The Value of Twitter at Conferences

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Do you tweet at conferences?  Have you been a speaker at a conference and noticed people typing on their laptops or seemingly texting on their phones – how have you felt?  Is it rude to tweet/text/use facebook at a conference?

I’ve been to many social media conferences where at least half the audience is tapping away on a netbook, ipad or smartphone busily using the hashtag provided by the conference organizers.  I love multi-tasking, love being able to listen to the speaker, type a tweet, check what other tweeters are saying about the conference by checking the hashtag and engaging with them.

However, I’ve also been to conferences where I suddenly felt slightly uncomfortable (and the odd one out!) for tweeting.  At a women’s conference last week, as a member of the committee I was all ready to tweet and update the facebook page from the speaker’s content and the MC explained that I wasn’t on the laptop because I was disinterested but because I was tweeting.  At  a conference in April, the organiser asked people to desist from texting as understandably, it can be offputting to the speaker. I had been merrily tweeting away on my phone! I did stop, partly because the conference was so good I sat back and listened fully, partly because no-one else was tweeting or using a hashtag and it became a bit boring texting in a vacuum (not able to engage with other delegates) and partly because I felt a bit uncomfortable (and naughty!)

As an ex-secondary school teacher, I’d have loved to have handed an obstreperous 14 year old a gadget to use while sitting at the back of the classroom if it kept them quiet and stopped them distracting the other kids but instead I had to resort to other means!

Why You Should Tweet At Conferences

I was therefore intrigued when I saw the subheading of an article in Toastmasters magazine which read ‘Don’t be put off by those who text or tweet when you speak’, written by Tim Cigelske @TeecycleTim.  Be different – don’t tell people to turn off their mobile phones. Follow the example of Chris Brogan, as cited in this article and tell people to send tweets, post to facebook, do what they have to do.  Here’s the reasons why and I agree with everyone of them:

  • This relaxes the audience, rather than feeling they are in a schoolroom situation
  • Increases the size of your audience – their followers/fans/friends will also be hearing all about your presentation
  • Those tweeting will concentrate more as they summarise your content into soundbites for tweets/updates.
  • You’ll get instant feedback after your presentation by checking the hashtag.
  • You can build on the relationship with members of your audience by following them, thanking them for their tweets and by responding to tweets.
  • Some people listen best when doing something else while listening such as doodling with a pen or using a phone so assume their best intentions if you see them using their phone – do not presume they are bored!
  • If the audience are involved by tweeting (or another means), they are more likely to be engaged.
 As Tim argues, with more people using gadgets and becoming aware of the value of hashtags, speakers are going to have to become accustomed to it and need to understand how to use tweets to benefit their message.  If you are organising a conference, decide on a hashtag before the event by testing it and tell the delegates about it.  Provide the usernames of the speakers so that they can benefit from increased followers. Embrace technology, learn from it and benefit from it.
However, do know your audience.  Speaking about blogging at a recent seminar where there were at least 40 people present, there were only 2 people using twitter.  No harm mentioning the hashtag for those two people but don’t labour it.
If you would like to book a training session on how to maximise the effectiveness of your business blog or your other social media platforms, do get in touch with Marie or I.
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Posted in Tips, Tools for Conferences, Twitter
  • http://businessbloomer.ie Rodolfo

    Very interesting post, Lorna. I love the “Be different – don’t tell people to turn off their mobile phones” strategy, I will definitely test it and see if it works!

    • http://irishfarmerette.com Lorna

      Thanks Rodolfo, it’s a case of knowing your audience too though isn’t it. I did a presentation recently to about 40 people and only 2 were on twitter. But yes, I think it is worthwhile being different and it would certainly get people’s attention. I’m going to try it too for my next presentation. Lorna

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