Blogging, Community Building March 15, 2017 jess No comments

Live tweeting tech events: Practical Tips and Tricks

Live tweeting tech events is a hobby of mine. I find that it’s a great way to connect with other devs, hone my note taking skills, ask follow up questions, and solidify my takeaways from the presentation. After attending and speaking at several events, I’ve come up with some advice for efficient live tweeting. I also have some tips for presenters looking to engage their audience on Twitter after their presentation.

First and foremost

Be mindful of your context. Live tweeting is appropriate at most tech events. However, there are exceptions. For example:

  • The speaker is workshopping material and isn’t ready for it to go public.
  • You are at an event where proprietary information is being shared.
  • You are at a closed event where speakers are sharing personal stories or sensitive information.

You should always follow the Code of Conduct for an event. If a speaker asks you not to live tweet information they share: DON’T.

If you are speaking at an event and you do not want the audience to live tweet, explicitly state this at the beginning of your talk.

Live Tweeting Tips for Audience Members

Photo from the audience at RailsConf keynote 2014
A photo I tweeted out from the audience at the RailsConf 2014 keynote

Hashtags and Handles

  • Learn the hashtag associated with the presentation before the event starts. It only takes a moment. This will make it easier for the presenter to find your tweets and follow up on any questions you may have.
  • Follow the speaker and the official conference twitter handle before the talk starts. Some people like to keep their following list tightly curated. That’s fine! You can always unfollow the speaker and conference after you’re done tweeting. But you must follow them while you’re trying to live tweet them. This enables quick autocomplete of hashtags and handles so that you a.) contact the appropriate users b.) don’t slow your progress trying to find the right accounts and keywords.
  • Don’t be stingy with @ mentions, especially if you have questions. You have to be mindful of character counts when you’re using hashtags and mentions. However, this helps you concisely word your question for best effect. It can be difficult at first, but you’ll get more engagement out of thoughtfully curated questions and notes.
  • For real, @ mention the presenter. Give them props for interesting observations, clever jokes, and innovative ideas. The more positive attention you give to a speaker, the more likely you are to start a meaningful conversation. You are likely to get good feedback and build a rapport with people in your field, especially if there’s a low density of people live tweeting tech events in the area.

Content and Media

  • Tweet out interesting bits that you would have included in your personal notes, whether or not you were making them public. If you thought something was interesting enough to write down, someone else will find it interesting as well.
  • Never try to tweet a code sample.
  • Tweets with attached media like photos and video grab more attention. You’re more likely to start a conversation if you start with a photo.
  • Take some test photos  of the stage before the talk starts.
  • If there are code samples you’d like to share from the talk, snap a photo of the slide. Make sure to properly attribute the speaker in your @ mentions if you share verbatim content they created.
  • If your test photos don’t come out, save your observations in drafts. Include images of the slides after the presenter tells you where to locate the slide deck online.
  • If the presenter doesn’t cap off the talk a link to their slides, ask during the Q&A or in the hallway afterwards. Or, you know, on Twitter.

Miscellaneous Advice

  • Carefully consider which device you’ll use before you get to the event. Computers make typing easier and quicker, but it’s hard to take photos. Also consider that some meet ups might have table space for laptops, but larger conferences will not.
  • Don’t take photos with tablet. It’s disrespectful to others in the audience.
  • Make sure you have enough battery power and possibly an external battery pack if you plan on attending several talks in a row.
  • Tweet out the presenter’s slide deck and presenter notes if you appreciated the talk.
  • If you aren’t confident you can tweet quickly enough to keep pace with the talk, that’s okay! Take notes by hand or on your device. Snap photos whenever you can. Then share your observations later using the same guidelines listed above.

Tips for speakers: help your audience help you

Jess Unrein giving a talk in August 2016
An Instagram photo someone took of me at a talk in August 2016 🙂
  • Always include your twitter handle on either the title or bio slide of your presentation deck.
  • Know the hashtag for the event before you finalize your slides. Make sure to call out the hashtag out near the beginning of your talk. Include it in an early slide so people don’t misspell it.
  • If the event you’re at doesn’t have a hashtag (this is very unlikely), provide one for the audience to use during your talk. This is a great way to get feedback and meet community members who work on projects similar to yours.
  • Invite your audience to tweet questions at you. If you tell the audience you’ll respond, make sure to follow through. Do so within 24 hours.
  • Extroverted people are likely to come up to you after your talk. Offering Twitter as an alternative engagement platform allows a wider range of people to engage with your content. Additionally, if your talk is recorded, you can spark ongoing conversations after your talk has been posted online.
  • Make your slide deck pdf and your presenter notes publicly available on Github
  • Deckset is awesome for tech presentations because you compose your slides and presenter notes in Markdown. These are easy to share on Github. Also include a PDF export of your slides in the repo.
  • Use a custom, easy to remember shortened link for your slides and presenter notes.

Next time you attend or present at an event, I hope you meet some new people and stay in touch through Twitter!