Thursday, August 4, 2011

Twitter at Conferences (What I learned at WEC)

Whether you are planning a professional development conference or attending one, you might benefit from some of the things I learned at the Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress in July.

It was enlightening for me to be in a session with non-twitter users when they were asked what they thought of the twitter wall in the room. (For those of you who have not seen it, a screen in a session will be dedicated to the conversation happening on twitter about the conference while it is happening.) One attendee commented that the twitter users seemed very narcissistic. This was the perfect a-ha moment for me because what she was feeling went beyond the typical complaint of "I don't want to know what you had for breakfast". The twitter community at this event had been using the event's hashtag for socializing. They were complimenting each other, teasing each other and sharing pictures of each other. However, to someone outside of that circle, it would seem narcissistic.


Do we create a new hashtag for the fun stuff? Maybe Twitter could find a way for you to view multiple hashtags in one stream if you wanted to. That way, we could have multiple hashtags at a conference (one for feedback for the organizers or venue, one for each session, one for each topic, one for socializing, one for sponsors or suppliers to promote specials, etc.) and you could choose which information you wanted to see without having to view multiple streams on Twitter. On the other hand, do more hashtags feel like more information overload? In theory, we already have all of those types of tweets in one stream (or multiple) and so it would not increase the number of tweets. One of the hurdles to twitter use is learning how to filter out the garbage and finding the information that is relevant to you.

One of the sessions talked about generation Y using social media for personal gain and generation X using it for professional gain. As a general rule, I think this is true. Baby boomers signed up for Facebook initially to keep tabs on their kids and so their original motivation was personal use. Many of them struggle with the idea of using Facebook for professional networking. I would say that if you are “friends” with people in your industry and truly have relationships with them, why would they be any different from friends outside of work? It will be interesting to test out Google+ Circles to see if this solves this dilemma for them. Most baby boomers are not interested in Twitter because they have not seen a strong enough reason for them to explore it. Until you feel like you are missing out on something, you are going to keep your distance.

Have you attended or planned a conference with twitter users? Have you seen a twitter wall? Did you feel like you were outside of the inner circle or did it inspire you to start tweeting?