How to Use Twitter at Scientific Conferences: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Use Twitter at Scientific ConferencesWe’ve all been there, new at something feeling as if we are all thumbs and can’t get something electronic to work.

Why can’t technology be easy?

Relax, Twitter is not really complicated, and it’s a lot of fun.

Maybe you signed up for twitter because your friends recommend it, maybe you signed up a long time ago but never used it, maybe you signed up to use it for chat in a conference app or maybe you signed up hoping to get to the top of the Twitter feed on the conference monitor.

Whatever the reason, you just need to get started so that you can use Twitter at your next scientific meeting. Like everything else, you’ll to need to practice a bit.

Twitter has two main features: Connectivity and Broadcasting. Lets look at each separately so that you can find the perfect place to start.

1. Connectivity

Get social

Social media is just that, social, which means connecting with people. Think of Twitter as a public messaging app. That is, everyone can see what you say, and you can see what everyone else is saying. All this means it’s great for connecting you to a lot of people, at least those who have a Twitter account.

You’ll discover a broader community of people who share your opinions and those who challenge them. People who work in your scientific niche and those who don’t even know how science works. Twitter will amplify and broaden your network.

Who’s going to the conference?

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare for a meeting. Nowadays you can check the attendee list, usually available inside the conference app. Find out if your friends or colleagues coming. Tweet them to make plans to meet up.

Is there a speaker or subject matter expert you’d like to meet? Send them a tweet saying you’re excited to see their talk, ask to meet for coffee at the break. Who knows where this new friendship will go?

Meet someone new? Tweet to them at the meeting and then follow up after the conference with an email or phone call. When you respond quickly your new acquaintance is more likely to remember who you are.

Share images

People love to look at other people. People want to see who you are meeting and how you socialize. Out to dinner? Sharing a few laughs? Snap a photo and let the world know that scientific meetings are fun. Better yet share a short video. Most people have no idea what our conferences are like; they are curious.

Of course you’ll be mindful that the posts are public, so try your best to a get flattering shot of your friends. Show scientists in their natural environment; most have no idea what we do. Don’t forget to tag/name colleagues in the photo along with the conference #hashtag, much like you would do for Facebook or Instagram.

2. Broadcast

Twitter is perfect for sharing what you know, what makes you excited and how science works to whomever is interested. Here are some tips to will improve your messaging:

Keyboard shortcuts

If you are going to ‘tweet the meeting’ you’ll need fast fingers. How will you keep track of all those hashtags? Simply make them shortcuts on your keyboard. This little trick saves me time and awkward typos. I enter the designated conference hashtag into my keyboard shortcuts before I arrive. That way I’m ready to go. It makes everything so much smoother.

Share your opinion

When tweeting from a meeting, share your reaction. Say how you will use the new concept and or show a little friendly skepticism (if warranted). Don’t be afraid of emojis. A lot can be said in one little face. People want more than the facts, they want to know why facts matter. Only you can explain that, because you have built up expertise over the years.

Share images

Images increase likes, shares and retweets. Scientists like to know the source of statements. Slides at conferences have data tables and references, great ways to add gravitas to your tweets.

Share images of important slides. But not those weird trapezoid ones you get when sitting on the side of the room.. Use the app UScanner to convert them into rectangles. Be kind to your speaker- be sure to check that he/she has given permission to share the content before broadcasting their slides into the ether. You’ll find most are happy to have their research shared.

Before & After U Scanner

Engage a wider audience

Are you following a topic? For me #TravelHealth and #tvlmed are my favorites. When you include those anyone who follows those topics can comment on and share your insights.

Do you know influencers in your field, ones who can’t attend the conference? If so, tag them in a tweet so that they can share (retweet) with their audience. It’s a terrific way to spread ideas.

Lastly, don’t forget to tag reporters who write about the topic; they always want to be abreast of breaking developments.

Time twisting

Can’t attend two simultaneous talks? Don’t you hate having to pick between two equaling compelling talks when they are given at the same time? Don’t fret, simply follow the conference hashtag and see who is broadcasting from the other session.. It’s like being in two places at once.

Share poster presentations

Sometimes the best stuff is hiding in the labyrinth of the poster hall. See something good? Snap a shot and share it. Better yet, include the author standing next to the poster. People love to see who is behind scientific research.

Dos and Don’ts

Life wouldn’t be complete without guidelines. Like it or not, Tweeting at scientific conferences becomes part of your public persona. Keep it professional. Here are my top three dos and don’ts

Do

  1. Maintain professionalism
  2. Give accurate information
  3. Connect with colleagues and general public

Don’t

  1. Use misleading or confusing text
  2. ‘Retweet’ or ‘favorite’ a tweet without reading the attached article or image
  3. Give results of ongoing trials prior to publication

It’s really simple. Just follow the golden rule: Treat others as yourself.

Using Twitter at scientific conferences is a great way to connect with people attending the conference and people at home. It also creates a searchable feed with names and ideas for you to follow up with when you get home.

Broadcasting the meeting helps the presenters garner more prestige and stand out as subject matter experts. It also allows people understand evolving concepts in science.

Best of all, using Twitter at conferences promotes all the excitement of attending a meeting—the people, the ideas, the fun activities.

Going to a meeting soon? Go ahead try a few tweets. You’ll find a supportive, curious, witty group of fellow science nerds. Send me a tweet @SarahKohlMD to let me know how it went.