A Twitter wall to support your meeting may appear easy to set up, but there are many fine points to consider
By Randall Craig
Including Twitter in your meeting plans allows a conversational back channel to form among attendees, improving engagement and building community. The conversation can also be accessed by remote attendees and can continue well after the event itself. It can be archived and reviewed for feedback and ideas for future conferences. Using Twitter successfully also helps demonstrate that you are tech-savvy and up-to-date. On the flip side, using it poorly also reflects on you.
For the uninitiated, Twitter allows users to post 140-character mini-status updates or 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 then displays it on the screen. Add a projector, and you are good to go. Twitter walls can be used in an open area 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. Beware the fine print on successfully using Twitter at your event.
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.
Publicize the hashtag and 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 and how to post. The postcards can be given to delegates upon registration or at the event.
Before a session, have an expert 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.
There are a number of websites that provide Twitter wall functionality. One that works particularly well is the free site Twitterfall. com. Ensure that the computer that is projecting the Twitter wall is connected to a wired Internet connection. At many venues, the WiFi 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 to 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. Professional speakers will always fine tune a presentation; the unending stream of questions and comments via Twitter can be exceptionally distracting unless they have experience with it.
As well, mirror the Twitter wall on a monitor at floor-level in front of the speaker. This will allow the speaker to see the backchannel 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.
Using Twitter doesn’t just happen at the event. Afterwards, consider downloading and reviewing the transcripts for ideas and suggestions for future events. 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 post-mortem agenda: what did you learn and what would you do differently?
Some people are more comfortable reading posts; 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. What has worked for you? What have you learned? Post your answer, and include both #SOItwitter and @randallcraig so we can continue this conversation.
Randall Craig has authored seven books, including Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business and Online PR and Social Media. He is president of consulting firm 108 ideaspace and speaks on social media strategy and risk management. randallcraig.com
Appeared in Speaking of Impact, Fall 2013 Edition