The Advocate’s Guide to Reporting Live from Conferences and Events
Reporting live from an event is a way of engaging your followers by sending updates about an event as it occurs. It allows you to expand the reach of in-person events to provide valuable insights to those who are unable to attend in person. I believe it is part of our role as advocates to make these learnings accessible to all and live-reporting is a powerful way to do this. Furthermore as attendees, the experience of live-tweeting can enhance our own personal learning. It requires us to listen more carefully and focus more sharply on the key details of a talk so we can better summarize what the speakers are saying in 140 characters.
Quite often, multiple vibrant discussions happen on Twitter as questions or insights are shared from other conference attendees and from those listening in online, thereby creating a parallel virtual meeting. Similarly, if a meeting has parallel sessions, live-tweeting enables conference attendees to listen in on multiple talks simultaneously. This learning can be further consolidated with an archive of tweets on which to reflect back after the event.
Live reporting tools include live-streaming using Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Periscope (Twitter’s live-streaming app). You can also share posts to your Facebook page and share photos and video clips via Instagram and Snapchat during the event. Because of its ability to give people who aren’t at an event a sense of what is unfolding as it happens, live-tweeting (sending real-time updates via Twitter) is a popular way to capture the immediacy and energy of an event.
Whether organizing an event, taking part in person, or tuning in online via live-streaming, the following guidelines will help you better prepare to report live from your next conference or event.
Before The Event: Get Organized
1.Create a Custom Hashtag
If you are organizing the event, create a custom hashtag (#) and let people know in advance what it will be. Keep the following tips in mind when choosing a hashtag.
- Make it short. Remember people only have 140 characters to tweet with and you want to leave some room for re-tweets.
- Make it intuitive and relatable to your event but not so generic that it’s confused with something else.
- Make it easy to remember and type for delegates. Many will be tweeting from a smart phone or tablet.
- Make sure it isn’t already in use. You don’t want to duplicate an existing hashtag which may result in two simultaneous but very different conversations colliding on Twitter. Do a Twitter search to find out.
- Monitor your hashtag on a regular basis to see if someone else is using it for something unrelated.
- Register your hashtag with Symplur’s Healthcare Hashtag Project. Doing so will also allow you to access analytics after the event.
2. Create Twitter Lists of Speakers and Attendees
Creating lists on Twitter of those who are speaking and attending the event is a super way to keep track of their tweets. These lists will help you prepare in advance by making sure you know the correct names, affiliations and Twitter handles of key speakers and attendees. It is also a useful way of finding other like-minded people attending the event whom you can network with.
3. Set up Saved Searches
Use a Twitter client tool to set up a saved search of the conference hashtag and @usernames. A tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite will allow you to have multiple columns open for different Twitter searches, helping you to keep track of several sessions at once.
4. Prepare Some Tweets in Advance
Things move fast on Twitter, particularly when you are live-tweeting. Having some pre-prepared tweets on hand helps you stay organized and feel less overwhelmed in the moment. This is particularly helpful if you are including photos or graphics with your tweets, since image editing can be time consuming.
During The Event
5. Tag Your Tweets with the Event Hashtag
Once you start tweeting live, make sure to use the designated event hashtag. Let your followers know the meaning of the hashtag and why you are tweeting from the conference. Provide a link to the event page so that people have some context to what you’re tweeting about. It is good practice to let your followers know in advance that you are live tweeting so they can mute the hashtag if they aren’t interested in those tweets.
If you are organizing the event, keep an eye on unofficial hashtags. Sometimes, people tweet using hashtags that make sense to them instead of using the official hashtag. This shouldn’t be an issue if you have chosen a simple, intuitive hashtag and promoted it in advance, but it is still a good idea to an eye out for rogue hashtags and direct the users to the official one.
6. Focus on Value
The objective of live-reporting is to provide value to others, so avoid tweeting sound-bites that won’t make sense to online listeners. Be selective about the quotes or insights you choose to tweet and only post high-quality photos and videos that your followers will find interesting. No one wants to see a blurry photo of a speaker or a slide.
Strive for originality and context and make it relatable to your Twitter followers. Tweet links to websites, studies, or other information which will enhance understanding of the topic. It’s fine to highlight your own expertise, but don’t spam. Retweet attendees and speakers who represent your mission and core values. Search for questions being asked using the event hashtag which you can answer.
7. Don’t “Binge Tweet”
Be selective, share key points only and avoid flooding your timeline with tweets. Don’t mindlessly re-tweet what everyone else is already tweeting, unless you can add a unique perspective. When live-Tweeting, one Tweet every five minutes is a good rule of thumb.
8. Give Correct Attribution
Be sure to attribute quotes to the speaker who made them, by using quotation marks. Whenever you cite a speaker, add their Twitter handle and affiliation if known (this is where those pre-prepared Twitter lists come in useful). Separate your own comments/viewpoints from the speaker’s own words.
9. Encourage Engagement
Don’t tweet in a vacuum; engage with fellow live tweeters and contribute to a larger conversation. Involve online listeners by asking questions; e.g. “Speaker X says doctors need to be more empathetic – do you agree/what do you think about this?”
10. Be Social
Don’t restrict yourself to tweeting behind a screen; take the opportunity to network and meet new people face-to-face too. Live-tweeting is a great way to meet like-minded people, so use it to organize “tweetups” at coffee and lunch breaks during the event to further the connection.
After The Event
11. Archive Your Report
After the event has finished, you can still add value by using a tool like Storify and/or Twitter Moments to archive tweets. You could also summarise the event in a follow-up blog, embedding selected tweets to illustrate your points.
# = hashtag
@ = a way to address a Twitter user
RT = retweet, share something already tweeted
MT=modified tweet, indicates you have modified an original tweet
HT = hat tip, acknowledge or thank a source
DM = direct message
CX = correction
Live reporting from conferences and events is an important part of our advocacy work. It expands the reach of information, research, and data beyond the physical limitations of a conference or event. It also offers an opportunity to highlight your own influence and expertise.
Encourage other advocates to join you in reporting live because the more multiplicity of voices we can bring to an event, the more we can amplify our voices and be heard. As with medicine, there is both an art and science to live reporting. Follow the tips outlined in this article to take your live reporting to the next level.
A Stanford Medicine X e-Patient scholar, Marie Ennis O’Connor is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, writer, and consultant on global trends in patient engagement, digital health and participatory medicine. A board member of the Patient Empowerment Foundation, a network of people, foundations, organizations and medical institutions dedicated to empowering patients worldwide, Marie’s work is informed by her passion for embedding the patient voice at the heart of healthcare values. She writes about the experience of transitioning from breast cancer patient to advocate on her award-winning blog Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer.