Twitter considerations and tips at conferences

At the 2018 conference of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution, 5 friends and I put on a workshop on the use of Twitter in science.  Today: slides and commentary from Shoshanah Jacobs’ piece of the #CSEETweetShop.  How can you use Twitter in connection with a conference, to increase the reach of your science and of others’?

I’d like you to reflect for a moment about all the things that your body had to do over the last few days to get it to where you are sitting now. Perhaps you took a flight, perhaps you used public transportation, perhaps you maxed out your credit card, waiting for a reimbursement. Maybe more importantly: who isn’t here with us, and why?

Finding ways of sharing conference presentations on a social media platform can reduce important barriers to access; financial, physical, mental-health related, and, most recently on our radar, political.

On a personal level, tweeting out conference can help you to make new friends, provide you with a record of resources to follow up on later – and, for me, it focuses my attention as I prepare tweets.

Conferences held exclusively on Twitter do exist, but they are not yet widespread. The slide above shows a few examples. There are policy and procedure documents available for use as a template, so you don’t have to reinvent the rules from scratch.

And yes, there’s a biology conference on Twitter:  @Biotweeps just hosted its second annual Twitter conference. I got in touch with the creator of Biotweeps, @thonoir (Anthony Caravaggi). He sent me the image below:

Note that the number of people who engaged directly with the content is almost double the size of this CSEE 2018 conference. I’m not advocating for a full replacement of face-to-face events, of course. But, imagine an annual Twitter event at the halfway point between conferences, or in anticipation of one. There are many possible ways of structuring it such that it could increase the outreach of the science shared by this society. It could also reduce the barriers that are faced by many potential presenters who are not here with us.


Okay, so moving on to Twitter at face-to-face events:

Once you are preparing to attend a conference, there are a few things that you might consider.

Before you leave, let them know that you’re going. The content can vary from a tweet about what you’re up to and what you’re seeing as you prepare, to an introduction of yourself and your academic interests. Find ways to meet up with people, to create hashtag groups, and to discuss shared interests. You can even use a tweet to find your next opportunity:

Or promote your session:

This title tweet could then be used to anchor scheduled tweets when you are presenting your talk. This will give you a thread of your presentation for your records afterwards and allow interested people to follow along remotely.

Remember to include all important information. On the day of the conference, it is a good idea to let people know that it is happening. You may get some bystanders to participate. Just make sure that you let everyone know who is talking (by using links or @mentions that can be easily followed up on) and where, exactly, so that they can drop in if it is a public event. (Thanks Steve for letting me use you as my example! It was a super event!)

What about live-tweeting a talk?  Great – and I can offer tips for presenters, conference organisers, and tweeters.  Presenters, if you would like to encourage live tweeting of your presentation, make sure to include a little twitter icon on the title slide along with your handle so that you can receive mentions. Tweeters, make sure to include the handle to avoid subtweeting.

Conference organisers: consider social media-related policy. Here is where I’m really unsure about what policy exists. The conferences that I’ve attended and helped organise haven’t had explicit policy around Twitter and other platforms. I think that this is a must. Are presentations inherently public? What about preliminary data that a presenter wants to share immediately but not broadly? (A presenter could put a little ‘no Twitter’ symbol on those specific slides, for example.) How can a conference help organise around twitter users to enhance their outreach and the possibility for networking? Just a few questions…

If you’re going to live tweet, make sure to include some actual content. Don’t just tweet ‘look! I’m here!”. Tell us wha’s going on, what is being said, the significance of the event.

Tweeters: please don’t leave us hanging with very little way of finding the answer within a click or two!  This can lead to a dead tweet that has marginal impact.

The poster sessions are excellent opportunities to really engage with Twitter and presenters. Here you have the chance to reflect a bit, compose a meaningful tweet, and include a great photo. Use it to call on colleagues to drop by a poster. The tweet on the left of this slide resulted in a collaboration and fully funded MSc opportunity for this student. Bailey Bingham got a lot of foot traffic from her tweet on the right.

If you tweet out poster sessions, make sure to get permission and include a great photo if you can. Mention the student, presenter, and supervisor if applicable. Presenters: include social media information on the poster and if you forget, add it on a little piece of paper in the space around the edge.

If you are going to schedule tweets to go out as you are presenting your own talk, make sure that you plan it out. Do not simply tweet out your slides. Compose a narrative, take the opportunity to humanise the presentation, and see Alex Smith’s recommendations from this workshop (which I hope will be posted here shortly).

There are options available for scheduling tweets. None of them can be done at the last minute! Plan! Here is a screenshot of Tweetdeck.

Finally, say goodbye. For conference organisers, use this as an opportunity to close off the hashtag, provide some participation and outreach stats for presenters to refer to, and introduce next year’s hashtag!

© Shoshanah Jacobs  August 20, 2018

Here’s a related Twitter thread from Joel McGlothin

Previously, in this series:


7 thoughts on “Twitter considerations and tips at conferences

  1. Laura Poole (@lepoole)

    I regularly present at conference in my industry, and starting creating my own session hashtags, which I find useful (I put the hashtag on all slides along with the conference hashtag). I encourage attendees to live-tweet my presentation with my session hashtag and the conference hashtag, and invite them to take pictures. Afterward, I can easily use Wakelet to create a story of tweets and photos, which I can fill in with links and other resources and promote.


  2. Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing this!

    I’m having trouble finding it, but in the past week I saw a Tweet noticing that people at an ecology/evolution conference tended to live-tweet men’s talks much more frequently than women’s. A good reminder for us to check our implicit biases as we live-tweet conferences.


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