Our Thinking

Time for a Twitter Wall?

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.)