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

April 29, 2014

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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How to Be a Twitter Rock Star at Conferences and Events

April 13, 2013

Introduction

With its 140 character payload and ability to follow hash tags, it seems Twitter was designed for events. For me and many others, participating in Twitter conversations significantly enhances my event experience. I find more, learn more and meet many more people than I otherwise would have. Let’s consider tips that can transform you from a conference tweeter to a Twitter rock star.

How to Gain Visibility

ALWAYS include the conference hash tag.

Do this before you pick up your badge: determine the conference hash tag. It’s usually on the event page or printed on signage at the event. If not, simply ask staffers for it. Include the hash tag in ALL of your tweets. If you don’t, your tweets will not be seen. And if the conference doesn’t have a hash tag, create one yourself and encourage others to use it.

Temporarily place the hash tag in your Twitter profile.

If the hash tag is “#conference2013,” then consider adding something like this in your Twitter profile: “Attending #conference2013 this week. Tweet me if you’re there!” Now, when attendees see your tweets and check out your profile, they’ll be more inclined to follow and interact with you.

Share photos.

Take photos of the keynote session, exhibit floor, signage – basically, anything interesting. Users love them.

Engage with influencers.

Influencers include session speakers, along with knowledgeable and well-followed attendees. Follow them and engage with them. If they reply back to you or RT you, others will be sure to take notice.

How to Gain Followers

Liberally follow others.

I use the Twitterific iPhone app at conferences

Pictured: The Twitterific app for iPhone. I scan for users, view their profiles and follow liberally.

Fellow attendees have at least one thing in common with you (after all, you went to the same event). So wouldn’t they be good people to follow? Follow the folks who are actively tweeting. The follow helps promote your existence. They may miss your insightful conference tweets, but when you follow them, chances are they’ll check out you (and follow back).

Retweet and Interact with others.

Let’s face it, sometimes at a conference, you really just need to focus on the conference itself. You’re sitting in a captivating session and learning a ton of things. You can’t afford to compose a thoughtful tweet. What you can do, however, is quickly scan the tweet stream for others’ insights. Retweet (“RT”) those insights and share your thoughts by replying to some users. Now, quick! Get back to that awesome session.

Quote interesting nuggets from sessions.

Just like you curate (and share) great content on Twitter, your “job” at a conference session is to curate interesting nuggets and quotes. Did the presenter just say something that made the audience go, “Oooh”? If so, quote the presenter via a tweet. You’re likely to get RT’s and follows.

Give shout-outs to exhibitors.

If you visit an exhibitor booth or have lunch with an exhibitor rep, give a shout-out to them (on Twitter). They’ll love it! And they’ll likely tweet you back, follow you, RT you and offer you some nifty conference swag.

General Tips

Always tweet IN CONTEXT.

I once took a photo as I walked into the keynote session. It was a humorous image, tied to the theme of the event and I really wanted to share it. However, once the keynote kicked off, everyone was tweeting about what the presenter was saying. If I tweeted the photo then, it would have been entirely out of context. So I waited. I tweeted the photo during the break, so it could get more visibility.

Facilitate face-to-face meet-ups with other Twitter users.

Another attendee and I tweeted quite frequently at a conference. When I rode the same elevator as her, I recognized her via her Twitter profile photo. I introduced myself and we chatted about the conference (for as long as an elevator ride would permit). “Upgrading” from a Twitter connection to a face-to-face meet-up is a great thing.

Take a break.

This won’t make you a Twitter rock star, but make sure you take adequate breaks from Twitter and enjoy the conference. For highly active Twitter users, there’s a delicate balance that must be managed. You don’t want to be so active on Twitter that you miss out on the great things the conference has to offer (kind of like visiting the Grand Canyon, tweeting too much and missing the view).

For Exhibitors: tweet in context with the sessions.

Let’s say there’s a breakout session on social media marketing and you’re an exhibitor that provides social media marketing software.

The session is scheduled for 2pm. At 2:15pm, issue a tweet such as, “Want a dashboard to manage social media marketing for your entire team? Visit us in booth #127 after the session.” Bonus points if the presenter is talking about dashboards precisely at 2:15pm.

For presenters: share your slides as you go on stage.

Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) was the first (that I’ve seen) to establish this practice. Some presenters provide their slides after their session. Jeremiah provides his slides before or during the session.

Some presenters will schedule a tweet to share their slides as they’re taking the stage (and then mention the fact during their opening segment). Attendees always request the slides, so proactively sharing them is a good practice.

Addendum: Jeremiah provides additional details:

Conclusion

So there you have it. Follow these tips to gain visibility, gain new followers and make new connections at your next conference. Be sure, though, that you’re getting the most out of the conference. Twitter is fantastic, but it can also consume your attention and time and create missed opportunities. Find the right balance and you’ll be rocking the conference in full Twitter style.


Unable to Attend an Event? 10 Ways Twitter Fills the Gap

October 15, 2012

Introduction

IMEX America, which describes itself as “America’s worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings and events,” took place October 9-11, 2012 in Las Vegas.

I didn’t attend the event, but noticed that 20+% of my Twitter #eventprofs friends were there. I knew about their attendance from their tweets, but also received additional “color” via the photos, videos, quotes, observations and shout-outs that they posted (on Twitter).

So even though I wasn’t anywhere near Sin City, checking the #imex12 hash tag during the day yielded the next best thing: feeling as if I were. I was able to see who was meeting up with whom, which organizations were there exhibiting and what the popular nightspots were.

Here are 10 ways Twitter helps “remote attendees” experience the sights and sounds of the on-site experience.

1) Take in the sights.

Images tell a story. It’s hard to imagine “following” an event on Twitter via words (text) alone. The images of attendees, exhibitors, speakers and the show floor give us a sense of the event’s character and personality. In addition, imagery adds to the feeling of “being there.”

2) Discover the key themes.

I don’t need an industry publication to tell me about the key themes of this year’s event, because it’s all right there in the tweet stream. Whether Twitter users share their own opinions or a quote from the keynote presentation, the tweet stream is the leading indicator of the event’s key topics.

3) Make new connections.

You’re sure to find interesting people at the event, by way of the tweets they’re sharing. You may choose to follow selected folks and they may decide to follow you back. In addition, by following the event’s hash tag and getting involved, you’re bound to pick up some followers by way of your interactions. I once attended a physical event and made new connections exclusively on Twitter. That’s right, we “met” on Twitter, but not face to face (it’s sad).

4) Gain nuggets of wisdom.

Miss out on a Sunday’s worth of NFL action? It’s OK, you can still watch the highlights that night. It’s similar with events: by reading the quotes shared on Twitter, you still get the nuggets of wisdom (from presenters) and get a feel for what particular sessions were all about.

5) Find exhibitors who provide solutions you may need.

For popular booths at physical shows, you may have to wait in line to speak to an exhibitor sales rep. Many of these same exhibitors are online (on Twitter), posting news and inviting on-site attendees to come visit their booth. If you’d like to obtain more information from an exhibitor, engage with them on Twitter – chances are they’ll respond back and get you connected to the right people.

6) Interact with onsite attendees by answering their questions.

Whether you’re 50 or 5,000 miles away, you can still be a valuable resource to the on-site attendees. How? By answering questions they might have. Provide a meaningful answer and you’ll likely pick up a few followers, too.

7) Learn about important industry news and announcements.

Whether it’s an award, an exhibitor product announcement or news of a new industry partnership, chances are you’ll hear about it on Twitter.

8) Watch live video from the show floor.

Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have known about the live video interviews that were being conducted from IMEX America’s show floor.

9) Listen to a show’s podcasts as well.

Meetings Podcast, hosted by Mike McAllen and Jon Trask, was the official podcaster for IMEX America ’12. And how did I know that a new episode was up on the site? On Twitter, of course!

10) Discover recaps of the show’s happenings.

A great complement to the “Twitter commentary” are blog summaries that can go beyond 140 characters. Here’s an example of a great daily recap published by Anne Thornley-Brown on the Cvent blog.

Conclusion

I thought I’d conclude this post in 140 characters (or less):

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


What the TV Commercials Tell Us About Twitter

June 14, 2012

Introduction

Twitter launched its first television commercials in conjunction with an event: The 2012 Pocono 400 NASCAR race. The commercials helped publicize the new hashtag pages from Twitter – they created a hashtag page for NASCAR that was promoted within the TV spots.

While I’m not a NASCAR fan, I had my TV tuned to TNT on Sunday afternoon, hoping to catch some of the commercials. Bad timing, combined with the shortness of the ads, prevented me from viewing them live. As a result, I went to YouTube to watch them there (the next day). Here’s one of the commercials:

So what do the commercials tell us about Twitter?

Core Value Proposition

Facebook and Google? They’re well understood by the average consumer. Twitter? Not so much. If you say “share what’s happening in 140 characters or less,” some people will “get it,” while others will get confused.

Judging by this first set of commercials, Twitter is defining its core value proposition around consumption, not sharing and publishing. In other words, you don’t have to tweet in order to find Twitter useful.

And it’s really a two-pronged value proposition:

  1. Consumption: for those who are inclined to “follow.”
  2. Sharing: for those who wish to stay connected with fans and followers.

On the consumption side, Twitter gives you behind the scenes access to your favorite celebrities, whether they’re athletes, actors, actresses, authors or politicians. Just look at the captions used in the six commercials – they’re all about receiving, rather than sharing:

  1. See what he sees.
  2. Follow them past the finish line.
  3. Where off the record is on the record.
  4. Get the POV from a VIP.
  5. What they see is what you get.
  6. See what else he writes.
  7. Put the pieces together.

Never before has the average consumer been able to connect (and even engage) so easily with celebrities. Now, you can journey inside a NASCAR racecar. And you can tweet to @justinbieber and get retweeted by him.

Striving for Mass Adoption, Part 1

Here was Google’s first foray into television commercials:

Notice the stark contrast? Google’s commercial was all about experiencing the product (Google searches), whereas Twitter’s commercials never showed the product (e.g. Twitter.com, Twitter desktop applications or Twitter mobile apps).

This relates directly to the core value proposition (above). The TV commercials show examples of how racing fans can become further engaged in following their sport. But it’s clearly a 50,000 foot view that doesn’t get into the mechanics of Twitter itself.

Twitter is clearly going after mass adoption – and that means our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. I expect subsequent ad campaigns that continue the story to demonstrate how users go about using the product.

Striving for Mass Adoption, Part 2

While this particular campaign targeted a precise audience (fans of NASCAR), it’s interesting that Twitter chose television advertising over online advertising. Television still works, it seems, in its ability to efficiently reach a broad audience at a moment in time (and of course, online afterwards, via YouTube).

I expect Twitter’s TV commercials to address a broader audience going forward. A Super Bowl ad in 2013, perhaps?

Twitter and Events: Perfect Together

Ever since Twitter launched, event professionals (and attendees) found a natural use of the service at events: quoting speakers, sharing insights, generating awareness and following the event’s hash tag. On the NASCAR hash tag page, you’ll see the following:

Next race: Quicken Loans 400, Sun 12pm ET on TNT

Twitter and NASCAR are clearly looking to the hash tag page as the online focal point to NASCAR’s ongoing events. In addition to NASCAR, Twitter has organized some activities around the NBA Finals. In a post titled “Courtside Tweets” on their blog, Twitter shares related hash tags and lists 13 athletes who will provide color commentary (via Twitter) during the Finals.

My expectation: Hash tag pages become available for all types of events, especially in B2B for trade shows, conferences, product launches and more. Before long, every B2B event may get its on hash tag page. And beyond that, I expect to see Twitter roll out additional products and services suited to events. After all, Twitter and events are perfect together.

Conclusion

So what to the TV commercials tell us about Twitter? They tell me that Twitter is focusing on mainstream adoption. On the one hand, they want the mainstream to understand what the service is all about. On the other hand, they’re sending a message to stars and celebrities to use Twitter to connect with fans (rather than a Facebook page, for instance).

And at the same time, they’re making it known to brands (including event brands) that these hashtag pages (with perhaps more products to come) are a great way to connect with your customers, fans and attendees.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


How To Promote Your Virtual Event On Twitter

October 26, 2009

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With a rapidly growing and highly engaged user base, Twitter can be a great vehicle for driving registrations and attendance to your next virtual event.  Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get that done:

  1. Find your target audience on Twitter – first, of course, you need to define the target audience of your virtual event.  Once you do, go seek them out on Twitter – you don’t need to engage with them on Twitter just yet, but you can start following them – and identify the “places” where they tend to congregate (e.g. read their tweets, click through on links they’re sharing, read their blogs, attend chats they participate in, etc.).  You may find that by following folks, they’ll follow you back – and, may engage with you on their own.  Next, leverage Twitter’s search capabilities – search on key terms associated with your virtual event and observe who’s tweeting about them.  Sign up for a service like tweetbeep and you’ll receive daily email alerts with all tweets about your selected terms.  Start following the folks who seem to know what they’re talking about, as your virtual event may be of interest to them.
  2. Identify Twitter users whom your target audience follows – if you handled Step #1 well, then you’ve half-way completed this step already.  By researching topics (and users) on Twitter, you’ll begin to build an authority map – those with more authority on topics tend to have more followers.  Identify users whom your target audience is following – then, determine which users they’re following (and so on).  You’re now starting to build potential promoters who can help in the outreach efforts of your virtual event.
  3. Leverage prominent or active tweeters in your own company – is your CEO or VP Marketing an active tweeter?  If so, them reach out to their multitude of followers to promote the virtual event.  On your corporate web site, use a service such as TweepML to share a list of your company’s Twitter users – giving web site visitors a single-click option to start following every member of that list!
  4. Identify other prominent / relevant Twitter users – find prominent industry bloggers and start reading their blogs.  Engage with them by leaving comments on their blogs or send them @replies via Twitter.  Making these folks aware of your virtual event is a good thing (e.g. perhaps they’ll attend) – having them promote the event on your behalf is even better.
  5. Build your Twitter following – if you’ll be using a corporate branded Twitter account to focus your marketing efforts, use the aforementioned steps to start building your list of followers.  For me, quality always trumps quantity with Twitter followers – I’d rather have the right people follow my corporate branded account than have 200 “non relevant” folks follow me (in the hopes that I’ll follow them back).  Especially with a corporate Twitter account – make every tweet count.  Potential followers will often review your last 5 or last 10 tweets – if you tweet too often about breakfast or the weather, then you will NOT be followed.
  6. Start promoting by adding value – first, you never want to over-promote your virtual event.  Doing so will only turn users off from your corporate branded Twitter account.  Each time you promote the virtual event, you want to add value.  So again, make every tweet (promotion) account and give users something useful each time.  Similarly, ask your fellow promoters to start spreading the word – and suggest phrases or facts they should be using in their tweets.  Use a link shortener such as bit.ly and track the number of clicks you generate – this way, you can start to determine what’s working and what’s not working.
  7. Define (and use) your virtual event’s hash tag – make sure all tweets (e.g. from you, your colleagues and your fellow promoters) utilize the hash tag that you’ve created for your virtual event.  Ask your event’s exhibitors to pitch in as well – have them tweet about their presence at the event.  Once you’ve seeded the discussion with your event’s hash tag, you may see the interaction and commentary spread – if a few prominent tweeters jump in (e.g. >100,000 followers) and their tweets are then re-tweeted by other prominent tweeters, then awareness of your virtual event can spread beyond even your wildest dreams.
  8. Leverage other (relevant) hash tags – the hash tag can be a wildly effective means for promoting content to indirect followers – I may only have a few hundred followers, but if I post something insightful with the #eventprofs hash tag, I may have my message seen by the 50,000 (this number used merely as an example) users who monitor that hash tag.  Make sure the hash tag is relevant to your virtual event – assuming it is, including that hash tag along with your event’s tag. [Addendum, 10/27/09: be careful not to over-promote to the related hash tags, as constant promotion of your virtual event will surely turn off the followers of that hash tag – you’ll even receive backlash from them]
  9. Think outside the box – instead of continually pointing users to the registration page for your virtual event, try to mix things up – link to other areas, such as: short video of the keynote speaker; text quote from a prominent presenter; a testimonial (quote) from a pre-registered attendee; a twitpic (image) of the event’s show floor or auditorium; a page that lists titles or companies who have already registered.  Of course, on all of these pages, place a link to your event’s registration page.
  10. Have fun – Twitter can be an effective business tool – but remember, it’s also fun!

Tweet this posting:

How To Promote Your #Virtual Event On Twitter: http://bit.ly/n74Aj #eventprofs

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