Day 7: Twitter and conferences

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Today we’re looking at

  • Tweeting at a conference (and before and after the conference)
  • Twitter for conference organizers

Today’s assignment:

  • We want to know what you think about Twitter and conferences. Have you already used Twitter at a conference? Do you think you will in the future? Have you followed along via Twitter even though you didn’t go? Do you have more conference tips for the group? Please let us know (with #UofT10DoT of course).

Tweeting at a conference

Using Twitter in a conference setting can be incredibly rewarding. You’re in a physical space surrounded by people interested in the same things you are, but it’s not always easy to meet the right people or to get the conversation started. Twitter allows you to connect with others at a conference with very little formality. See a tweet in the conference stream that intrigues you? Engage with that user! Once you’ve got the conversation started, meeting in person becomes a lot easier. Pretty soon you’ll be starting conversations with, “I follow you on Twitter!” like a pro. Conferences also present you with an opportunity to find more people to follow and get followers yourself.

Important tip: expectations around Twitter usage and Twitter etiquette at conferences can vary from discipline to discipline, conference to conference. For example, some scientists are concerned about not-yet-peer-reviewed results getting coverage. Others may be concerned about sharing research that is sensitive in nature. If you’re not sure about Twitter etiquette in a particular context, ask! Or wait to see what others are doing. We list some further readings on conference etiquette at the end. Please let us know if you know of others.

Planning to attend

As you’re looking through the conference program, look up panelists you’re interested in hearing and start following them now. You may even want to send out a tweet indicating that you’re looking forward to their session.

Tweet says

Giving a talk? Let your followers know you’ll be speaking, and point them to the abstract or program if it’s online.

Tweet says:

Figure out the conference hashtag and save it, either as a search (if you’re using the Twitter app), or as a stream if you’re using TweetDeck or HootSuite (we’ll get to these tomorrow). Most programs and websites list the hashtag, but if you can’t find it, try searching the full conference name on Twitter and see if anyone’s tweeted about it yet. You can also follow the conference’s Twitter account for more formal announcements.

At a small conference where there hasn’t been a hashtag assigned? You can start one! Remember to keep it short so it doesn’t eat too far into the 140 character limit. The organization’s acronym + the year (or last two digits of the year) often make the most sense—but try searching that hashtag to see if it’s busy in another context first. #NBAmeet may mean “National Biology Association meeting” to you, but your conference stream is going to get very, very full with basketball fans!

Particularly at a large conference, you may want to add a second hashtag for the session number.


At a Conference

There are lots of different things you can tweet during a session. You might tweet:

  • Quotes from the presenter that resonated with you
  • Screenshots of the presenter’s slides (but note this is sometimes frowned upon!)
  • Links to papers or websites the presenter has referenced (if you know them)
  • Points you disagree with and why
  • What you’re going to take away from the session
  • Other sessions you recommend based on this one.
Screenshot of tweets where the speakers' name begins the tweet, thus keeping it from the general feed
In the top tweet Jacqueline is linking to a video that the speaker played for the audience. In the bottom tweet, she is simply repeating what the speaker said, because she thinks it’s important! Notice that she is starting the tweets with the speaker’s username, so they won’t wind up in her general stream. This is your decision.
Screenshots of people suggesting one session based on having attended another-
In the top tweet, Sarah is recommending a website for those who attended a particular session. In the bottom tweet, M.J. is suggesting that those who liked session 327 should also come to his own session on a very similar topic.

Again, be careful of what’s appropriate in your particular context.

Outside of sessions you may want to attend at a conference, you may want to organize some kind of meet-up with people you meet on Twitter. And when Twitter friends meet up, it’s of course called a Tweetup! (People [‘peeps’] you know from Twitter? They’re your tweeps!)

Particularly if you’re in a new city, you might be hesitant about meeting up with a group of strangers.  This is why people using their real name, a photo of themselves, and a school and program of study is really important for building community. But do always meet for the first time in a public place!

Screen shot of a tweet that says:
A meet up has been organized, with a Facebook invite to house more details. People may be asked to RSVP on Facebook so the organizer can make a restaurant reservation.
Anne is indicating she’d like to meet up with anyone she knows from Twitter who’s at the conference.


If you’d like people to tweet about your session, put the conference hashtag and your @username on the first slide. This way audience members know who to credit. If you don’t want people to tweet (or photograph your slides, etc.), say so.

If you’re going to be giving a short talk where you mention lots of other talks or websites, you might want to schedule a couple of tweets to go out into the hashtag during your talk (scheduling tweets is on the agenda tomorrow). That way people following along will see the resources around the time you mention them. Or you may just want to upload your slides or paper to your personal website and schedule a tweet to go out at the end.

After the conference

Conference hashtags are typically quite busy for a few days after it wraps up. Presenters are sharing their session’s slides or notes, and attendees may be reflecting on what resonated most, or what they’re most excited to apply to their own work.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 9.18.11 PM
Kate is sharing a website that contains information from the talk she’s already given
Tweet that says:
Anita has written a blog post about the conference she attended the week before.

Running a conference

Sometimes, you’re on the other side of the table! If you’re running a conference, here are some things to do to encourage tweeting:

  • Figure out how you, as organizers, should be using twitter. Who, if anyone, will be doing the official conference tweeting? Do you want to promote certain sessions? Do you want to use Twitter to gather feedback? Will you be Storifying later?
  • Pick a hashtag. Put it in the program. Put it in all the tweets about the conference. You may also want to get a separate account for the conference, especially if you want to tweet both as the conference organizer and as an attendee with opinions about particular session.
  • Ask people for their twitter handle when they register, then print it in big letters on their badge. This makes it much easier for attendees to recognize people from their only network
  • If the wifi requires a password, consider printing that on the back of the badge. Nothing is worse than arriving at a conference across the border (i.e. the data-usage danger zone), not knowing anyone, and not knowing how to get online and meet people!
  • You’re probably going to be running around all day. Use scheduling tools to your advantage! Have a keynote speaker at 2 o’clock? Schedule a reminder tweet for 1:30. Schedule tweets prompting attendees to give feedback at the end. Map it out, schedule it, and forget it.

Further Reading:

Live Tweeting at MLA: Suggested Practices Ernesto Priego, Digital Scholar, City University London.

Let’s Have a Discussion About Live-Tweeting Academic Conferences Jon Tennant, Geologist, Imperial College London
(Note that he thinks it’s never okay to photograph and tweet conference slides. A counter argument is that the nature of the material on the slide should determine this, and the wishes of the presenter. Of course, it’s always a judgement call.)

When Climate Scientists Criticise Each Other Paul Matthews, Mathematician, University of Nottingham (a bit removed from #UofT10DoT, but fascinating!)

Tweetup Etiquette Huffington Post


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