How To Live-Tweet an Event: Part 4 - Showtime!

This is part 4 in an ongoing series on Live-Tweeting Events. Check out Part 3 - Editorial Calendar & Cheat Sheet. Or see the bottom of this post for the full 5-part series.

It's your big day, so let's jump right in.

Equipment setup

First of all, you'll need a laptop or tablet/keyboard combination. Given that you will be using multiple sources of information as well as tweeting out and receiving/ responding to replies, hardware that is capable of multitasking and a full keyboard will be important requirements.

Second, you'll need Internet connectivity. If your venue has Wifi, that's great but also think about a backup plan: in my case, I test out the option to use my phone as a hotspot in order to have backup Wifi. You never know if the venue Wifi might go down or lag from the audience traffic.

Third, you'll need access to your cheat sheet to copy and paste your pre-written tweets.

Fourth, a Twitter application: don't plan on live-tweeting from the Twitter website. That's just not going to cut it. You will have an awful time trying to stay on top of your sent Tweets, direct messages and replies, plus the traffic on the hashtag if you can only see a single stream at once. What you need is a Twitter dashboard application like TweetDeck or Hootsuite (my personal fave).

Your application should support the input of images and video and the use of a URL shortener. Ideally, your application should have a URL shortener built-in or should have a plug-in that will allow you to shorten URLs from within the application. This will significantly reduce the number of characters that URLs take in your tweets and provide the added bonus of tracking how many people clicked on your links too.

Pro Tip: if you're going to be using multiple applications to manage your tweets, your photos and your videos (like YouTube or Twitpic), then make sure your Twitter client is pre-authenticated to those other sites to prevent from having to do so on the fly during your event.You'll need to log into your Twitter account and set up at least 4 columns:

  1. A search for your event hashtag,
  2. Your event account @ replies,
  3. Your event account direct message (DM) replies.

If you will be live tweeting from multiple accounts, then you should monitor the @ and DM replies from all of them in order to ensure that you can stay on top of any questions or comments coming from the audience. Ideally, if you can direct them to one particular account for any logistical issues, you can reduce your workload (although some folks will just reply to whatever account they seen in their stream, so monitoring all of your event accounts is prudent).

You might also consider setting up some extra columns with searches for the following, since people in the audience might forget to tag their tweets with the hashtag:

  • Event name,
  • Speaker name,
  • Speaker handle < these last two, you would change each time a new speaker takes the stage. 
The advantage of these additional columns is that they provide you with more content to retweet and monitor for the backchannel conversation going on at the event. Sometimes audience members will intentionally skip the hashtag if they are being critical of the event or speaker, but that can be valuable feedback; especially if you can address the issues on the fly during the event.

What you'll be Tweeting 

Depending on what you decided in your content plan, you'll either be tweeting everything or just doing engagement. Here's a look at how those will differ on the day of the event:

1. Engagement only: Your stream will mostly contain logistical information and interactions with audience members in the form of replies, retweets and DMs. Your Tweeter will mostly monitor the event hashtag to retweet and reply to comments or questions in real-time, and may even be proactive, asking questions or engaging in conversation with attendees via Twitter. They can surface questions for in-room discussion and the Question/Answer segments of the event, passing them along to the MC or moderator, as required. Engagement-only tweeting can be valuable when it's not convenient to live-tweet the entire event either due to the nature of the content or with limited (or inexperienced) personnel.

2. Tweeting everything: Your stream will be fast and furious, capturing every main points the speakers say and delivering pre-written logistical tweets. In this case, it's probably best two have at least two Tweeters: one to capture the main points as they are happening, and the other to manage the logisitics and real-time audience engagement (retweets, replies, DMs). The key is to balance covering all the action without being redundant, so they Tweeters should work closely together and understand each other's roles. If they are both using the same Twitter account (even if they aren't), tweeting this much content over the course of the day could potentially put your account in Twitter jail.

Keeping out of Twitter Jail 

If you anticipate generating a high volume of tweets in a given day, you might want to plan for either multiple accounts or an alternate strategy in the event that you end up in "Twitter jail". To discourage spam accounts, Twitter has imposed limits: they claim the maximum allowable to be 1,000 tweets (including retweets) per day but also impose semi-hourly limits (which are not stated on their site). If you hit a ceiling, you will be locked out of your account for a few hours. Definitely not something you want to experience without a backup plan!

You might consider one account to live-tweet, another to monitor the hashtag and respond to inquiries. Alternately, you might take your chances and build stricter guidelines into your content plan to prevent trigger-happy tweeters from going overboard. This is especially important if you are trying to promote tweeting and discussion by event participants (as opposed to live tweeting all of the content from the sessions). If you do end up in Twitter jail, find another way to tweet out to the hashtag and let them know why the event account suddenly went quiet. Be honest! People will understand!

Sample Event Flow 

Here is a look at what you could be tweeting throughout your event:

Early morning: 

  • Logistical information: event location, registration hours, start time; 
  • Transportation information: map, directions, bus routes and stop numbers; 
  • Hashtag for the event, which Twitter account to follow for live tweets; 
  • Additional helpful items: whether attendees will have coffee/ food available upon their arrival or nearby coffee shop locations if you don't have catering. 

Start of the event: 

  • Event information: name, description, link to event site; 
  • Person/ company hosting the event; 
  • Hashtag for the event, which Twitter account to follow for live tweets; 
  • Sponsors names and links (if you have a lot, you might want to announce your prime sponsors up front and tweet out the rest over the course of the day); 
  • Host/MC for the day; 
  • Other pertinent links: schedule/ agenda, speaker bios 
  • Wifi password 

For each session: (much of this content could come from the cheat sheet)

  • Speaker introduction (may include: speaker contact info, website, bio, Twitter handle, link to a recent or relevant article or book); 
  • Session information: title, format, length; 
  • Content from session; 
  • Wrap-up: tweet speaker contact info again, relevant follow-up sources. 

Logistical tweets: 

  • Agenda: tweet what's coming up next after the current session (keeps people informed and online stream engaged); 
  • Break: announce break start and stop times, let people know if a break is coming up after the next or current session; 
  • Quiet periods: If the stream is going quiet for a time, explain why and time to return (e.g. breaks, lunch, networking time or breakout sessions); 
  • Announce everything happening in the room such as draws or activities, to keep online audience engaged and to inform audience members who may have stepped away briefly. 

Wrap-up: Just because your event is coming to a close, doesn't mean you are done yet! (Sorry :)

  • Announce post-event activities (e.g. dinners, meetups immediately following the event); 
  • Thank yous: general thank you to your speakers and attendees, thank organizers and MC, thank venue and thank sponsors; 
  • Announce follow-up activities: when will event content be available (presentations, videos, wrap-up posts, Storify of tweets); 
  • Ongoing engagement: hashtag or social media accounts for ongoing discussion post-event, community groups to join (e.g. LinkedIn, Meetup); 
  • Declare the end of the event and sign off formally to let people know that the stream is going quiet(er) and to reduce the expectation of replies. (May need to stay online for a half hour or so to address any lingering questions). 

You've done it! Your work is done for now; next time, we'll take a look at post-event activities and how to measure success.


How To Live-Tweet an Event: The Five-Part Series

  1. Defining Success
  2. Creating your content plan 
  3. Establishing your editorial calendar and building your cheat sheet
  4. Showtime: What to do on the big day (this one)
  5. Measurement and archiving