Monthly Archives: January 2014

How I Use Twitter at Conferences

Tomorrow, I’ll be visiting (via Google Hangout) a workshop at Old Dominion University hosted by the inimitable Dan Richards and Sarah Spangler. The session is called “Public and ‘Private’ Social Media: Curating Your Academic/Professional Identity(ies) on Facebook and Twitter,” and my role is to talk about using Twitter at conferences.

So I’ve been wondering: how do I use Twitter at conferences?

To find out, I thought I’d focus on how I used Twitter at the 2013 meeting of Computers and Writing. I searched Twitter for all occurrences of @kstedman and #cwcon, which should assumably give me 1) tweets I’ve made that include the #cwcon hashtag + 2) tweets others made that mention me, including a few during my presentation. (This search method is why so many awesome tweets by others are left out; I’m mostly just analyzing myself here, not how we use Twitter in general at conferences.)

(Note: Twitter’s search engine for old things like this has been notoriously unreliable in the past, which is why so many smart people archive all the tweets and later analyze them. For my purposes here, though, I’m just going with what the Twitter search results bring up–seems easier right now.)

If I start at the beginning of the conference, then, and move chronologically through the conference, here are some things I discovered about myself:

Marketing my Session:

Marketing may or may not be the right word, but the spirit is right: I wanted people to know, in advance, about the cool experience I was planning for them in my session. A conference program only goes so far, and it’s skimmed so quickly. Online, people see pictures and hear sounds they couldn’t otherwise get.

Connecting with Friends Who Weren’t There:

There’s always someone at home watching the conference hashtag. When possible, I like inviting them explicitly into the events and ideas of the conference–and it always feels good to know when you got a shout-out.

Plain Old Note-Taking:

The back-channel is fueled by folks just plain noting what they’re hearing, which benefits 1) folks in other sessions who kind of wonder what’s going on in the session you’re in, 2) the presenter, who gets to read later on exactly what people took away, and 3) other folks in the same session, who may subtly disagree with or praise/appreciate your interpretations or summaries. Live, real-time conversations = my favorite.

Of course, “note-taking” is an overly simply way to put it. My tweet above is both taking notes and applying the topic of the panel (accessibility) to my own interests (sound). Other possibilities abound. The “fun-and-games” note-taking method:

The “this presenter needs to know how much I’m being personally affected by this awesomeness” note:

The “I’m seeing a new kind of presentation and I like it” note:

And, you know, whatever else comes to mind.

Sharing Links Related to the Sessions You’re Hearing

This topic bleeds into the one above and below it, but it’s important enough that it deserves it’s own heading. I love when I realize that I can help people get a deeper understanding of a topic by doing a quick Google search and sharing the link in real time. And I love it when people do it during my own presentations, similarly enriching what I’m up to:

There are all kinds of other opportunities for real-time sharing of stuff. During a session on job-searching, I knew some people would want to read a post on the job market I had written, so I tweeted about it:

Whatever comes to mind: share it!

Alerting People to Accessibility-Related Resources

For accessibility purposes, it seems kind and ethical to provide a transcript for the hearing impaired–plus, it gives others the chance to catch what you said later on, meditate on it, and perhaps strike up a conversation (or a citation!) later on. But people might not know you went to the trouble to provide one unless they came to the session–or if you tweet about it.

Asking for Advice

As a table co-leader at the Graduate Research Network (where I met some new ODU friends!) I knew there was some degree of expectation that I, um, know things. But I don’t know all the things. So I asked for help. And people on Twitter want to answer you.

Being Fun and Clever and Real (Because You’re Fun and Clever and Real Already, But Not Everyone Knows That Yet)

Because it’s fun. And being fun is how you make friends. And, if I can add a cynical/practical angle: making friends at conferences is how you collaborate on future publications and make professional connections. You know that, though.

Following Up

When you go home, you’ll feel sad. But Twitter helps. You can continuing patting each other on the back, sharing resources, thanking each other, and being a genuinely good and nice person. Because you are. Right?

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