I'm fast approaching having 3000 followers on Twitter. Though my followers on Twitter don't match the readership of this blog, it's a fairly substantial audience and I've found Twitter to be incredibly useful in a number of ways which I've spoken about at length several times. One of these ways is to "live-broadcast" from conferences. Each time I do it, most of the people on Twitter who receive my stream seem to really like it. Those who don't either deal with, it or can temporarily un-follow me until I'm finished. I was recently asked by a Twitter user if I ever put my conference tweet "methods" into a blog post. I had not. Until now. Here's how you can Twitter conferences like a rock star. :-)
1. Filter The Signal From Noise
There's a lot of noise at conferences. People are there to promote both their organizations, their books and their personal brands. There's also an incredible amount of insights and thought nuggets that manifest at conferences and events. Train yourself to look for these choice bits. Listen with all of your senses. Trust your intuition and filter out the things that offer insights vs. that which doesn't.
2. Color Your Commentary
Unless you are a professional journalist, you have no reason to be objective. Do your best to capture quotes accurately but also don't forget that people are reading your thoughts because they want to know what YOU think. Don't be afraid to agree or disagree with a speaker. Throw out your POV for what it's worth. Spice up things by adding additional thoughts to what you just heard. Add your voice to the conversation. For lessons on how to do this, think of the great sportscasters. After all, you're covering a live event as it happens.
3. Talk To Your Audience
As you are busy capturing ideas and quotes, it becomes increasingly difficult to do anything else. But, you've made a choice to be an active participant as opposed to a passive member of the audience. Acknowledge followers on Twitter as much as possible. If someone has a really smart question for a panelist, try to ask that question on their behalf. Remember that the people who are choosing to follow your stream in real time are taking time out of their day to do so. Try to provide as much value as possible.
4. Paint The Scene
Twitter users who enjoy following conferences coverage through someone on Twitter will often times express how they "felt like they were there". Do what you can to reference the sights, sounds, and even smells of what you are experiencing. Talk about what people are wearing. Write about some of the details that might get overlooked in a wrap up of the conference. Paint a mental picture for your audience so that they can actually envision themselves there. It's cheaper for them and a more rewarding digital experience.
5. Do it For Yourself
Don't lose sight of the fact that unless you are being paid, you are ultimately choosing to tether yourself to a device during a conference because YOU are getting something out of it. If it's not fun for you, don't do it and don't be afraid to give yourself breaks for speakers who's messages you really want to absorb. Think of Twitter as a substitute for a notebook. Write down the things YOU find interesting. Add your personal thoughts. Be yourself. Don't be afraid to forget that you actually have an audience every once in a while and practice "responsible candor". This means saying what comes to mind as long as you don't jeopardize your professionalism. Be who you are—authenticity is the name of the game in this medium.
So those are my tips. Next week I will be live tweeting from IIT's Strategy conference. If you want to tune in, sign up to Twitter and follow me here. Special thanks to hdavis for inspiring this write-up.