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Twitter Wall

Looking for the fine print on successfully using Twitter at your event?  Here is Part two:  [Read part one]

1) Choose a hashtag:  Choosing a unique hashtag is critical; if you choose one that another organization is using, then their comments will be mixed in with yours.  CAFE, for example, is an acronym for the Canadian Association of Family Enterprises, the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, Canadian Association of Foundations of Education, and many others.  For a unique hashtag, add qualifiers to your name: #CAFEtalks2013 is good: #CAFE will generate problems.

2) Publicize the hashtag and educate your attendees:

  • Send instructions to attendees via email, encouraging them to try it out beforehand.
  • Print instructions on a postcard: how to get Twitter on their smartphone or tablet, what the event hashtag is, how to post. (An idea: ask them to answer a specific question, otherwise you will have many posts that say “this is my first post”).  The postcards can be given to delegates upon registration, handed out as people enter a room with a Twitter wall, or put on chairs.
  • For Twitter walls in an open area, have a staff member or volunteer nearby to answer questions.
  • Before a session, have an expert do a “pre-show” to teach the audience how to use the technology.  This should include how to download/sign-in on their smartphones, as well as sending their first tweet with the event hashtag.

3) Technical set-up:  There are a number of websites that provide Twitter wall functionality; one that works particularly well is the free site Twitterfall.com.   While there are many customization settings, here are the three key steps:

  • Add in your search terms (e.g. the hashtag, say #CAFEtalks2013).
  • Click on the presentation mode link.
  • Change the page title from the default to something useful, such as Please use #CAFEtalks2013.

Ensure that the computer that is projecting the Twitter wall is connected to a wired internet connection.  At many venues, the wireless internet can quickly become bogged down, leading to few (or no) updates being projected.  While users won’t have a problem with slightly slower speeds when posting, they will become frustrated if they don’t see their tweets appear quickly.

If you are considering adding a Twitter wall into a conference room, ask the speaker how often they have presented with one.  If the answer is never (or only a few times), then reconsider using the Twitter wall for that session.  Professional speakers will always highly tune a presentation; the unending stream of questions and comments via Twitter can be exceptionally distracting – unless the speaker has experience with it.

As well, mirror the Twitter wall on a monitor at floor-level in front of the speaker.  This will allow the presenter to see the back-channel conversation without turning his or her back to the audience.

Finally, use a staff member or volunteer to “live tweet” the event; this adds value for remote attendees, and avoids the problem of the Twitter wall looking empty.  Attendees are more likely to engage in a Twitter conversation if they see activity.

4) Follow-up:  Using Twitter doesn’t just happen at the event.  Afterwards, consider the following activities:

  • Download and review the transcripts for ideas and suggestions for future events.  Respond to any administrative questions that attendees asked.
  • Ask the speaker to monitor the hashtag and respond to questions for a few weeks after the event.
  • Send a note to attendees, reminding them that they can continue the conversation by including the hashtag(s) in relevant posts.
  • Use the hashtag to provide links for event evaluations – and registration for future events.
  • Add Twitter (and Social Media) to your postmortem agenda:  what did you learn, and what would you do differently?

Some people are more comfortable reading posts, while others are more interested in actively being engaged.  In both cases, using Twitter adds an interesting dimension to your meeting – if it’s done properly.

This week’s action plan: Everybody has been to meetings and seen great examples – or disasters – using Social Media. This week, share your experiences, either as a comment on this blog post, or on Twitter.  Use @randallcraig with hashtag #108MindsEngaged so we can continue the conversation.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com:  Professional credentials site
www.108ideaspace.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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Have you ever been responsible for a meeting and a conference, and you’ve thought to yourself – or you’ve been told – that it is time that your meeting incorporates Twitter?  Or the young keener in your office has assured you that doing so is actually quite easy – just set up a Twitter wall.  Unfortunately, you know that whenever anyone says this, either they don’t know what they’re talking about, or they have conveniently omitted the fine print.

Including Twitter within your meeting plans actually does provide some benefits:

1) It allows a conversational backchannel to form amongst attendees, improving engagement and building community.
2) The conversation can also be accessed by remote attendees.
3) The conversation can continue well after the event itself.
4) The conversation can be archived/reviewed for feedback and ideas for future meetings.
5) Using Twitter successfully helps demonstrate that you are tech-savvy and up-to-date.

On the flip side, using it poorly also reflects on you.  And Twitter does add one more thing to do… and one more thing that can go wrong.

For the uninitiated, Twitter is the Social Media service that allows users to post 140 character mini-status updates – “tweets”.  If a user follows you, anything that you tweet is then shown on their twitter home page.  Twitter uses a concept called hashtags – a keyword preceded by the # character – as the mechanism to allow conversations to happen.  Search for a particular hashtag, and you’ll usually find a robust conversation on the topic at hand.  To “join” the conversation, merely include the hashtag as part of your post.

A Twitter wall is web-based software that automatically listens for a certain hashtag, and then displays it on the screen.  Add a projector, and you are good to go.  Or not.

Twitter walls can be used either in an open area – often near registration – so that attendees can see comments made by others, or within the conference rooms themselves, so that attendees can use them as a backchannel during each presentation.  Not sure where to begin? There are four key activities that are necessary to host a successful Twitter meeting:

1) Choose a hashtag
2) Publicize it and educate your attendees
3) Twitter wall technical set-up
4) Post-event follow-up

This week’s action plan:  The most important part of the process is actually committing to try it.  This week, look at your calendar, and target your next meeting.  If you are an attendee, observe how the organizer is using Twitter to encourage the growth of community – and if they are successful.  Try to “live-tweet” a public meeting, and experience it from an attendee’s perspective.  And if you are the meeting organizer, dip your toe into the water, and make the commitment to try it at your next event.

Looking for details?  Learn from my experience as I go through each of the four activities step-by-step in this post.  (And help you avoid a disaster in the making.)

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com:  Professional credentials site
www.108ideaspace.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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