Post by Emma Cartledge from the BES Conservation Ecology Special Interest Group, which first appeared in The Niche, British Ecological Society, Spring 2021.
Twitter conferences are not a new idea, however they proved to be invaluable in 2020. A Twitter conference gives presenters the opportunity to publish a certain number of Tweets in a ‘thread’, under a particular hashtag. Twitter offers an international, far-reaching, succinct way to communicate, without being cost-prohibitive or requiring excess travel.
The BES Conservation Ecology & Tropical Ecology Special Interest Groups (SIGs) hosted a joint Twitter conference, on 5th – 6th November 2020, discussing Advances in Technology and Innovative Methods. Presenters had a 15-minute time slot to share five Tweets, which were publicised by the SIGs. Attendees took part by following the ‘@BESConservation’ and ‘@BES_Tropical’ Twitter accounts and the conference hashtag, ‘#TropiCon20’. In total, 500 people contributed 1,919 tweets, reaching an audience of 1,077,208.
Ten top tips for hosting a Twitter conference
1. Deadlines and planning
- Set up a team of volunteers! Roles: co-ordinators, abstract selection, scheduling, conference hosts.
- Create a collaborative folder, containing spreadsheets on deadlines, Tweeting plans, abstracts and scheduling.
- Advertise as soon as you can through newsletters and social media.
- Consider the deadlines: the abstract submission deadline for #TropiCon20 was six weeks before the conference, decisions were emailed two weeks later. These timings worked well for us!
2. Hashtag selection
- Select your conference hashtag carefully – bear in mind that it becomes the name of the conference.
- Ensure it hasn’t been used previously.
- Consider how it sounds in other languages. We learnt this the hard way, with our original hashtag (#TropCon20 was not appropriate in French…)!
3. Conference website
- Set up a conference website, which is the first port of call for information, abstract submission and conference programme.
- Careful with your website platform. We had trouble with emails sent directly from the website! Perhaps set up a dedicated email address, make use of Eventbrite or the BES website for registrations.
- Allow anyone to register to receive reminders and information on taking part.
4. Programme considerations
- Consider your international audience when scheduling. Day one of #TropiCon20 was 1pm-5pm (GMT) and day two was noon-6pm. Presenters were given the option to submit day or timing preferences. Make the time zone clear!
- Double-check scheduling and spelling, particularly of names and Twitter handles.
- You may wish to organise a plenary. This worked well at the start of #TropiCon20, with great Tweets by Jennifer Powers (@jennifer_pow).
- Consider an interactive element during the conference. We hosted a live Zoom Closing Ceremony, to announce prizes and allow attendees to meet.
5. Information for presenters
- Make sure to provide information on the number of Tweets and timeslot, but also information on setting up a thread, hashtags, scheduling Tweets and ensuring accounts are public. Ideally, presenters should be available during their 15 minute timeslot. Presenters should also make the most of GIFs!
- Tweet some tips for presenters in the run-up to the event, also helping with publicity!
- With many high-quality abstracts for #TropiCon20, we hosted ‘lightning Tweets’, where presenters had one Tweet each.
- Allocate slots for hosts to introduce presenters, ask questions and retweet. Keep an eye on the clock! Have spare Tweets ready in case of no-shows. Set up a WhatsApp or similar for urgent issues on the day.
7. Schedule Tweets
- Schedule as much as possible (e.g. TweetDeck) – it is really intense on the day. Remember that TweetDeck does not allow the scheduling of threads. Don’t forget to schedule other Tweets throughout the conference, sharing the programme and website link to drum up interest!
- Take a break and share hosting responsibilities. We didn’t schedule any breaks, but would recommend doing so for attendees who follow along with the whole day.
9. Monitor Tweets
- TweetDeck is very useful to keep track of the conference hashtag or to follow particular accounts.
- Consider using Twitter analytics (e.g. Tweet Binder), which provide interesting insights into the reach of your event.
10. Sponsorship and prizes
- We provided book vouchers for best presentation and runner-up, plus best lightning presentation. Another prize could be ‘most popular Tweet’, but that is biased towards earlier presentations. If the budget allows, you could provide prizes for attendees (e.g. most retweets).
- Twitter conference costs are minimal, but you may need sponsorship to cover the costs of prizes and analytics.
You can still visit the #TropiCon20 website for more information (https://tropicalconservation.wixsite.com/tropicon20) or view the presentations on Twitter by searching for the hashtag ‘#TropiCon20’.
Thank you to everyone who was involved in organising and running the event (Emma Cartledge, Chris Chandler, Robin Hayward, Jorge Ari Noriega Alvarado, Katie Bickerton, Lydia Cole, Kasia Mikołajczak, Andy Suggitt, Eleanor Warren-Thomas, Choon-Wha Fuller). A huge thank you to everyone who presented and took part. Congratulations to prize winners Sian Green (winning presentation), Rosie Drinkwater (runner-up presentation) and Daniel Nicholson (lightning talk). Thanks to our sponsors, Wildlife Acoustics, and to the BES (Georgina Glaser) for their support.
This article first appeared in The Niche, British Ecological Society, Spring 2021