A short course in live tweeting

Live tweeting is a new phenomenon that blends audience participation with live micro journalism. Tweeting from an event involves being physically there or watching the stream online so you can bring your audience the most important news and insights. It’s immersive, educative and extremely engaging.

Lance Ulanoff, Chief Correspondent of Mashable, who amassed almost 70,000 followers via live tweeting, described this phenomenon as “a new form of real-time journalism, a sort of mash-up of sportscaster narration and immediate analysis”.

In the context of conferences, live tweeting is gradually penetrating the events industry but its importance for personal as well as corporate branding is massively underestimated. It’s still a green field with a few active players. It thus represents a unique opportunity to boost your (personal) brand awareness in the industry.

Let me share my experience with live tweeting and best practices from the World Education Congress (WEC) in Minneapolis, an event that brought together 2,000 meeting professionals. At WEC 14 (and I believe that this is general at any other live conference), live tweeting allowed me to:

1. Bookmark the best content
2. Provide real-time feedback
3. Build stronger relationships.

But, how best to focus on the practical side of live tweeting?


Firstly, do your research. WEC14 was pretty overwhelming with all its concurrent sessions illustrating the crucial importance of doing some research about the sessions you plan to attend at a conference.

Choose the sessions that are not only of interest to you but also cover some hot topics (e.g. audience engagement, wearable technology). They might have a greater potential to generate tweetable and sharable content.

An extra tip is to learn who the presenters and speakers are and find their twitter handles before the event, so you don’t need to search for them when the session is in full swing and you should be tweeting like crazy.

Get connected
Unfortunately, when you attend a conference abroad, in most cases, you need to rely on the Wi-Fi provided by the venue. When hundreds of delegates connect at the same time, the internet connection quality drops. This was also the case at WEC14. The partial remedy is to find a spot closer to the router to ensure that you will be able to tweet. Using mobile data is indeed the safest way to get around this issue.

Have a battery backup

WEC14 like many conferences involved long days, starting at 9am and ending sometimes at 8pm. Your iPhone, iPad or laptop won’t last that long. I plugged in my devices every time I saw a conveniently located socket to avoid running out of battery later. I also had a power bank (external battery) for my iPhone and used it when I got down to that alarming 20-10 per cent range of battery life remaining. It was priceless.

Each tweet should be a gem and they need to be short (leave room for retweets and additional comments by your followers), accurate and, most importantly, they need to include the right hashtags. To save time, open a file in your notepad and put down all the hashtags and twitter handles so you can just copy them quickly into your tweets.

Pre-build tweets
Ulanoff says: “One trick to being first is to pre-build tweets”. Once you’ve done your research on sessions and keynotes, try to pre-write tweets based on the summaries provided by presenters. Take it a step further and dig out some additional content and unique insights that are relevant to the topic and speakers. By tweeting these, you increase your chances of getting retweeted and boosting your social footprint.

Tweet with pictures for more engagement
We’re getting more visual, so try to send tweets with attached pictures. You will increase engagement and vitality of your tweets as people love seeing interesting pictures in their streams.

Learn to juggle with your devices. Live tweeting is demanding when it comes to technical devices. I needed to juggle with my camera, iPhone, laptop and a traditional paper notepad and pen each day of the congress.

And if, like me, you’re not a skilled typist, use a traditional notepad to jot down notes. Especially, when tweeting from an iPhone, it takes some time to compose the tweet on the small screen. While speed is important, being able to capture longer notes or the bulk of tips that no one else can, gives you a great advantage for tweeting unique content. So don’t be embarrassed to go analogue.

Sweet spot for photo shooting
This one is tough. You should think in advance what visual content you want to capture and how. What is the best spot for a shot that no one else would have? Is it a close-up on speakers or a general view of the entire room? Am I at the right angle to get that shot? Are there any obstacles?

Personally, I love photography and while an iPhone is a handy device for capturing candid moments, the quality of pictures drops significantly when shooting in low-light conditions (which most sessions have unfortunately). Think about carrying a compact camera (I use the Sony RX-100) to get crisp pictures.

Twitter now allows you to include up to four pictures per tweet and that provides a great opportunity for instant photo journalism.

Real-time feedback and networking
Speakers and presenters crave feedback. Unfortunately that is often given to them much later after the event, once the official feedback is evaluated. And that’s the best case scenario. Tweeting allows you to give instant feedback right after the session. It’s not only valuable to presenters, it also helps you to bond with them. Make sure you include the right handles of presenters to whom you’re giving that feedback.

And, if you want live tweeting to preset the ground for networking, you need to tweet consistently to appear in the tweet feed so people remember your face. That requires stamina and dedication. I was amazed by the dedication of @lizkingevents and

@MeetAntwone who were the most prolific twitter users at WEC14. They managed to tweet large amounts of valuable content throughout the entire three-day conference and became Twitter and social stars that everyone wanted to meet.

Build stronger relationships
Finally, taking pictures (and selfies) with other delegates helps you bookmark those moments spent together and build stronger relationships.

As Julia Hartz, President of Eventbrite said: “The selfie is a new autograph”. People love being in the limelight, even when it’s only a tweet feed. Remember that what truly matters is not what you said, but how you made the other person feel when you were around.

This was first published in the November issue of CN. Any comments? Email Paul Colston

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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