If you’re like most writers, you can’t afford the time or money to go to every writing conference and book festival on the calendar. But if you’re like me, you find out when the conferences take place and actively follow the far-flung events on Twitter. When you can’t afford to attend a conference or your schedule simply doesn’t allow travel at that time, the Twitter feed from onsite attendees becomes crucially valuable. It’s not a replacement for the real thing, but it does allow you to feel connected and share knowledge in real time.
With this in mind, here are 10 tips for tweeting from live events. And keep an eye out for @TheWriterMag tweets – we’ll be at conferences throughout 2013.
- Make sure you include the event’s hashtag. This establishes the unique group at the event and allows all tweets to be collated on the feed. Usually an organization will announce a hashtag, but don’t be shy about asking for it.
- Before you attend the event, start tweeting! Tell your followers: “I’m headed to #AWP2013 & I’m psyched!” (Notice the hashtag is included in the tweet rather than at the end of the tweet. Doing this saves space and still serves the hashtag’s purpose.
- Describe what you see. How many people? What are they doing? Is there a buzz? Who just walked into the room? What did you overhear? Who is seated next to you? Include a picture! These types of tweets help non-attendees get a sense of the atmosphere and visualize the setting. Here’s a more personal response from last year’s Boston Book Festival: “I have @bostonbookfest glow. What a good day.”
- Tweet the full names of speakers, their titles and something you notice about them: “@NewYorker writer & author Adam Gopnik’s advice at Miami Book Fair: Curb the clichés. He’s wearing a cool tie.”
- Report accurately. Some tweeters find it easy to make a quick note with a pen and paper, and then transcribe it through Twitter. Others are fast typers. Know what works for you. And proofread! Be sure to spell names, locations and titles correctly. A quick Google search or surfing an organization’s website can assure accuracy. Printed programs can be very useful, too.
- Retweet ideas you missed and find worthy of repetition – and be sure to comment. It’s always nice to acknowledge a colleague: “Happy you’re here. RT @TheWriterMag is representing at San Fran Writers Conf!” And if you alter someone else’s tweet, be sure to change the RT (retweet) designation to MT (modified tweet).
- Keep tweeting! Stay with the action to offer your followers the complete picture. When it’s over, say so: “Azar Nafisi gets standing O. We’re all tired but she has re-inspired & re-energized us. Thank you!”
- On the other hand: Don’t wear yourself down by tweeting too much. Be selective. Tweeting can enhance your experience or exhaust you. Strive for the former.
- If you notice something else at the event – a man who just walked in with a fistful of balloons – tweet it! Not all your tweets have to be about the main action.
- If you’re like me – following virtually – join the discussion. Let your colleagues know you’re part of the conversation no matter where you are and that you appreciate their reportage and commentary: “Great live tweeting from @ASJAhq! Thanks for the info!”
A final note: You can tweet directly from your Twitter account on your computer or cell phone. You also can use Hootsuite, Echofon and Tweetdeck on your phone. Do you have tips for tweeting from live events? Start tweeting!
Alicia Anstead is chief tweeter for The Writer magazine.