a great community service! Imagine, many of your peers, who were not able to make it (many can’t afford conferences right now) and eagerly waiting for any piece of new information from the conference. Try to minimize the “noisy tweets” and maximize high value tweets. Try tweetups and make new connections! I’d be happy to hear your experience with tweeting a conference.

PS: For email and RSS subscribers – there are some tweets embedded into the post. Please read the post on web-site for better perception.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Amy November 21, 2012 at 11:45 pm

This is a great list, I will share and follow this format too ! How do you archive hash tags?

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