Below are templates for information sheets for the use of Twitter at historical conferences, aimed at attendees not necessarily acquainted with the medium. They are based on documents I prepared for the International Conference of the Medieval Chronicle (Liverpool), tweeted using the hashtag #MedChron; in compiling them, I based myself on several guidelines and lists of suggestions to tweeting at conference found online (such as those of the MLA), as well as the blogposts by Dorothy Kim and Jonathan Hsy referred to in the text, and discussion on Twitter itself.
My main aim with the documents was to inform, and to ensure everyone felt comfortable with the presence of twitter at the conference. The first was aimed at all attendees; the second especially at those interested in tweeting themselves.
In the end we had 1 opt-out, some sceptics, many people indifferent, and some very happy to have their papers tweeted and eager to know more about twitter. The Twitter stream achieved its main aim, i.e. to ensure the conference, which coincided with the Leeds International Medieval Conference, was visible within the larger context of #medievaltwitter, and I was happy overall, except I wished I had made explicitly clear that an opt-out did not need justification or explanation. Additionally, I am unsure about the “ask before tweeting pictures” suggestion.
I’m eager to hear suggestions for improvements based on your experiences – and in the meanwhile, I hope these templates will be of use, for you to adapt to your own conferences.
In the templates below, I have put information that needs to be adjusted to your conference between square brackets.
[Edit, 13/4/2016: in the light of conversations on twitter following S.J. Pearce‘s blogpost ‘Why I Won’t Follow #KZoo16 on Twitter’, I want to stress: every conference needs a well-formulated social media policy, and that policy needs to include a well-considered decision whether live tweeting is going to be opt-in or opt-out.]
Introduction to Twitter at the [conference]
as [function], I am very much looking forward to meet you all and hear your papers at a vibrant conference in Liverpool. I am writing this message, however, not as [function], but to provide some information about another aspect of the conference: its presence on Twitter. Live tweeting has become a regular occurrence at humanities conferences, and we are eager both to ensure that everyone feels comfortable with its use at the conference, and to facilitate an interesting feed emanating from the conference. Twitter can be a fantastic tool to encourage discussion and raise awareness and interest; and for members of your audience, live tweeting a paper can be a more engaged form of note-taking. I have drafted guidelines on twitter at the conference, which are included below, and will be available in your conference pack.
Any speaker who does not want to be tweeted can make this known at any time; if you send me a message ([email]) I will ensure this will be announced before the start of your presentation. We will also be advising chairs of the individual sessions to double-check with speakers whether they are comfortable being tweeted. Barring such opt-outs, everyone is invited to contribute to the twitter feed. The hashtag of our conference will be #[hashtag]; a selection of tweets shall be retweeted via the [organization] handle @[handle], which will also continue to be used for Society and Conference announcements. I am hoping to ensure there will be at least one live tweeter at each session; I would be most grateful if anyone interested in tweeting gets in touch with me so I can try to coordinate our presence over the various sessions.
A good introduction to the why and how of medieval twitter can be found in this post by Dorothy Kim. Jonathan Hsy’s post about twitter at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo is very insightful. A fine example of live tweeting during a conference can be found here, in this report by Liesbeth Corens of the Transforming Information: Record Keeping in the Early Modern World conference.
If you have any questions about Twitter at the [conference], please do not hesitate to contact me.
Looking forward to seeing you all in July,
[email] / [Twitter handle]
#[hashtag]: Guidelines for Twitter at the [conference]
Twitter is a great medium to involve people who are not physically present in our dialogues; one aim of live tweeting at conference is to let these people follow our ideas and join in or create a conversation about these ideas if they so wish. Thus, a conference twitter feed allows for our discussion of [subject] to reach beyond the confines of the lecture room and the conference venue. Some scholars, however, are not comfortable with broadcasting the ideas they formulate as a conference paper so widely before committing them to publication, or are concerned their ideas can be misrepresented in other people’s tweets; it is important that when tweeting a conference, we take such concerns into account.
With those considerations in mind, we ask tweeters at the [conference] to adhere to the following set of guidelines:
• If a session chair, speaker or other attendee asks you to stop live tweeting, please stop. The presence of twitter at the conference should be a positive experience for everyone.
• Always tweet using the conference hashtag, #[hashtag], and a hashtag for the session #s… (e.g., #s3b); this will make sure your tweets are seen by everyone following the hashtag, and can also be used to compile an archive of the conference tweets.
• Attribute correctly and clearly: begin tweets of a paper with either the name or the initials of the speaker, so that readers of the tweet can recognize whose ideas are being reported.
• If you know the speaker’s twitter handle (e.g., @[handle]), include it, so that people can connect to them if they wish. (If you give a paper, mention your handle, or include it on your slides.)
• Be considerate to other attendees: ensure your device’s sounds are off, and it may be worth considering sitting at the back or the side of the room.
• If a follower asks a question, feel free to relay that question to the speaker during the question session, and report the answer back; questions from people in the room should, however, always take precedence.
• Tweet as little or as much as you like, about whichever aspect of the conference you like, taking into account what people may find interesting about the conference, and keeping to a high standard of collegiality and professionalism, particularly keeping in mind the very public nature of twitter as a medium. Do ask permission before posting photographs.
• Be civil, professional and polite (and beware that ‘tone’ is difficult to discern from a tweet); the medium is very public, so do not tweet what you would not say in public.
We are organizing a team of ‘official’ live tweeters for the conference, to ensure all sessions will be attended by at least one tweeter. All other attendees, however, are invited to tweet as they wish, taking these guidelines into account.
Any speaker who does not want to be tweeted can make this known at any time; if you send me a message ([email]) I will ensure this will be announced before the start of your presentation. We will also be advising chairs of the individual sessions to double-check with speakers whether they are comfortable being tweeted.
If you have any questions about twitter at the [conference], do not hesitate to contact me, [name] ([email], [handle]), or speak to me at the conference.