(Eds note: Back by popular demand! This post was originally run last August, after our Twitter chat on tweeting conferences. We asked JonaRose Feinberg (@CallMeCass) if she would share her BirthGenius with all of us in anticipation of Lamaze 2011. We’re lucky she agreed! Here’s her guest post – enjoy.)
Using Twitter at a conference adds a rich, interactive layer to the face-to-face experience. Twitter can be used to highlight tips or resources and it’s a wonderful tool for networking with your peers, both those who are attending the conference and those who may be following along at home.
I’ve been on both sides of the conference twitter stream in the past year – initially following along as several Twitter buddies attended a lactation workshop, then sharing information from a conference I attended several months later.
Will you be attending a conference soon? Here are ten tips for using Twitter to connect with other BirthPros at the conference and beyond:
Nuts and Bolts
Use a clear, agreed upon hashtag (for example, #ILCA2011, #DONA11, or #Lamaze12) to identify your tweets. Ideally, the hashtag should be established prior to the conference and announced at conference sessions. If the conference organizers have not announced one before the conference, contact them to see if they’d like help setting up a conference hashtag or spreading the word.
Iron out your technology in advance. If you usually use Twitter on the web, make sure you know how to use a Twitter app on your smartphone or iPad. If you’re not sure about internet availability at the conference site, consider whether you may want the ability to Tweet from your phone via text. (Just getting started on Twitter? Check out Mashable’s Twitter Guidebook for some of the basics.)
If possible, let the speaker know you’d like to live tweet their presentation before the session is underway. You don’t want them to think you’re making dinner plans when really you’re spreading the word about their great presentation! At a large plenary session, it’s probably not feasible to approach the speaker, but you may want to alert those seated near you that you’ll be tweeting during the session.
Try to cite the speaker when quoting to avoid misattribution. If you’re citing an audience member’s comment, say so!
Try to follow other conference tweets during the event – this creates a second layer to the discussions (sometimes called a “backchannel”). The presenters or organizers may read the conference stream and may even use twitter feedback to shape an interactive discussion or address concerns that are being raised in this backchannel.
Sharing (retweeting) other people’s conference tweets is encouraged! You probably won’t be attending every session, and you don’t need to catch every quote yourself.
Meet up with other Twitter users at the conference to share tips and match faces to Twitter handles. If your conference badge does not include your twitter handle, add it yourself!
Extending the Conversation
Be mindful of the limitations of the medium. Twitter is a great place to share quotes, interesting facts and discussion highlights. If you’d like to recap an entire conference session, offer a counter argument, or propose new directions for research, you will probably need more than 140 characters!
When possible, limit your character count even further. Remember that the conference hashtag will take up some of your 140 characters. A slightly shorter tweet will be easier for people to retweet and may allow them to add their own comments or response.
In addition to tweeting quotes, statistics, and other highlights from the conference, consider how you can extend the discussion using Twitter. You may want to pose a question to those following along at home to bring them in to the conversation.
Most importantly, have fun! Engaging with Twitter can enrich your conference experience, help you connect with new friends, and help spread the word about positive birthing and breastfeeding practices!
What are your favorite tips for using twitter at birth and breastfeeding conferences?
JonaRose Feinberg is a Lactation Educator/Counselor (waiting on IBCLC exam results!) in Southern California. She loves supporting breastfeeding moms and babies, and connecting with other birth and breastfeeding advocates on Twitter. Find her at www.breastfeedingtwins.org or @callmecass on Twitter.