In 2016 most event planners are using social media to publicise events before events, as well as the wrap-up afterwards. There are an increasing number of events however that are using the event itself as an opportunity to share content through live-tweeting.

Last week I had an opportunity to be the official ‘Live Tweeter’ for Richard Bell‘s Aboriginal Embassy at the Institute of Modern Art. An art installation/performance space the Tent Embassy has travelled Australia and the world (previous venues include Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne, Moscow, Arnhem, and New York).

Inside the Tent Richard collaborates with local activists and thinkers to create a space of discussion and debate. The project pays homage to the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972.

At the Tent Embassy event at Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in July artist Megan Cope was invited to ‘scribe’. Using butcher’s paper and pens, Megan diligently captured many of the ideas of the event. My role was similar to Megan’s except rather than butcher’s paper I used Twitter. The opportunity with Twitter was that we were able to generate discussion and reach that amplified the messages that were being presented inside the tent.

Twitter can help build your event's profile.

As you can see from the Twitter Analytics, on that day my 168 Tweets generated 53,268 organic impressions.

Of course not all live tweeting will generate the same volume of impressions. Indeed some people’s live tweeting will generate far more than my humble account. My personal Twitter account has a following of 2,843 followers which is neither great nor nothing. I’m probably considered to be relatively active on Twitter, though with just under 28,000 Tweets, I’m hardly a power user nor an influencer.

However I’m relatively on topic in relation to the event with discussion on topics like race, colonialism, history, power, sovereignty, treaty. These topics were not unfamiliar to the bulk of those who follow me.

Here are some suggestions if you’re going to choose to include Live Tweeting at your event:

  1. Choose a person who is very familiar with the medium: I’ve been using Twitter since 2008 and have more than 5 active accounts. Twitter and the medium is very familiar to me. I understand the nuances of Twitter and how to most effectively ensure that the message is understood. The speed that you’re expected to Tweet at is very fast. You need to be able to listen, compose and respond to events in really quick succession. You literally have seconds to respond.
  2. Find someone who already speaks on the topic: I would be next to useless if I were being asked to Tweet a sporting event. Few people in my audience would be used to me speaking on this topic so would turn off immediately. I imagine I would experience an exodus of followers.
  3. Pre-schedule tweets using the agreed hashtag: While the event officially started at 2pm, my Tweets started at around 10am. I tweeted about each of the speakers and their affiliations. 
  4. Check your panellists’ Twitter handles, websites, pet projects: Before the event I confirmed with each speaker if it was okay to tag their Twitter handle into my Tweets. I suspected that 1 of the speakers did not want their Twitter account to be identified. I confirmed this with her and made sure that she was not tagged. I had each person’s Twitter handle, and other important handles written on a piece of paper beside me. I also made a point of checking if the speakers had things they’d like me to mention – causes, events, websites.
  5. Post up other links: As topics were raised I would quickly grab URLs and post these as well. For instance Gary Foley was mentioned during the talks so while that discussion was happening I tweeted the link to Gary’s Koori History Website. Adding context to the discussion and further resources is helpful for both your audiences (the one in the room as well as the folks at home).
  6. Have adequate facilities available: The IMA were well prepared for the event. I had a table at the back of the tent and was seated with a moderator who was able to follow the stream. They had a screen set up behind the speakers, and had a relatively decent internet connection and power (essential!).
  7. Have a back-up plan: While we had internet connection set up that we tested before the event started, I did need to hotspot using my phone at one point when it dropped out.
  8. Have someone taking images on their phone ready to be tweeted: While I tend to tweet most on my phone, I opted on the day to primarily use my laptop. However I had another person in the audience taking images of the speakers at the front who then SMSd them to me. I could save these to my phone and then incorporate these close-up images in my Tweets.
  9. Pay your people: It’s important that if you are going to ask someone to live Tweet for your project or organisation, that you pay them appropriately.

Live Tweeting the art event was an excellent opportunity to share Richard’s artwork with an audience far beyond that Fortitude Valley courtyard.

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