Attending an Industry Conference? How to Find the Right Conference-Twitter Balance


Tweeting at conferences

Photo source: S&S Media on flickr.

Note: This post was originally published at LinkedIn.

Introduction

I’m about to give you advice on things I’ve failed miserably at.

You see, I love Twitter. I use it every day. Put me at an industry conference? My love grows into an addiction. Armed with a smartphone, you can become a Twitter rock star at industry conferences. Take this to the extreme, however, and you can miss out on a lot of what the conference has to offer. After all, your goal was to attend a conference and not to spend the entire day on Twitter.

An Acid Test for Twitter Overuse

Here’s the perfect acid test to know whether you’ve overused Twitter at a conference: do you need to re-charge your phone before the conference is over?

It’s happened for me at every conference I’ve attended in 2014 (thank you for those sponsored charging stations!) My use of Twitter has taken away from other things the conference has to offer. I’ll always be able to connect with like-minded people on Twitter. I won’t have the same opportunity to engage with them face-to-face.

Here are six ways to keep your conference Twitter use in check.

1) For every 10 new people you follow, introduce yourself to 1 person at the conference.

I follow the event’s hash tag on Twitter. I like to read attendees’ observations about a session. I even like to hear what sponsors have to say, aside from the invitations to visit them at booth #317. When someone shares an interesting tweet, I follow them.

It’s quite easy to follow 50+ new people in a day. It’s harder to introduce yourself to real people in real life. So make sure you do that.

Photo source: TopRank Online Marketing on flickr.

2) For every 5 tweets, share 1 thought with another attendee.

It’s very easy to quote the keynote speaker and add the event’s hash tag to your tweet. It’s even easier to retweet someone else (yes, those get counted towards the 5). But how about the old fashioned way of communicating: face to face? Sharing your thoughts on Twitter is great. A lot of people can see it. Mix that with the more personal approach of expressing your thoughts to other people. In person.

3) Find and meet 5 people from the Twitter stream.

Once at a highly-tweeted conference, I got into the elevator during a break. I recognized another attendee from her Twitter profile photo. She and I had been tweeting during the same session. I knew her name (from Twitter, of course), so I introduced myself, saying that I recognized her from Twitter. Do this five times.

4) Put the phone down every 5 minutes or every 3 slides.

Photo: these two ought to take breaks to put their phones down. Photo source: Ed Yourdon on flickr.

There are some conference sessions (especially workshop sessions) that are learning-focused. When I’m in such a session, I take a lot of notes. If I’m tweeting every two minutes, I’m not able to take as many notes. And, I’m less likely to have heard all the valuable nuggets shared by the presenter. So force yourself to put the phone down. I recommend an interval of 5 minutes or 3 slides.

5) Collected business cards > number of tweets.

Sometimes, I’ll collect a business card from an attendee and the exchange will be superficial. We bumped into each other while waiting for coffee, but didn’t have a meaningful conversation. That being said, business card collection is a good proxy for the amount of networking and conversations you’ve had. Aim to have your collected business cards exceed the number of your tweets at the conference. To date, I’ve failed miserably on this metric, but hope to achieve this goal in future conferences.

6) Include 1 out of every 4 shared photos in a post-conference blog post.

Photos are becoming an increasing percentage of the tweet streams at events. They also work very well in blog posts about the conference. Write a blog post to share your takeaways from the conference. For every four photos you share on Twitter, pick one of them to include in your post.

Photo source: JD Lasica on flickr. Follow JD on Twitter: @JDLasica.

Conclusion

To get the most out of a conference, set some goals before going. Remind yourself of those goals throughout the day(s) of the conference. Twitter can help you achieve some of those goals, but stop to ask yourself whether (and when) it’s getting in the way. I’ll be sure to do the same for my next conference.

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2 Responses to Attending an Industry Conference? How to Find the Right Conference-Twitter Balance

  1. Great tips, Dennis. Not sure if you remember, but Tip #1 was how I met you at PCMA Convening Leaders in San Diego. I had enjoyed reading your blog and thought, I need to go meet this guy.

    • Dennis Shiao says:

      Thanks, Donna – only because you beat me to it! I wanted to meet you, as well – based on reading your blog posts and following your tweets. Glad we had a chance to meet in person.

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