Emma Illingworth and myself at NPC2010

Emma Illingworth and myself at NPC2010 (from sarahjison on Flickr)

Having gained a lot from the use of Twitter as a communication tool and conference backchannel at recent conferences, I was keen to encourage this at this year’s New Professionals Conference. Thankfully, the organising committee agreed and I was appointed the grand title of “Twitter Officer” (despite what some people thought, this was only my title for the conference and not for my paid job!).

The Twitter hashtag

A hashtag of #npc2010 was agreed early on in the conference planning, and a TwapperKeeper archive was set up by Ned Potter, one of the conference organising team, in February 2010. The hashtag was promoted mainly through Twitter, being used by the conference organising team, myself, and other tweeters interested in the conference.

The Twitter list

A Twitter list of all delegates and speakers was established so that people could follow all tweets from the group. The list was populated by adding people who used the #npc2010 hashtag in the run up to the conference, as well as from the responses to an email which went to all delegates requesting Twitter usernames if they wished them to be added to conference badges and the list. As each was added, they were notified via email or Twitter and the link was shared so that they could follow the list if they wanted to.

Before the conference

In the run up to the conference, Twitter was initially used to promote the conference, and later to confirm attendance. It was also used by first-time speakers to help them gather evidence to support their talks, and share their experiences as they developed their presentations. Closer to the conference, discussion using the hashtag increased as people began to discuss their plans for the conference and organise face-to-face networking opportunities.

During the conference

Despite the lack of wireless access, a number of attendees were able to tweet throughout the conference using their mobile phones. Main points from each of the presentations and some of the workshops were tweeted throughout the day. This proved particularly useful during the workshop sessions, as those who were in a workshop could also read tweets from the presentations they had missed. There was also conversation on Twitter amongst delegates; reiterating points made by others, adding opinions to topics covered during the day, and building network connections.

Twitter usernames on delegate badges helped those who had previously communicated on Twitter identify each other and continue networking face-to-face. The prominence of Twitter throughout the day, and Bethan Ruddock’s Twitter workshop also encouraged discussion about Twitter during networking opportunities.

After the conference

Discussion on Twitter has continued after the conference, with people sharing feedback on the day, links to blog posts, photos from the day, and other information which may be of use to those attending or following the New Professionals Conference. Conversation has also continued on from topics raised and conversations held during the day, extending the networking opportunities available after the conference.

Key statistics

Using data from the Summarizr for #npc2010 and the NPC2010 Twitter list, the following key facts emerge:

  • 796 tweets have been made with the hashtag #npc2010 (as at 11th July 2010)
  • 119 different people tweeted using the hashtag #npc2010, demonstrating engagement from those who didn’t attend as well as those at the conference
  • The Twitter list contains tweets from 30 delegates, and has 20 followers
  • 80 different URLs were tweeted along with the #npc2010 hashtag (including links to blog posts, presentations, and the conference details)
  • Numerous conversations between tweeters were encouraged through use of the hashtag; it also enabled conversations with speakers, many of whom use Twitter

Future recommendations of good practice

Use of Twitter certainly enhanced the conference and I would recommend its use for future events, but there are a few further recommendations:

  1. Wireless access at venue – this is something that I imagine is frequently mentioned on feedback forms at venues without wireless access. Over the last couple of years it has become more common to have access to wireless network throughout events, and is therefore expected by many. Wireless access would have enabled more people to be able to tweet during the day, as many bought along devices which required wireless access. It had been hoped that the venue would have wireless but unfortunately that wasn’t the case – it may be something to place more priority on when choosing venue if future events are likely to include tweeting etc. during the day.
  2. Wider promotion of hashtag – the hashtag was mainly mentioned on Twitter, but if you weren’t already following people like myself or the conference organisers it may not have been obvious. It was also publicised by email but looking back, it could have been more widely promoted. Details of the hashtag would be useful on the conference details page, in the delegate pack, and on the welcome screen as delegates arrive. It should also be mentioned at the beginning of the day with housekeeping information.
  3. Twitterfall wall at venue – I know this wasn’t possible for this particular event, but I do think it’s something to consider for future events. It was used successfully at the Librarians as Teachers event on a large screen near the back of the room. This way it doesn’t interrupt the main presentations or distract people’s attention, but can be looked at during the break, even by those without mobile phones or laptops with them. It can also be interesting for speakers to review the tweets made during their session. If breaks are held in a different room, this may be a more appropriate place to display the tweets.

Conclusion

Twitter was used successfully at New Professionals Conference, and tied in well with the conference theme – many presentations discussed the importance of CPD via peer networking, and the use of Twitter encouraged this at the event. The Twitter list was a useful way for people to follow all delegates at the conference, and the #npc2010 hashtag was used extensively before, during and after the conference. Tweeting enabled some who couldn’t attend to get a feel for some of the key themes of the day, and supported networking and sharing information for delegates and speakers.

P.S. Many bloggers have reported on the New Professionals Conference, check them out if you’d like to know more about the actual event:

You can also view more photos from the conference at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahjison/tags/npc2010/.

Looking forward to NPC2011! 🙂

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