Tweet Tweet! Six Twitter Tips for Alcohol and other Drugs Conference Organisers

This is the last article in the four part series that addresses the use of Twitter to live tweet from conferences.  The practice of live tweeting from conferences can enable people not attending the conference to still share in the learning and networking that occur at these events, helping the sector in some small part to address the gap between transitioning research to practice.  In this article we will examine in the form of a series of tips, the practices that conference organisers can undertake to better support live conference tweeting.

1. Choose a hashtag

Choosing a hashtag is an obvious and important first step.  Hashtags enable conference attendees and followers to more easily follow the timeline of tweets related to the conference.  When selecting a hashtag, be mindful that the number of characters used will take up valuable real estate in terms of the 140 character limit imposed upon tweets, so try and make your conference hashtag short.  For example:

#AustDrugConference2013 = way too many characters

#ADC13 = great!

When choosing a hashtag it pays to do a little investigating first.  No one owns hashtags.  If you select a hashtag that is already in common usage for another topic or event you will find your conference tweets dluted by tweets about another subject matter.  For example:

#hrsm can represent both harm reduction social media and human resources social media.

2. Create a buzz

Use the hashtag to promote your conference.  This of course means that you need to select your conference hashtag early and whenever you write a tweet related to your upcoming conference include the conference hashtag.  By doing this you are familiarising potential attendees and Twitter followers to the conference hashtag, but you are also taking the opportunity to start some Twitter chatter about your upcoming conference.  Things that you might like to tweet may include the Twitter handles of speakers secured for the conference (you can also include their handle in the bios printed in programs too), links to the conference webpage and links to other media sources that are relevant to the conference topic.  Most of all speak personally to individuals who are tweeting early using the conference hashtag.  Thank them for their support.

3. Provide wifi

Wifi access is one of your best friends as a conference organiser if you wish to encourage people to tweet.  Many venues charge additional fees for these services however, so it pays to consider this in the budgeting stage of the conference planning.

Some venues will also have fairly stringent firewalls.  I recently attended a national alcohol and other drugs conference where the venue firewall excluded many terms related to illicit drug use, making conference tweeting from this event fairly challenging. (the issue was rectified part way into the conference).  This demonstrates to me that conference organisers need to be very specific in stating their needs when negotiating wifi access.


4. Provide an info sheet

Conferences always come with information materials about conference venue facilities, program etc.  Make sure that this information also provides delegates and speakers with information about the conference hashtag, wifi access, who to contact in the case of issues related to wifi access and any specific conference policies related to social media.  Specific policies may include a reminder that social networks such as Twitter are a public space and that trolling or derogatory tweets are discouraged.

5. Integration: real world to virtual and back again

Wherever possible integrating your conference’s virtual presence with its physical presence is highly recommended.  By doing this you enable non tweeters attending the conference to follow along.  The simplest way to do this is by including a second screen next to conference presentations that shows the #hashtag timeline, enabling non tweeters to view the conversations that are occuring in the virtual space in real time.


6. Measure, Record, Share

Many conference organisers will want to get an idea of how much of an impact supporting live tweeting at their event has had.  The Symplur website offers a free hashtag tracking service regarding healthcare issues posing a very elegant and user friendly solution. By pre registering the conference hashtag with Symplur, conference organisers are able to obtain some basic metrics regarding the reach of the tweets utilising the conference hashtag, as well as being able to identify key influencers. You can see an example here taken from the analytics of #VAADA13.

Perhaps more importantly by utilising Symplur, conference organisers are also able to collate all the tweets utilising the conference hashtag.  You can see an example of a collated transcript taken from the #VAADA13 conference here. Sharing this collated material can enable people who were not able to follow the conference in real time to view the tweets related to the hashtag.  The collated tweets are also a useful resource for those completing a report of the conference for their workplace.

There it is, six tips for conference organisers to support live conference tweeting.  Live conference tweeting in the Australian alcohol and other drugs sector seems to be growing.  It’s my hope that the tips presented in this article become the standard for alcohol and other drugs conferences going into the future.

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