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If you can’t attend a conference, fire up twitter!

I recently leveraged the power of twitter to attend a conference vicariously through some of its attendees.

An organization called the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee held a conference in London, ON yesterday.  To my chagrin, I was not able to attend.  One of my colleagues, Doug Peterson was the main organizer.  Visit his blog, he has, as of the writing of this blog post, two (1 and 2) interesting posts about his experience at this conference as its organizer.

Knowing that Doug is one of the most connected people I know (he was my inspiration to start my journey into the world of web 2.o applications), I was pretty sure that he, and his attendees, would be using twitter [among other technologies] during the conference.

I know, I’ve spoken about Twitter many times before.  What I haven’t said about it before is how it is often used at conferences by its attendees.  Now that being connected to the net is so easy just about anywhere you are, conference attendees are staying connected during the sessions that they visit.  They will often ‘talk’ about the sessions they are attending using a variety of web 2.0 applications, Twitter being a common choice.  Talking like this is often called using a ‘backchannel’.

So, how do you find the ‘tweets’ of people that are attending a particular conference? In my particular case, I follow about 290 different people (twitter has several million users to date).  Since I follow many local educators, likely there are a few that are attending the conference.  How do I find the others?

Doug made it easy.  He knew in advance that many of his attendees would be using Twitter.  He used a twitter technique that more and more conference organizers are using.  He encouraged his attendees to add an identifying mark to their tweets called a hashtag, in particular, “#rcac09”.

This makes it easy to find tweets from those attending the conference, I simply search for tweets that have ‘#rcac09’ in them.

I use a webservice called tweetgrid to search all twitter tweets for particular content.  (There are dozens of websites and clients that you can use to interact with the twitter service.  I use a client called tweetdeck [instead of twitter’s own webpage] to follow the tweets of the people I follow.)  Here is a screen shot of a search for ‘#rcac09’ that I did yesterday using tweetgrid:

Screen capture of a tweetgrid search for '#rcac09'Following these tweets had two direct benefits for me: 1) I was able to follow along with some of the presentations and workshops of the conference through what the attendees were tweeting about. 2) I found many other fantastic educators to follow using twitter by reading tweets from those I hadn’t been following before.

So, the next time you can’t attend a conference, fire up twitter!  I know I will be doing so again in the future!


5 Responses

  1. Maybe we need these conference things to be pre- announced on twitter or would that be an advert – i dunno !

    • One thing you can do is follow someone you know is attending the conference and watch their tweets. That’s how I found the hashtag for this conference.

  2. Thanks for following along with the conference, JLB. It was good to know that there were some things that were happening that were of interest to those outside the room. The nice thing about your visit was that you didn’t have to wrestle with the weather and the wind to get there. Once again, it was wild!

    • It was fun, it’s the first time I actually do that. But I must admit, I would have really liked to attend and meet all those people I know only through twitter…..oh yeah, talking to you would have been ok too! 🙂

  3. […] If you can’t attend a conference, fire up Twitter […]

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