Prepare before you live-tweet from an event like #TEDx

John Jolliffe and Kary Mullis by TEDxOrangeCoast licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
John Jolliffe and Kary Mullis by TEDxOrangeCoast licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Preparation is key for live events. Organizers plan ahead. Speakers and performers rehearse. If you plan to use Twitter to cover a conference, set aside time prior to the gathering to prepare to live-tweet. It will make the process easier for you and more fruitful for your followers.

I will be tweeting from the TEDxOrangeCoast conference tomorrow and Saturday, as an audience member @ksablan and as a volunteer @TEDxOrangeCoast. I’ve done this kind of work for years, and have learned quite a bit from the mistakes I’ve made. I’m providing these preparation tips to help you get ready for the next conference you attend.

Usernames and hashtags

Find and follow the Twitter usernames of  scheduled speakers and the companies they represent. You’ll want to mention those official Twitter accounts in your tweets so your followers can quickly connect with event participants.

Put those names in a text file where you can copy and paste them into tweets during the event. Twitter’s auto-complete feature can also help you type each name if you’ve followed all of the speakers and companies.

Know the hashtags that will be used for the conference, discussion topics, and planned activities. Include those tags in your tweets so people who follow the hashtags will see your updates, whether they follow you or not.


Look into the background of each speaker. You don’t have to be be an expert, but know enough that you are familiar with – and can spell - important words and concepts.

Many speakers write books, articles or blog posts. They appear on TV, film or YouTube. Know the titles of their popular books, the sites where their work appears, and the names of the shows and films on which they’ve appeared.

Keep all of your research in a text file. Use it to verify the spelling of unusual terms and proper names. I often copy and paste from that file when I live-tweet. It saves time and prevents misspellings.


Write as many tweets as possible before the event.

At the very least, prepare tweets to announce speakers as they take the stage. Include a little background information. For example, I plan to tweet this tomorrow: “Now at #TEDxOC is @appvance CEO @kevinsurace. @CNBC lists him as one of 15 top innovators of the decade.”

You can pre-write tweets to help people find the works of the speakers. For example, “Here are books written by Charis Kubrin. #TEDxOC”

You can even help readers experience performances by preparing tweets like this: “I don’t have live video of pianist Umi Garrett at #TEDxOC, but here she is playing Beethoven earlier this year.”

Do not use apps to schedule your pre-written tweets. Live events rarely run perfectly on time, and unforeseen changes are almost a certainty. Again, keep your tweets in a text file and copy from it when the time is right. This also gives you a chance to edit your pre-written text before launching it into the Twittersphere.

Tools to live-tweet

Make sure to pack the following gadgets before you head out the door.

  • Portable charger: You can’t tweet if your device dies. Bring a portable USB charger for your phone or tablet, so you won’t have to battle for a power outlet.
  • Laptop charger: If you bring a laptop, make sure it’s charged before the event, but bring your charger in case you run the battery down.
  • A pad and pen: I normally use my phone to take notes, but that can be challenging at an event, when my phone is in full-blown Twitter mode. A pen and paper is a great solution when you have to jot some details down.
  • Business cards: People might want or need to get in touch with you after the event. Don’t forget your business cards. They work for even the most tech-challenged attendees.
  • Extra charging cords: People invariably forget their charging cords. Help fellow attendees if you can.

Arrive early

Get to the venue well before the event begins. Use the extra time to:

  • Familiarize yourself with the layout.
  • Test your mobile data connection.
  • Configure your devices to work with the Wi-fi network.


Before you get to the event, know why you are going to live-tweet. One way to do that is to put yourself in the shoes of your followers.

Watching an event on Twitter is like listening to a basketball game on the radio. You want to know when someone dribbles, passes, and shoots.

Think about the last time you used Twitter to follow an event. Ask yourself questions about what you wanted to see:

  • Did you want an update every 30 minutes, or did you want information shared as it happened?
  • Did you want broad over-arching ideas or did you want specific details?
  • Did you want to only read words, or did you want to see visuals?
  • Did you pose questions that you wanted to be answered?

Focus on providing valuable information for your followers, and people who are following the event on Twitter.

At the event

Now that you’re prepared to live-tweet, read these posts about what to do while you’re at the event:

Your tips

Have you covered an event with live tweets? What have you learned? Share in the comments below, or start a conversation with me on Twitter @ksablan.

Facebook Messenger asks for ONLY FOUR extra permissions

Facebook Messenger App
Facebook Messenger app by Kārlis Dambrāns licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Facebook Messenger app for Android asks for exactly four permissions that aren’t already required by the main Facebook app. If you’re worried about the social network accessing your phone, focus your concern on the  main Facebook app. It asks for 10 more permissions than Messenger.

I decided to dig a little after the Messenger app attracted more scrutiny this week. Security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski described “spyware type code” he found after disassembling and examining the iOS app’s code.

The Google Play store lists each app’s permission, so I compared the full list of permissions for the Facebook app and the Messenger app. I didn’t compare the iOS apps because Apple’s App Store does not itemize each app’s permissions.

Messenger permissions

The Messenger app requires 33 permissions. Here are the four that aren’t already required by the main Facebook app:

  1. edit your text messages (SMS or MMS)
  2. receive text messages (SMS)
  3. send SMS messages
  4. receive text messages (MMS)

Continue reading

Warning: my #ScaryFarm tweets might be biased

Knott's Scary Farm Holloween Haunt 2011-83 by Dave Klukken licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Knott’s Scary Farm Holloween Haunt 2011-83 by Dave Klukken licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I accepted an invitation to attend an event in exchange for sharing my experience through my various social media accounts. It’s something I never would’ve done when I worked for a news organization.

Journalists have to decline such invitations because readers might criticize positive coverage that could be perceived as quid pro quo. It feels great to accept the invitation and just say publicly that I’m doing this because I’m getting in free. It will also be nice to just have a good time without worrying about turning in an article or column.

When you see my tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram photos from #ScaryFarm later this month, know that I’m doing it because I was asked to by Knott’s Berry Farm, an amusement park in Buena Park, California.

But who am I kidding? I’ll be sharing my experience because I tweet when I’m at live events. That’s just what I do. And I enjoy using Instagram and Facebook to share pictures and pose questions.

By the way, I’m already biased. I first attended Knott’s Scary Farm when I was in junior high, and have gone many times since. I visited Knott’s frequently when I was in high school and my friends worked there. I had a great time when the O.C. Register held a 100-year anniversary celebration there a few years back.

Knott’s didn’t ask me to share only my positive comments about Scary Farm. I probably would’ve turned down the invitation if they had made such a request. It’s the right way to bring social “influencers” into a company’s marketing efforts. First, make sure the product, service, or event is good. Then, invite people to share honestly.

That said, I won’t hesitate to share any negative “news” if it happens when I’m there. But take a look at my previous social media posts. I don’t complain about long lines. I don’t talk smack about how “the guy in front of me just did such and such.” I don’t spout off about singularly poor customer service experiences.

Before I sign off, here is a picture of my friends Calvin Lee, Debbie Miller and Darin McClure at a similar Knott’s Berry Farm event last year. I’m adding it here just because they are my friends. How is that for bias?

Imagine being Facebook for just one user

Facebook for real by Christoph Aigner
facebook_for_real by Christoph Aigner licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Being Facebook can’t be easy. People complain whenever you make a change. Users are upset when you ask permission to get your job done. No matter what you try, your customers groan about how you decide what will show up in their News Feeds.

I’m sure I could do a better job than Facebook’s algorithms, so follow me as I step into the social network’s shoes.

I slip on my new sneakers and, before I can take a step, Mary comes to visit.

Forty-year-old Mary is one of my 829 million daily visitors.  She’s coming to look at pictures and videos from her 200 friends and 70 companies she “likes.”

I want to keep Mary happy. I want her to come back. I need to show her what she wants.

Continue reading