For some time now I’ve had a blog post in me about live-tweeting at conferences but my participation in the Cambridge 23 Things social media programme has rather taken over ‘Libreaction’ of late (apologies to regular readers if it’s not up your street). However, having given live-tweeting a second go at the recent BLA 2010 conference in Liverpool I feel the time is right to share my views on this activity.
Over a year ago, when I was admittedly much less engaged than I am now (partly because at that time my job required an unswerving internal focus and partly because I wasn’t blogging or tweeting) I might have been one of those people irritated by a person next to me at a conference tweeting on their phone or laptop. Now although I may not be 100% convinced of the value of this activity I’m 90% of the way there.
I first tried live-tweeting out at a conference in Cologne back in May and remember well the looks of puzzlement from those sitting next to me in sessions – what on earth was I doing and how could it possibly benefit me professionally?
However, said benefits quickly became apparent:
1) I had a soundbite record of the key points of the session (that I could archive and come back to)
2) I didn’t have to write notes with my awful spidery handwriting (that there would be no point in coming back to!)
3) I was able to share the session content with fellow business librarians who couldn’t make the event.
4) I was able to correspond with non-attendees about session content and even ask questions on their behalf.
5) In dull talks that were irretrievably irrelevant or meandering I was already online so could catch up with my emails (and a good job I did on that occasion otherwise my bid for more ejournals might have been quashed while I was away).
6) When the internet connection failed for a session involving a demo of a database, I could go and visit it myself and explore while the struggling presenter attempted to acquaint the audience with the interface via the inadequate medium of mime.
7) I didn’t daydream (or sleep) once.
Having said that, there were some negatives:
1) I had to concentrate very hard and felt more tired after the day’s sessions than I usually do.
2) I inevitably missed less core elements of the presentation – the stuff around the key messages – while I was tweeting.
3) As I was online during some ‘borderline dull’ sessions I was more tempted to give in to distractions of non-Twitter web stuff – my emails, catching up with the blogs I read via Google Reader – and perhaps didn’t give these sessions enough of a chance (just like the MBAs who drive me mad in the sessions I teach – although they have less excuse as my sessions are obviously deeply riveting)
All in all though, the pros easily outweighed the cons.
And so to Liverpool and my second live-tweeting experience. The main difference with my tweeting there was that I was not the solo-tweeter so I could tweet to other participants during sessions as well as record the content. And because there were more tweeters it meant there was less pressure to tweet quite so much. (Above right: Tweetdeck my Twitter platform of choice)
The committee had toyed with the idea of a twitterfall screen but we canned it out of concern that there wouldn’t be enough tweeters. In the end there were around 15 regular tweeters at the conference (around a fifth of delegates) but only five live tweeters so that was probably for the best. One notable aspect of the tweets at #BLA2010 was that there were very few duplicate entries, I guess this was because there was a limited number of tweets so we were able to keep up with them and ditch those tweets in preparation when others were quicker off the mark with similar tweets.
With the exception of the third day – during which tweeting wasn’t possible due to the committee responsibilities of tweeters and the format of the sessions – the entire conference was represented pretty comprehensively through tweets, thus allowing me to use them as a basis for my conference blog posts. (Below right: Twitter ‘conversations’ at #BLA2010 from Summarizr)
There’s no question that I found my second experience of live-tweeting much more straightforward than my first. I’m also sure I missed very little material that warranted tweeting this time around – there’s a definite knack to it. And once again the overall experience was beneficial in terms of my engagement.
So why then am I not behind live-tweeting at conferences 100%? I think it’s mainly because it doesn’t allow me the possibility of switching off, daydreaming, or, if it’s a stupendously dull session, going to sleep (provided I’m in the back row). Perhaps there’s just not enough recourse to idling in today’s world? Some days I do feel TOO connected. It’s the reason why I’m still resisting an iPhone or an iPad. I know I need to preserve the little downtime I have left. Maybe if I didn’t ‘eat’ work and set ridiculous deadlines for myself (which I always fulfil) I’d feel different, but that’s me and there it is. I guess it’s all a question of moderation – not my strong suit.