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.

Research

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.

Pre-write

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. http://amzn.to/1r269KD #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. http://bit.ly/XnZtdI”

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.

Focus

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.