Presenting for Twitter at Conferences

Podium viewLast week, Adeline chronicled the recent “Twittergate” and considered the best practices for tweeting at conferences. I’m a huge fan of conference backchannels, particularly since my work is very interdisciplinary and it seems there’s an interesting conference every weekend that I wish I could attend. Twitter offers some insight into what happens in those spaces. How much insight? It depends–but not just on those tweeting. The presenters can play a big role in determining how accessible their work is to those looking in.

Why encourage tweeting of your work? There’s been lots of discussion of the value of academic tweeting and open exchange of ideas, which is important philosophically and part of why I tweet a conferences. But there’s also value to you as the presenter–feedback, a chance for extended conversations, and even the potential for finding collaborators, publishers, or new venues to share and grow your ideas.

As conference presenters, we won’t be the ones tweeting our talks. And there are lots of things we can’t control, like who shows up and whether they find our work interesting enough for “live” tweeting. But if you do value feedback and new insight into your work, planning for Twitter can be an important part of encouraging discussion–and as Alex Reid noted, “any possible discussion of one’s work would have the possibility of shaping one’s future work.”

Here are a few strategies I try to use at conferences to make my work easy to tweet:

  • Be on Twitter. Ryan Cordell has some great advice on how to start tweeting–and why. Signing on yourself is essential if you want to take advantage of a social media feedback on your talk. Not having a Twitter account might not stop people from tweeting about your work, but it will make it harder for you to find what they say and respond.
  • Include your Twitter handle on every slide. As Derek Bruff pointed out in his post on encouraging a conference backchannel, a visible hashtag is key to starting a conversation. The same goes for individual work: seeing your handle makes it easy for listeners to attribute quotes or direct questions your way. It also makes it easy for those attending to follow you and start conversations later. Consider book-ending your presentation with an introductory and closing tweet using the conference hashtag to make yourself known for any follow-up questions.
  • Use Twitter-friendly links and references. If you have a home page for a project, a blog post relevant to your talk, or even your presentation materials online, make sure it’s easy for those to be tweeted. You might use your own URL shortener, a dedicated subdomain, or schedule a tweet in advance to direct interested parties to your own version of the materials. If the conference only hosts abstracts, having your own home for the presentation will make it easier for others to get the whole picture of your research.
  • Be “tweetable.” Hilary Smith offered some advice for avoiding awkward book panels: consider how your big points would sound distilled to a tweet. As she points out: “…even if you’re not lucky enough to have an iPhone-happy audience member live-tweeting your brilliant thoughts, chances are you will still be more succinct and memorable than you would have been otherwise.” This doesn’t mean everything has to be a soundbite, but it can help you to think about the talk’s real focus and take-away points.
  • Avoid heavy jargon and excessive theory talk where possible. This doesn’t mean dumbing down your talk–but it is part of acknowledging and preparing for the potential range of your audience. Even the people in the room at your presentation might be from different backgrounds or disciplines from your own. At a big conference, non-specialists might have dropped by because they are interested–or because nothing else was on–and they can offer a lot of insight. Graduate students might have great perspective but not be fully into your field’s jargon yet. Try not to lock anyone out of the conversation unnecessarily.

Do you appreciate it when conference-goers tweet your presentation? How do you support good Twitter conversations around sharing your research?
[CC BY 2.0 Flickr Photo by ChrisDag]

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