Event Hashtags: Practical Tips for Organizers and Attendees

One of the best ways to follow a conference or meeting you can't attend in person is through Twitter. You can find out who is there, what they are saying and what people think about it. For the people at home this gives near real-time to the highlights  for organizers it raises the profile of the event and maybe attracts a few more physical visitors to the next session. It also provides valuable feedback.

But the Twitter experience of any event can depend very much on how effectively the organizers and attendees use hashtags. If everyone uses the same hashtag then it is easy to find relevant tweets and much easier to monitor the activity, but to make that happen there are a few practical things you need to think about.

FOR EVENT ORGANIZERS:

A HASHTAG FOR EVERY EVENT. You should define a conveniently short hashtag for every public event or meeting that you organize. It doesn't need to be a different hashtag every time. For major events like an international conference a hashtag like #BigConf2012 makes sense, but for an organization that has regular monthly events and always one at a time a repeated hashtag is easier to remember.

ANNOUNCE THE HASHTAG IN ADVANCE. As the organizer you should choose a hashtag, verify that it is not already being used for something else and then add it to your own tweets announcing and promoting the event. This encourages everyone to use the same hashtag. Using the hashtag early also reduces the risk of conflict with another user, because they will probably check if a hashtag is free before they use it.

POST THE HASHTAG AT THE EVENT. Live tweets from an event are very useful to build interest and also to gauge the feelings of the audience. You can make them more effective by making sure everyone in the room live tweets with the correct hashtag. Post it on the walls, doors and on handouts. Ask the person who introduces the session to remind people that there is an official hashtag.

ENCOURAGE LIVE TWEETERS. As the event organizer you should be monitoring live tweets from the event, both for the feedback it provides and also so that you can encourage live tweeters by retweeting selected tweets on the event account or responding to questions or feedback. This reaction motivates more people to tweet at the event.

FOR EVENT PARTICIPANTS:

LEARN THE HASHTAG AND USE IT. Find out what is the event hashtag and use it in your tweets. If there isn't an official hashtag try asking the organizers and if there still isn't one try looking at what other users are using before starting to make one up. When many people tweet with different hashtags it is very hard for people to follow the event.

SAY YOU ARE ATTENDING IN ADVANCE. If you plan to attend a meeting it is a good idea to tweet in advance that you plan to go. This helps other people decide if they want to go and helps people look out for you. Don't forget the hashtag!

TWEET THAT YOU ARE THERE. When you are in the room it is useful to tweet again that you are there. This generates some buzz for the event and helps your friends to look out for you. Again, don't forget the hashtag.

COMMENT ON WHO IS SPEAKING. A simple tweet saying who you are listening to will give people a heads up that the part they are most interested in is coming up and that there might be some highlights coming soon. And don't forget the hashtag.

LIVE TWEET SELECTED HIGHLIGHTS. You don't need to give a verbatim text of a presentation, just pick out some points that you found interesting and share them. This is useful for the people following the event on Twitter, it is useful for the speakers to see which points resonated and it is useful for the organizers to sense the relevance of the content.  If you are live tweeting a sequence of comments you don't need to put the hashtag on all of them, but always leave the speaker's name. After the first tweet you can shorten their name to save space; at that point most people know who it is and the others can view previous tweets.


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