Thursday 12 July 2012

Making the most of Conferences on Twitter

With the National Speakers Association convention coming up this weekend (#NSA12) I thought I'd rerun a very popular blog from last year.

I’ve vicariously followed many conferences on Twitter over the last few years and 'met', followed and engaged with many great people and learnt much along the way. I've met some of my best social media buddies this way - HRD 2010 seems such a long time ago .. or was it 2009 and had a great time with #NSA11 last year. 

The following is a summary of my tips on achieving your objectives for attending and engaging more effectively for all involved (audience (live and vicarious observers), speakers & organisers).

NB: Obviously, in sharing, some of my own behaviours and beliefs about use of SoMe will become apparent. I’ve also made assumptions about the objectives of each of the groups involved. In other words these might not all apply – so do please share your tips so that we make this a more comprehensive list.


  • Understand your objective for tweeting from the conference.
  • Understand your preferred learning style and know if tweeting during the speeches will support or hinder the objectives you have for attendance – better to share learning and engage with twitter after the speech or even event if you know that will work best for you.
  • Find out and use the conference #hashtag.
  • Find out and use the @speakerstwittername - it helps them engage with you afterwards and others to follow them - expecially if what they're saying is of use to you - lets just hope their tweets are as useful.
  • Tweeting “great speech from @speaker” is ok but does this meet your objectives and does it help your followers and the followers of the #hashtag (ie potential followers)? (This is my biggest bug bear - you have the opportunity to tell your followers something useful and often the best people can say is "I've arrived" "just heard x speak" - why use the hashtag if the info is that unhelpful & unenlightening.)
  • “Great speech from @ speaker @#hashtag because I learnt this, will do this differently or even because he made me laugh, cry, jump up and down” is much better.With links to their web site etc even better.
  • Remember the conference is a wonderful opportunity to talk to new people not tweet to people you already have a connection with – you can catch up with them as you travel home? 
  • Just a note for vicarious followers of a conference hashtag - put time aside (a one day conference with active tweets can take time to engage with (NB: not all audiences are active tweeters - from experience HR, Trainers, Speakers, Technology, SoMe and young audiences are generally very good - I have to say purchasers aren't (yet))) and investigate ahead of time if there will be any live streaming. #OYW in October and #DalaiLama often livestream. 

  • Speakers

  • Ensure your tweet profile is up to date and ensure profile or more recent tweet provides links to website/blog or other means of finding out what you do (you might not use twitter but much of the audience using the hashtag will). 
  • If you can upload onto your website/blog/youtube an overview of what you're saying even better
  • Ensure people at the conference know your @twittername – getting it into your intro would be GREAT.
  • Understand what your objectives are for your audience and encourage tweets that support or reinforce that.
    ( Lots of claps at the end, demonstration of enthusiasm and "Well done" from the audience are great. I'm more interested if they heard my message and will do something different as a result. My concern is if they’re busy tweeting what we said will that translate into insight or action in the future? I do think tweeting can keep us at theoretical level rather than applying it. Evidence from conferences I’ve followed would support that as there is a distinct lack of sharing on things beyond what was being said. I’ve often asked what will you do differently and get NO reply – is that because people don’t know because they were too busy tweeting what was said? I get plenty of engagement otherwise. If your only objective was to get people talking about you then you may not worry about this - the issue is this is very short term. As they say here in the UK you'll be someone elses chip wrapper tomorrow. If they learnt something they'll always remember you and tell others too - and will still be telling others tomorrow, the next day, the next month and even the next year. Yes another bug bear)
  • Engage with those tweeting about your speech (More often than not I will follow someone who does that whether it’s my tweet they’ve replied to or someone else’s. It’s a great way of reinforcing a point or clarifying it).
  • If you’re tweeting about another speaker use their @twittername especially if they talk about the same topic as you. It can seem as if you're purposely not allowing others to easily find them when you don't take the trouble to find their twittername but are mentioning them. 

  • Organisers

  • Consider employing professional tweeters to raise profile of conference ahead of and during conference.
  • Agree and communicate in all marketing literature and tweet the #conferencehashtag – not halfway through the first day please.
  • Engage with attendees before the event (ask for twitter name in registration) – about #hashtag, speakers, venue, accommodation, food, networking opportunities etc.
  • Ensure all speakers know each other’s @twitternames.
  • Engage with those tweeting especially those using incorrect #hashtag.
  • Regularly tweet, throughout the conference, what the #hashtag means with links.
  • Ensure you have a transcript of #hashtagtweets at the end so those attending, those in different #timezones or those finding #hashtag later in day can review what’s been said.
  • Which is why employing a professional tweeter makes sense. 

  • What tip would you give to enhance everyone's use of twitter at conferences?

    That's me off to set an objective to be at #NSA13 in person - although I do find tweeting live from a conference very unsettling and have to write notes and tweet later.

    Alison Smith
    The Purchasing Coach
    Sowing the seeds for effective communication in Purchasing teams


    1. Great article. I love live-tweeting as an attendee but also find it difficult to take notes. I will do it during lulls or breaks but overall would rather be present and learn, and tweet later. I put * next to the best points in my notes, and find the *s to tweet when I have a moment. I'm missing NSA12 as well but will be there in 2013!

    2. I do the same Karen - I find it very distracting but thankful of all those able to share this weekend for #nsa12. I've connected with many new people and had some great insights too.

    3. Amen to all your points Alison. Having curated 200 tweets from the 6,664 I reviewed from #NSA12 there's a great opportunity for you to share the lessons you list above. In fact, having you on the Agenda at #NSA13 would not be a bad idea...

      Ian Griffin