Conference tweeting: what’s your aim here?

There are many lists detailing what you need to consider when you are about to start some conference tweeting. Mine is below. But before we get to the list, ask yourself this: what am I aiming to do here? It’s a pretty simple question but one that you may not have asked yourself before you decided to share your thoughts with the world.

I’m assuming that you understand that when you Tweet, you’re not emailing friends or talking on the phone or just to a select few sciency mates; this is worldwide communication. 

But before that list, here’s a short pre-list checklist of things

  • Why do I want to Tweet?
    Gonna stick to 20-year old in-jokes and name drops for your hardcore science krew or try to break down complexity, explain the science, describe the talk, engage the public and advertise your expertise?
  • Who am I tweeting for?
    Think about your intended audience(s). It may be that you could just talk to those people at drinks or lunch?
  • Have I checked with the organisers that tweeting is okay and made sure there are no “don’t tweet this” signs on the slides? 
    Some people like to show their unsubmitted-data-for-future-publication to a room full of competitors but not to the internet. Or something.
  • Have I looked for Twitter handles beforehand
    Help out a presenter – use their handle and get them some more love (or maybe a collaboration or two)! Conference Organizers: CREATE. A. UNIQUE. HANDLE!
  • Make sure your Twitter account has a good photo (whether a headshot, lab photo or a graphic-it’s going to be your brand for a while) and a relevant bio
    Mention your role(s), passions and home city at least. 
  • Do I have the time to do this usefully and the skills to do it professionally?
    If you’re tweeting because “shiny new social media thing” or “My University says I have to communicate” but you don’t really know what that means then perhaps sit this one out. A lot of people aren’t that good at communicating clearly, quickly or outside their nerd herd. Perhaps just sit back and observe what’s going on around you in the conference twittersphere. Join in later maybe. Or maybe it’s just not for you.

Tweetings from meetings…

  1. Use the conference hashtag in every tweet
  2. Apart from live-tweeting the presentations, Tweet info about the host city, restaurants, public transport, good coffee spots, cheap eats etc.
    Be helpful and useful. Maybe even call for morning coffee company or shout out to form a group around a topic and have dinner together
  3. Identify the speaker (always give credit) – name, Twitter handle (see above), talk subject in first Tweet
    After that just refer to last name or leave it out entirely if you are confident you can thread the tweets about each talk
  4. Add some detail about the talk in a follow-up tweet…or 2…or 3
    “Bob talking about Protein-X “….WHAT about Protein-X? What’s Bob saying? Has Bob made a good point? Is there some info to share? 
  5. If you want your Tweet to get noticed and to spread around, make sure it has context – why is work/research cool and what will it lead to? 
    Why should I care about your tweet or Bob’s work or Bob or you? These are mini-stories-don’t just flash up the cover, overview the book. This applies if tweeting just for you peers or for the wider world 
  6. Take and share slide photos – but good quality ones, not blurry or unzoomable nightmares 
    Presenters have put time and effort into conveying their data to their audience – you are now expanding their audience to dozens or thousands of extra seats, so do them justice
  7. Check the hashtag during the meeting – retweet other Tweets, comment on their comments
    Engage, follow, laugh, enjoy, expand and curate on your networks; it is social media after all
  8. Try and work in some humour
    Who doesn’t like a laugh? Be interesting and engaging.
  9. Try and find some data to quantify the reach and impact of your tweeting
    For the Masters. Symplur’s free monitoring of healthcare conference hashtags is a good start to see who is doing well. But look at the numbers of your retweets and engagements via Twitter analytics too. Talk about it; this is an output and its quantifiable

Remember you are tweeting to the world as well as to scientists. You’re in the midst of an opportunity to test out your communication skills and to inform those who will ultimately benefit from (and often fund) your contribution to the history of science – the public. But you may also pick up some new friends and collaborators while at the conference from among those also following the hashtag.

Having a Twitter account is one thing. Using it to science is entirely another.

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