I have "attended" conferences while at my laptop, far from the event's physical location. Through live Tweeting, attendees in the room with the speakers tell me and others around the world what is being said on stage. Because of the efforts of Tweeters in the room, we can get an excellent summary of each speaker's points through short messages, each with 140 characters.
When I first heard of live Tweeting, I was dismissive and wondered how the technique could convey to me the essence of a speaker's thoughts. After reading live Tweets from several conferences, I changed my mind. Now I look for the hashtag (see below) of any conference in which I am interested and follow the Tweets.
And I am disappointed when there are few or no live Tweets. For example, last week I was looking forward to reading the Tweets from a keynote at a conference in DC, but alas only two Tweets were sent during the talk. Instead, during the keynote, an attendee decided to Tweet her own aphorisms, unrelated to the talk, using the conference's hashtag! A rude violation of live Tweeting etiquette. What was doubly annoying was her silly aphorisms probably would have been rejected by card designers at Hallmark.
She was hogging the back channel—and with Tweets that were pointless.
Those of you new to live Tweeting are probably saying, "Slow down. WHAT is the back channel?" The
That # in front is critical because it signals Twitter to group all the messages together. The hashtag should be short so it does not use up many of the 140 characters. in addition to serving long-distance attendees, conference organizers are smart to create the hashtag for marketing purposes, too. Active live Tweeters can expand knowledge of an organization, and of its mission and quality.
I first live Tweeted at The Mindful Lawyer 2010, and was astounded at the value to me as listener. I listened with more discerning ears, sifting for the most important points. (Also surprising was the degree to which some speakers are repetitive, something you may not notice as much if you not actively trying to distill.)
Live Tweeting reminded me of the nuns and boarding school. When I was a high schooler attending San Domenico in San Anselmo, CA, I had to complete assignments in precis. For those of you not acquainted with precis, the exercise requires you to reduce a long passage to a short summary, much like live Tweeting. It is not only a handy skill to have for notetaking and Tweeting, but it also exercises your brain (or at least your mind).
Adopted originally as a time-saving device, it is only recently that the value of precis writing as a means of mental training has come to be recognised.
--G. B. Beak, Indexing and Précis Writing (Macmillan, 1908)
Of course, when you prepare a precis of something written, you can and should read the piece you are summarizing many times. When live Tweeting, you can't listen to the talk many times; I think of live Tweeting as uber precis. When you try it, you will soon see that it sharpens both your listening and your thinking, not to mention your typing. With high enthusisam, I recommend live Tweeting both for your readers and for you.
On the 'net, you can find many good lists of tips for live Tweeting. Here are a few:
- New Tricks: How to live-Tweet an event
- How To Live Tweet A Conference
- 7 Tips to Live Tweet an Event Effectively
Because Twitter is still new (just over 5 years old), so is live Tweeting. Think of these linked-to tips as guidelines, not rules, and have fun.
Thanks, Sister Thomasina!Note (added March 19, 2013): From "Best Tweets in the House" (Pacific Standard):
Marco Iacoboni, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, reports that when we’re less attentive, less mirroring takes place, and mirroring is what “makes observing such a rich experience.”
So does something like tweeting reduce or increase attention?
“That’s the key issue,” says Iacoboni, who finds the question intriguing but has not studied it himself. “I know of a scientist who does live tweeting when he goes to conferences because he claims he processes the information better when he is tweeting.”