3 Apr 2014

Some Benefits of Twitter to the Conference Experience

In this post I am going to present a short overview of the benefits, as I see them, of Twitter use to the Seminar or Conference experience from the perspective of the attendee, presenter and organisers.

Benefits to the Attendee
These benefits are ones that I personally derived from my experience of being a newbie Twitter user at this year's A&SL Conference.

I found that being a Twitter user makes a conference a very different experience.
This was my first conference since I've become an active, some would say hyper active, user of Twitter.  The way I attended, the way I interacted, the way I participated were all very different to conferences I had attended prior to being on Twitter.

The first benefit for me was that I felt I already 'knew' many of the participants attending the conference. I also 'knew' a number of the presenters. 
This is not a bad thing for somebody who works outside of the central Irish library hub, which like most things, due to Ireland's particular demographic makeup, revolves around Dublin. I found it comforting going into a conference centre already having a virtual relationship with other people attending the conference. I found it knocked away one layer of a conference - that getting to know you layer. That awkward bit where you go cold calling to introduce yourself to people you don't know. Most of the basics are already known from Twitter exchanges and discussions.
To an extent the ground for an IRL relationship has been created in the virtual. This from a purely social and networking angle made the conference much more productive and enjoyable for me.

My Tweeting the event created another huge benefit. I actually engaged on a deeper level with the conference and all the papers I saw over the two days.
During the course of the event I was one of a group of people tweeting the papers. I had thought tweeting an event would mean I would not properly engage with what was being said. Whereas in fact I found the opposite to be the case. I found that listening and following the speaker whilst aware of the fact that I would be transmitting, via Twitter, their paper to people not actually at the event meant I became a better listener.
As well as listening better I digested the paper and the meaning quicker and synopsised whilst doing so. Having to condense ideas into a 140 character tweet that gets the message across really exercises the mind. This made it a much more reflective conference attendance experience for me.

Another benefit is that you can also follow what is happening at other sessions that you are not attending. At the A&SL there were parallel sessions and through following them at #asl2014 I was able to see what I was 'missing'.

And a final benefit for the person attending is that there is a full record of the event on Twitter for when you wish to check back on it. This is a godsend for those of who have to write a report for our employers - often a condition of being getting approval to attend conferences.

Benefits to Presenters
The main benefit for the presenter is that their work can reach a far wider audience than the room full of delegates actually at the event. For example McKendrick et al in their detailed study of Twitter use at a medical conference showed that 16 tweeters of the conference had a combined total of 12,609 followers. 12,609 people is a very large potential audience for a researchers ideas.

The following paraphrase taken from Ernesto Priego's post shows how the presenters can use Twitter to extend their reach beyond the room.

For me what remains key is that live-tweeting is essentially a form of reporting, networking and dissemination... Live-tweeting is a form of broadcasting content, It is most definitely a form of public dissemination that allows scholars to be present and visible in the convention (and beyond)...

Benefits to Conference Organisers
The benefits to the conference organisers promoting the use of Twitter at their event can be best summed up by Jenn D at Tweet Reach Blog. As she succinctly puts it:

Twitter is the perfect social channel for conferences. It provides a real-time, public and searchable record of tweets about a conference that organizers, speakers and attendees can follow. Twitter even allows people who can’t attend in person to read along as conference events unfold. And Twitter gives conference planners an archive of participant comments, as well as measurable data they can report back to sponsors.

Or if you would like a more figures / data type of article check out, again, the McKendrick et al paper for the way that the conference can reach a far larger virtual audience than most event's organisers could ever possibly hope for.

So, the next conference / seminar or other event you go to - why not think of live tweeting from it? It does make the event more enjoyable, more interactive. You will probably engage better with the material. You will be providing an invaluable service to those unable to attend that particular event. You will be benefitting the presenter and organisers as you will be disseminating the papers and  exposing the conference to a much larger audience who can themselves get involved in the discussion.

If you have not live tweeted before and would like to do so why not check out these articles by Brian Croxall or Kelli Marshall for some useful guidelines.

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