Tweet Tweet! Live Conference Reporting in the AOD sector

I recently had the pleasure of attending the biennial Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) conference and presenting a workshop about the use of Twitter as a workforce development tool in the alcohol and other drugs sector.

As always the VAADA conference was a great experience, made even more so by witnessing the growing number of people and organisations disseminating the learnings attained at the conference via Twitter.

The experience got me thinking once again about my own learning over the last few years, specifically about the knowledge and practices I’ve developed in relation to live conference tweeting.  Given this I thought it would be timely to share some of this learning.

This article is the first in a series of postings that deals specifically with the subject of live tweeting of alcohol and other drugs conferences.

Why live tweet from an alcohol and other drugs conference?

The alcohol and other drugs sector is a complex field.  Work in the Alcohol and other Drugs sector occurs in a context of continuous change. New drugs and trends emerge, treatments are discovered or refined and we are continuously reviewing and revising our knowledge base.  We need to stay abreast with this onslaught of knowledge in order to remain relevant to our clients, but here is the catch: Our professional body of knowledge is only ever going to get larger, not smaller.

The gap between research and practice is well acknowledged within the alcohol and other drugs sector.  Reasons for this gap include:

  • a lack of time and adequate resourcing to attend conferences and other professional development forums
  • lack of access to journals and plain language statements that convey important aspects of research that are transferrable into practice

(Campbell 2003)

It must also be acknowledged that in regards to initiatives that use formal training as means of disseminating the evidence base informing practice, there is an unavoidable time lag, as research is undertaken, and interpreted, the establishment of the significance (or not) of the research in relation to practice and then the development of curriculum informing the delivery of training.  In the fast paced, complex and ever changing context of the alcohol and other drugs sector, this time lag impairs the sector’s ability to respond in a timely manner to emerging situations (to be fair there are a range of other factors such as political will, that also impair the sector’s ability to respond quickly, however they are not the focus of this article).

I would assert that there is no one sized fits all solution to the challenges innate to the research/practice gap dilemma, and live tweeting is certainly not going to address the issue totally.  However by live tweeting from conferences we can disseminate information to the people who need it in a manner that is accessible and timely.  Classroom based formal learning is educator centric, requiring that participants meet the goals set down in the training curriculum.  Informal, self directed learning allows coal face workers to access the information they need right now.  By tweeting from conferences we provide such self directed learners with greater accessibility to the knowledge they seek.

The advantage of live tweeting over other forms of conference reporting.

Of course if you are a coal face worker that is lucky enough to attend a conference, you will often be required to submit a report of the learning you obtained at the conference to be presented or shared with your colleagues upon your return.  One advantage that real time tweeting from a conference that the more traditional form of conference reporting does not confer however, is the ability for your colleagues to tweet through questions for presenters in real time.  Additionally you can utilise not only your own tweets, but also the tweets of others to help inform the writing of your formal report for the organisation to be presented upon your return.


Okay so in this article we have established that live tweeting from conferences may provide greater access to evidence based information for self directed learners.  In the next instalment in this series I will be providing some tips and strategies for people undertaking live conference tweeting.


Campbell, T.C. Catlin, L.A. and Melchert, T.P. Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselors’ Attitudes and Resources for Integrating Research and Practice in the Journal of Drug Education, Vol. 33, No. 3 (2003): 307-323. DOI: 10.2190/VUHN-X36DKH56-2P77.

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  1. […] in a series of blog posts regarding live tweeting from alcohol and other drugs conferences.  In the first post of this series I identified the potential advantages that live tweeting conferences may confer in regards to […]

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