Thursday, July 19, 2012

Twitter - Building Community and Communication Around Your Conference

At my sister’s wedding a few weeks ago, my husband, an IT professional, had the great idea
of creating a twitter tag for the wedding and having all the guests post their thoughts, feelings and interacting with one another in real time on a massive screen for all to see. Now, my sister through her hashtag, #sy0707, has a complete timeline holding the story of her wedding documented on Twitter. Tweets started during the rehearsal dinner the night before and the bride is still to this day tweeting honeymoon photos.


When my husband, the wedding emcee, first announced the concept of twitter at the reception, the crowd went silent and looked very uneasy. He responded “It’s 2012, people... we can do this!!! I’m an certified IT professional, let me show you.”  Everyone laughed.

A few young guests were quick to pull out their phones (our early adopters), but the majority of the people were hesitant at first. As posts began to appear, the concept took off. Guests started posting through their phones. People were grabbing my husband and handing over their phones demanding to be setup. Those without phones started posting through their neighbours’ phones. The photographer was able to post photos taken mere moments previously, for all to see.

One guest dared the head table to dance on their chairs. This tweet was viewed by every guest live as posted and was met with a roar from the other guests. The head table all got up and obliged the request and the interaction injected a wave of youthful enthusiasm into the reception.

Since that night, I’ve been thinking about the application of this social media platform for corporate events. Instant feedback, conversation and history.

For the twitter feed to be successful, the organizing committee must be prepared to devote resources to managing the social media tool.  Participation is crucial, and since a blank feed is not inviting to new users, people need to see interesting and engaging tweet to get them to join the conversation. As resources are always scarce this is a real business issue.  Do businesses see the value proposition that Twitter can offer them sufficiently enough to make that dedication? 

Some of the arguments/benefits for incorporating Twitter in your upcoming conference.

        Deepen Learning: Twitter allows guests to interact with each other, share what they have learnt, insights and highlights from the differing speakers.  This added layer of interaction can help deepen their learning experience.

        Instant Collaboration: “Twitter [provides] a simple way for attendees at a conference to share thoughts about particular sessions and activities with others at the event and those unable to attend.” (This resources als dives deeper into how Twitter can be used in the classroom)  

By throwing out an idea for all to see, guest are able to efficiently build on each other thoughts  in a manner that would not be easily achievable in a typical group setting.   A thought added by one person in one corner of the room can be built upon in an instant by someone else across the room who they may have never even met. Therefore instant collaboration is achieved.  Also allows guests to share resources as Twitters offers an easy way to post and share resources.

        Communication: Announcements can be easily shared through Twitter a feed for all to see. Displaying the feed at the event on a big screen could also temp others who aren’t currently using twitter to join the conversation.  Much like what we experience at my sisters wedding with guests looking to get signed up and participate.  Twitter also allows guess an outlet for posting questions, other guests may answer thus saving the staff time.

        Increase Hype: By creating a digital footprint for the event on Twitter you can increase hype before, during and after the event - may even help spread the word and increase event participation.

        Cost Effectiveness: Lastly and what every business man/woman would like to hear - Twitter is a cost effective communication tool.

During a recent study, when asked their personal opinions on Twitter conference attendees thought - the tool was “useful to discuss, share and spread information” and helped “build community”.  ( A good read)

Here another resource I would also like to share a very basic video but good intro to twitter for anyone who is less familiar with the tool. Twitter 101 for Conference Backchannels -

If you are attending an upcoming conference and want to know if they have their own hashtag check out  -