Having live-tweeted several times over the last year, I was feeling pretty confident, highly proficient, and not at all fazed when asked to step-in at short notice to take responsibility for tweeting at a recent event from the CIPR Scotland Twitter account.
I was so busy battering the keypad to keep up with the rich experience being shared that there were standard tactics I over-looked. So I thought it worth taking time to reflect, both to get your thoughts and to share my learning.
The free event, ‘A Day in the Life of the Scottish Government’s Communications Team’, organised by CIPR Scotland and Scottish Government, was just that; a rounded overview from senior Scottish Government staff about some of what they and their teams can be faced with in a normal working day.
Ranging from the 7am start for media monitoring, to the challenges of communicating in a crisis; from campaign management to Ministerial briefings, the speakers offered a lot of interesting insight into a broad portfolio of work.
For me the event was an opportunity not just to learn but also for professional networking – and it is within that context that my biggest learning point is framed.
What is the most effective social media toolkit contents that you can carry in your pocket heading to an event like this?
For me it is… toothbrush and toothpaste!
That’s right, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
This was an after-work event and as a result I’d grabbed a bite to eat prior to leaving work. The last thing I needed was to be chatting away, moving round the room, smiling at peers and maybe even potential employers with chicken pasta hanging from my gnashers.
What’s more, not only was I representing myself I am also a CIPR Scotland Committee Member and on this occasion helping out on the registration desk.
I say helping. Let’s use that in the loosest sense, which is presumably one small reason I was packed off to take over the tweeting!
If you’re wondering what exactly live tweeting is and the benefits, it is basically sharing the experience of people in the room with your followers and interested others.
The richer the content you create, the better the experience it is for those following it. It can help build up your profile and followers; connect with like-minded people; even link with someone in the room that, with 60 delegates at the Scottish Government event for example, may not have been otherwise possible. It is also free coverage.
Perhaps due to geographical or financial barriers, those following you can get a prompt, possibly better, certainly richer understanding of discussions than simply through an uploaded presentation days later.
You might be helping people overcome isolation, increase their learning, or improve employability through gaining better knowledge – never underestimate the power of live tweeting.
You’ll also good have evidence of what was said and quotes, but only if you save the tweets. More of that later.
Back in the room, what’s your approach? First steps start the night before.
Do your homework
First find out at the earliest opportunity that the event allows tweeting. I attended a conference at the end of last year under the Chatham House Rule, where participants are free to use information but by avoiding identifying the speakers.
Whether you’re a delegate or an organiser, agree a hashtag in advance and tweet it. In the build-up throughout the week or day prior, tell people you’re going, ask who else is attending, and always use a hashtag.
Hashtags help group your content together. If you’re setting a hashtag for an event, type it into Twitter first to avoid embarrassment to make sure it isn’t one being used for something ‘quite different’!
Make sure your battery has power. If, like me, you’re tweeting from a smartphone and it drains fast, then either invest in a better phone, a longer life battery (which can be expensive) – or as I did last week, as soon as you enter the room source the best seat with the nearest power socket and plug yourself in. Snooze you lose (but do share).
Find out if there is wifi and if so, a password. Though that will normally be shared on a slide or delegate pack, if it isn’t then just ask.
Planning to connect
How are you going to connect with people you network with at the event – give them your, and ask for their, Twitter handle; then get your phone out and follow them there and then?
That is perfectly acceptable. I often simply type content and information from the presentation or talk into my smartphone for future reference, though it is also worth being courteous to speakers too. Ask about the rules on tweeting if it is not mentioned. It might look like you’re working, texting and being rude and not at all interested, when actually that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Assuming you have access to the network, tweeting is by far the quickest way to instantly link to other delegates, which can then be followed up and reinforced later, possibly through other channels.
Is your Twitter account on your business cards?
Have you edited your LinkedIn profile web address to make it more memorable? My basic account is www.linkedin.com/in/marcommskenny – a little more memorable than a list of random numbers.
(Do remember people can see who has checked their LinkedIn account unless you have tweaked your settings.)
Also, start testing out introducing yourself not just by your name but also by your Twitter handle. Often, especially if I have been Tweeting beforehand, I straight away say, ‘I’m Kenny, marcommskenny on Twitter’. Infact last week wasn’t the first time that I have been introduced solely as marcommskenny.
While many speakers will share their Twitter account at the start of their presentation, seminar or talk, it is useful to find that out and engage beforehand if possible.
At the event
One major oversight I had last week was not to share imagery. Schoolboy error.
Imagery is vital if you want people following you or the hashtag to be able to fully engage and better sense the event as it unfolds. Quite literally putting faces to names. The one caution is of course to be courteous to those who may not want to be pictured.
Search for the hashtag and retweet others where relevant.
Find the balance between tweeting and listening and learning.
If you are managing the event Twitter account, ask if Tweeple have questions and relay them to speakers if possible. If there is no time to relay those questions then do your best to get answers, either at the event or after. That could be through a tweet, an email or even a blog post.
Limitations to live tweeting
I find it difficult to concentrate on listening at the same time as typing. I can’t ever type fast enough to keep up!
Using a laptop can be noisy (the way I batter the keys, my colleagues will concur) – however using a smartphone can be fiddly.
You have to consider your network reception .
Keep the conversation going – continue to engage, discuss, answer and retweet.
Who has followed you as a result of tweeting? Consider following them back.
Evidence the hashtag tweeting through Storify. Joe Walton, CIPR Scotland Secretary, created a Storify of last week’s event.
This may all seem like a lot to remember but in reality after practice it becomes second nature. Of course I still managed to overlook a few elements last week and I’l be checking back to this blog post next time to make sure I don’t repeat those mistakes.
Above all else, I’ll be trying hard to make sure I have the most important tools packed and ready – my toothbrush and toothpaste!
Take it easy, and remember to smile