5 Challenges to Live Tweeting Events

Posted: May 18, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Awhile back, I debated the etiquette of live tweeting from an event/presentation.  Since then, I’ve had the chance to live tweet in two other instances.  I’m finding that each new situation in which I find myself in a position to live tweet requires some adjustments in how I experience what is going on.  For example, the first time I attempted this at a 3rd Tuesday event, I felt my attention span was fragmented at first.  Then, I found an entirely different layer of interactivity with other audience members as the discussion progressed.  At the web strategy summit (#wss) in Calgary a couple of weeks ago, there were too many good points being made that I couldn’t help but share some of them.  And yesterday, I participated in the Lunch Box Theatre’s live Twitter feedback experiment (#lbt).  We were to provide feedback on a reading as part of the Q&A that typically happens after the reading is over.

I continue to weigh the positives and negatives of this.  I won’t be one to stop sharing information via Twitter, whether online or from a live event, but I will be one to continually attempt to improve my Twitter behaviour in an attempt to overcome any of the challenges I can see.  Here are 5 challenges I’ve identified to using Twitter at live events and some possible solutions.

  1. When live tweeting from an event, it’s possible to inundate your followers with too many updates.

    If you are typically fairly active in the Twittersphere, or people generally follow you because you happen to go to a lot of events/conferences and live tweet from them all, this may not be a problem.  But for the majority of us who have a few key people we pay attention to, or haven’t set ourselves up with some groups on Tweetdeck, this can be cumbersome if you are on the receiving end.  One of the suggestions at the Lunch Box Theatre in Calgary was to send out a warning tweet explaining you were participating in an event at which live tweeting was encouraged and to expect an inundation of tweets from you.  The option could be to unfollow you momentarily, or simply ignore them or shut Twitter down in the meantime.  

  2. Updates can be taken out of context.

    This one is a bit more tricky.  There isn’t any one thing that can be done to ensure a point is being portrayed the way it was intended.  My solution to this has been to tweet less, listen more and find the 140 character summary that can generalize the point being made in a broader context than simply repeating a one liner.

    Having a copy of the presentation handy after the fact (video, powerpoint presentation, etc.) for someone to reference who may have seen the update on Twitter can also provide for more context.  It won’t help 100% of the time, but for anyone looking for further explanation on what was said, at least the resources will be there should they seek them out.

  3. Speakers can feel intimidated when they don’t know what’s being said about them while it’s being said.

    This, I’m not sure there is a cure for except for speakers to become accustomed to what might be said about them or about their presentation.  One solution could be for an official Twitter moderator at each event who is monitoring the conversation, calling out anything inappropriate and helping to gather any debates or questions for the presenter at the end of the presentation, much like you would take questions via phone and online throughout a call in show.  Brands need to monitor online conversations  on an ongoing basis.  Perhaps this is something conference organizers should think more about as well.  Also, projecting the Twitter stream for everyone to see the conversation can keep transparency of discussion at the forefront.

  4. Key points can easily be missed if you spend too much time engaging other audience members in discussion while the presentation/event is occurring.

    I’m afraid the only solution here is to be less chatty.  It’s a no brainer that if you are paying more attention to conversing with other people on Twitter about what is being said that you’ll miss something important that the presenter has offered up, or you’ll lose the context to what is being said and your updates themselves are then compromised.   This one comes down to good old common sense and courtesy. 

  5. Some people find it rude that other audience members are tethered to their mobile devices rather than listening attentively to the speaker.

    Similarly to the point above, others view people tweeting from an event to be rude.  There is a line where sharing the interesting bits of conversation can become downright rude if, as mentioned in the last point, you end up talking with other people via Twitter more than you are listening to the presenter.  

    The other option is to use your laptop over your mobile.  They seem to be more accepted as a means of note taking.

What challenges have you encountered with live tweeting at events?  Are there places you think it just shouldn’t happen?  What are some other suggestions for overcoming these?

  1. Angela says:

    One of our fellow Tweeters got ‘yelled’ at by one of his followers. He immediately set up a second Twitter account to post his thoughts on the Lunchbox Theatre event.

    I have yet to encounter anyone who takes issue with my live-Tweeting … maybe many of my followers have become accustomed to my MPD.

  2. Wendy Peters says:

    I received a couple of comments about the flurry of tweets I was putting out, but nobody yelling at me. But a 2nd account those kinds of moments may not be a bad idea if it becomes a problem. Anyone interested in following any live tweeting you do could always follow you there. But then again, that’s fragmenting your online presence. If you do it there, where do you draw the line? An account for business, an account for social, an account for experimental? It could also be that I’m thinking too much about something that isn’t a huge issue to the majority of people…

  3. DJ Kelly says:

    When we did the first live tweet event at Lunchbox I and @wintr were surprised to have a couple angry followers. I thought we covered all our preparation basis but completely forgot about the followers and their reaction. Sending out a notice ahead of time on the second event solved this for me. (It was only for 45 minutes of tweeting afterall.)

    Someone I think who has figured this out is @AB_get_rich. He started live tweeting #ABleg QP and got roundly criticized, so he created @AGRDT as a separate live tweet account. This works well if it is something you do regularly but not so much if it is a one off (like the #wss you mention above).

    I’m not sure what the live tweet solution is. I think it lies in the expectations of your followers however. For example if you live tweet often then come to expect it of you and will follow/unfollow you because of it. When it is an irregular occurrence is where things get “angry”.

  4. Wendy Peters says:

    I’m not sure that there is only one solution. Like you said, depends on the expectations of your followers and if it’s a one off event or something you will be doing often. The dynamics of the group following you could also change depending on how your behaviours with the use of Twitter changes… just one of those things that is maybe not for the better or for the worse, but whatever you want out of it will help determine what you contribute.

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