A Twitter Conference Primer: Part 1 – Preparing For The Event

Image by Rosaura Ochoa

It’s like the sound of fingernails scraping on a chalkboard. It’s unpleasant. And annoying. 

It similar to a primate’s warning cry striking fear in the tribe that a predator is near. Few of us can avoid cringing in agony when we hear that sound. We respond with adverse reactions.

That’s exactly how I feel when I hear meeting professionals say the following sentence:

“My attendees are not using Twitter or social media so I don’t need to be concerned about it.”

A-r-g-h-h-h! Just hold me down and scrape rocks on my teeth.

When I respond to that question with current data that illustrates the opposite, these meeting professionals look at me and say, “Do you really believe that data? Come on. I know my attendees better than that data. They are not using social media at my event.”

How Many Of Your Conference Participants Have Smartphones?

How many of your attendees carry a smartphone with them? I suspect you would say 90%-95% do.

And guess what, they are using their smartphone to access the Internet, update their social networks and talk about your event!

So are you even listening and observing if they are talking about your event? Have you created a common hashtag for your event so that you can see online conference conversations?

Here are six steps to help you use Twitter when preparing for your event.

6 Steps To Prepare To Use Twitter For Your Event

1. Provide wireless Internet connections

Before you consider using Twitter or other social media at your event, ensure that your attendees have free wifi access when onsite. Did you include wireless internet access as part of your venue negotiations? If not, how’s the cell phone reception in the venue? Tell your venue that they have a vested interest in being part of the online conversations. 

2. Create a hashtag for your event.

Hashtags are the pound sign followed by a short abbreviation. They help add context, metadata and tags to your tweets. Hashtags also help users filter the Twitter noise and follow a specific stream of information.

Your job is to pick a short conference hashtag. Use as few characters as possible because Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters.

 ASAE’s 2010 Annual Meeting used #asae10 as their hashtag. PNW Industry Summit used #industrysummit.

Also search Twitter to ensure that another group is not using the same hashtag.

3. Register your event hashtag.

Now register your hashtag. Follow @hashtags on Twitter. They will follow you back automatically and your hashtags will be tracked. Send them a tweet with your hashtag and its definition.

Consider registering your hashtag with WhatTheHashtag.com and Twubs.com too. Both of these sites will provide you with real time stats about the use of Twitter and your hashtag.

While you don’t have to officially register your hashtag, listing it on these sites will help viewers find and define it.

4. Ask for Twitter handles in the registration process and print them on their name badges.

If you are going to use Twitter for your event, don’t forget this basic step. Include a place for attendees to list their Twitter handle/URL on your registration form. Then print the @name on their nametags.

5. Market and promote your hashtag.

Include the hashtag on all of your marketing and publicity materials. This lets your audience know that you are encouraging the use of social media and an event backchannel. Include it on conference signage, on nametags, programs, smartphone apps, conference bags, etc. Add a widget to your event website that displays the latest twitter stream.

6. Use same hashtag for Flickr.

Use the same hashtag for any photos your participants upload to Flickr. Create a Flickr Conference page and encourage attendees to load their photos there.

Up next: A Twitter Conference Primer: Part 2 – Marketing And Engagement

What other steps would you add to this Twitter Primer Part 1 on preparing to use Twitter for your event?

9 Responses to A Twitter Conference Primer: Part 1 – Preparing For The Event
  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dave Lutz, nancyrubin. nancyrubin said: A Twitter Conference Primer: Part 1 – Preparing For The Event http://bit.ly/cE5Nm9 [...]

  2. Sam Smith
    September 16, 2010 | 11:40 pm

    Dave – I like the 1-2-3 cookbook on Twitter.

    However, the world is changing on us very quickly. Eight months ago, I would have said this was a darn good list. Now, I think that you need to do some updates.

    Here are some enhancements that will strengthen your list:

    > Most Wifi access points in the average conference room are attached to a single IP address. Twitter has now setup “rate limits” that shut down tweeting when there are two many tweets OR Twitter Searches from the same IP address. As more people start to use Twitter – you are going to see more and more of these issues pop up in conference centers.

    > Ask the venue about adding WiFi Boosters. Most wifi access points aren’t sufficient to handle all of the internet traffic for Laptops, smartphones and Ipads that are accessing the internet. These boosters help you get more people on the network. If you are not sure if you need boosters, ask your tech support team. They can help you figure out what you need.

    Regarding Tip #6 – I used to believe that you should promote a flickr tag – but I don’t think so anymore. Most people that are tweeting pictures and videos from smart phones are using the Twitpic, TwitVid or another similiar picture program that is automatically included with their phone. Posting stuff to Flickr is an extra step that slows down the communication process. The last three events that I attended, I skipped the Flickr part all together. I don’t regret it at all.

  3. [...] You’ve done the first six steps to prepare to use Twitter for your event. [...]

  4. Jeff Hurt
    September 17, 2010 | 6:10 am

    @Sam
    Thanks for the comment and the note about WiFi access points in conference centers. This is so true of some smaller venues like conference centers and boutique hotels. Your point is a great reminder that when checking the venue, ask if there is a limited single IP address per meeting room. On the other hand, I’ve found that most convention centers, large hotels and universities do not have this issue. Example: LA Convention Center partnered with SmartCity to provide free WiFi access for ASAE10. There were more tweets coming from that conference than ever in the past and no one had any problems with Twitter rate limits or single IP addresses per room.

    Regarding Tip #6, the new Twitter allows for Flickr integration so I believe you should still promote the tag for Flickr. It’s been my experience that often people taking pictures and uploading them are not necessarily using Twitter. If you do promote Flickr, you can create a Twitterfall or Twitterfountain the integrates both Flickr pictures and tweets. And you have a Flickr conference photo page that lives on forever, which you cannot do with Twitter integrated photots–at least at this time. Twitter integrated photos do not go to a single conference page source so you can see everyone’s images in one location.

  5. Sam Smith
    September 17, 2010 | 8:21 am

    Hi Jeff,

    All great points about Flikr. I agree and support all of them for a conference – in general.

    In regards to tweeting photos and videos directly from a conference or show floor – I think you are going to see your tweeters posting pictures with the service that is the easiest to setup and use. For the average attendee (that is not a social media geek) that service WILL NOT be Flickr.

    I will be interested to see how the New Twitter manages flickr integration. Hopefully, they have cracked the code and made it as easy as making one or two taps to move from taking a photo to tweeting it out. Right now – with the old Twitter – it is too hard.

  6. Tracy
    September 17, 2010 | 10:16 am

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for the 6-step program! Just FYI, I was tweeting at ASAE10 and was rate limited more than I would have liked. And it does NOT enhance my calm!

    Cheers,
    Tracy

  7. Jeff Hurt
    September 17, 2010 | 11:13 am

    @Tracy
    Thanks for sharing your experience at ASAE10 using Twitter. What we don’t know is if your rate limit was due to WiFi access or some of the apps you were using. I live tweeted from several sessions that got a lot of Twitter traffic and never hit a wall.

  8. [...] A Twitter Conference Primer: Part 1 – Preparing For The Event [...]

  9. Quinne
    November 29, 2010 | 5:53 pm

    Good tips Jef…Would you suggest that if our association has a Twitter account that we create a seperate Twitter account for our annual conference?
    We have a hashtag but that is only good for tracking references right?

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