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jess unrein
jess unrein

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Live Tweeting Tech Events: Practical Tips and Tricks

Live tweeting tech events is a hobby of mine. I started live-tweeting because I didn't have a notebook on me, and wanted to take notes at RailsConf 2014, my first ever developer conference! I tweeted out snippets, quotes, and observations about presentations that I ordinarily would have kept to myself. Other conference attendees on Twitter seemed to connect with what I had to say.

Tweeting is a great way to connect with other devs, hone your note taking skills, ask follow up questions, and solidify your takeaways from a presentation. I also notice that if I walk away with solid notes, I'm more inspired to follow up and continue learning after the conference ends.

After attending and speaking at several events, I've developed some advice for efficient live tweeting. I also have some tips for presenters looking to engage their audience on Twitter after the 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

Hashtags and Handles

  • Learn the hashtag associated with the presentation before the event starts. 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 lists 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. It enables quick autocomplete of their handles and hashtags 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. The twitter character limitation will help you craft concise and pointed questions, but make sure to account for the speaker's handle when composing your tweet. This can be difficult at first, but you'll get more engagement out of thoughtfully curated observations and queries.
  • For real, @ mention the presenter. Give them props for interesting points, clever jokes, and innovative ideas. The more positive attention you give a speaker, the more likely you are to start a meaningful conversation. You are likely to get good feedback and build rapport with people in your field by being thoughtful and engaging, especially if there's a low density of people live tweeting events in your area.

Content and Media

  • Tweet out interesting bits that you would have included in your personal notes. 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. It doesn't translate well on twitter, and you're going to waste a lot of precious time trying to format it correctly.
  • Tweets with attached photos and media grab more attention.
  • Take some test photos of the stage before the talk starts. Figure out if the angle you're sitting at works for you. Adjust your camera's focus and compensate for the lighting. Conferences almost always have terrible lighting for photos.
  • 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 you share slides of code samples, see if you can get a link to the slides and code samples, and provide that link where you can. The downside to photos of slides is that they do nothing for folks who use screen readers.
  • If your photos don't come out, save tweet drafts of your observations. Find the slide deck online later, and link to that in your tweets.
  • If the presenter doesn't cap off the talk with a link to their slides, ask during the Q&A or in the hallway afterwards if they'll make the slides available. Or, you know, you could ask on Twitter.

Miscellaneous Advice

  • Carefully consider which device you'll use before you get to the event. Computers make typing easier and quicker, but you can't take photos. Also consider that some meetups might have table space for laptops, but larger conferences won't.
  • Don't take photos with a tablet. It's distracting and 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 type and tweet quickly enough to keep pace with the talk, that's okay! Take notes by hand or on your device. Snap photos wherever you can. Then share your observations later using the same guidelines listed above.

Tips for speakers: help your audience help you

  • Follow accessibility best practices when you make your slides. It helps everyone in your audience understand and engage with your content. It also makes them easier to photograph and share on social media. Here's a great intro guide to slide accessibility.
  • 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 near the beginning of your talk. Include it in an early slide so people don't misspell it.
  • If the event you're going to 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.
    • However, if the event does have a hashtag, don't propose an alternate hashtag specific to your talk. This is a burden on your audience, and will muddy engagement across the event on Twitter.
  • 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 and 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!

For more great tips and excellent live tweeters to follow, check out Heidi Waterhouse's Live Tweeting for Fame and Fortune.

Postscript: I don't really see much of a liveblogging culture on Mastodon yet. I'm getting a bit fed up with parts of Twitter, and would love to see more widespread professional adoption of Mastodon. You can find me at Join me and a couple friends on 11/1 at 8pm CST on the hashtag #devchat to talk about the end of Hacktoberfest and our goals for the rest of the year. Hope to see you there!

Top comments (2)

scrabill profile image
Shannon Crabill

Nice write up.

I love live-tweeting at conferences—and appreciate it when attendees do the same when I'm speaking.

Another alternative is sharing a pic of your handwritten notes if pen and paper is more your thing.

terabytetiger profile image
Tyler V. (he/him)

Wonderful write up with lots of details!

As someone trying to get a bit more involved in the tech portion of Twitter, some of the tips make sense in general for that portion of Twitter. In particular the not sharing code samples because they don't play nice with Twitter as a platform!