07 September 2011

Genealogy Conferences and Social Media Policy

I am speaking at a genealogy conference next week, and I asked the organisers about their social media policy. Apparently neither the host society nor the Association as a whole had an official policy (other than 'no recording of conference sessions except for personal note taking' and 'mobile phones must be turned off during presentations'). After hastily writing a more detailed policy, they have sent me a copy and asked for my opinion.

Before I reply, I would greatly value your thoughts on this. I need to address these questions in particular:

Can you explain exactly WHY people feel compelled to tweet while the speaker is speaking? Why can't it wait until the end of the presentation? Who truly benefits from tweeting 'live' rather than when the speaker has finished?

Obviously it's fine to tweet a 5-minute warning that a session is about to start, but it's what happens during the presentation that is really the issue in this case. All comments will be gratefully received!


  1. I think Tweeting live means that you catch stuff before you forget it - particularly website addresses and quick little tips that you wouldn't think of otherwise. Not only is it a form of note-taking in my opinion, but it also brings exposure for the conference & speaker.

    If I have read interesting tweets from someone in a your class, I'm much more likely to want to go to your class in the future. These days, there are so many great speakers out there that figuring out who you want to see can dome down to who I've heard of. If one of my friends thinks you are a great speaker and recommends you, I'm much more likely to see you again.

    It also keeps people who aren't at the event (for whatever reason) want to attend. And then we retweet stuff about the conference - making more people want to attend.

  2. Thanks Elyse. I appreciate (and agree with) the points you've made. Personally I would like to see phones allowed if they are set to 'silent'. Evernote (which has phone apps, and which Thomas MacEntee recommends) seems like a great way to take notes (probably better than tweets). And in that case, it would presumably be just as easy to tweet or blog your comments at the end of the session rather than during it. (I'm playing Devil's Advocate here - asking questions that *I* have been asked. My opinion alone won't really help the organisers. They need to know what the majority of people think.)

  3. I tweet during a presentation to let people know I am attending a good presentation. I don't tend to tweet much detail apart from presenter and topic. I tend to blog more detail.

    I tweet during a presentation using a phone on silent (I feel a phone is less distracting than a computer) as I am usually too busy to tweet after the presentation. I tweet for the people not at the conference as a promotion for the speaker and the conference.

  4. Judy, I'm ambivalent about this. My view is that it would be more effective to tweet either immediately before (to encourage people to go) or immediately after (to share overall perspective in summary).
    If everyone was tweeting, who would really be engaged with the speaker's content? But that's just my view. However I do enjoy reading blogs which discuss the interest value of a presentation they've attended.

  5. Judy

    Great post and great comments. Here is the social media policy I devised for the current FGS 2011 conference. Feel free to use all or part as you see fit.


  6. Hi Judy,
    Here is an example of conference twitter stream news in action.


    In addition to the comments above, social media helps hype the conference, spread the word, gets news out to others beyond the organization who might not have known they existed. Twitter and Google+ are open forums from spreading news.

    A good social media policy will stress that while the 'reporters' (tweeters, etc) can share happenings at the time they are not to give away ALL the good stuff. Speakers spend a lot of time preparing.

    Social media reports are like teasers that may entice others to attend your conference next time.

  7. Judy, I think the people above have eloquently said what I think.

    I can't imagine why conference organisers would want to ban live tweeting. Tweeting will not replace the experience of a live presentation but it gives readers some idea of what is going on in a presentation.

    Live tweeting helps me to engage with a speaker's content and keeps my wandering mind on task. When I don't tweet I take copious notes to keep me on track. When in a great session some of these are worth sharing through tweets.

    The live tweets combined in a stream with a tag provide an archive of conference highlights. I so enjoyed waking up this morning and reading through the tweets from FGS2011 - they gave me food for thought, made me want to be at the conference, told me about new speakers and indicated who I should watch out for to hear in future conferences.

    21st century people enagage through social media - conference organisers need to recognise this and harness that media to draw in new genealogists. As Thomas has indicated a good social media policy that sets the groundrules is vital.

  8. My thanks to everyone who commented here or via email. All of your comments will be helpful to conference organisers, and some addressed the original question, Why can't it wait until the end of the presentation? Who truly benefits from tweeting 'live' rather than when the speaker has finished? I had such an overwhelming response (some people have very strong feelings on this subject) that I've done a follow-up post.

  9. It really beats me why people want to Tweet at any conferences, and not just genealogy ones.

    Live blogging I can understand --writing comprehensive notes as a blog post, so that those who weren't there can get the gist of what happened. But tweets usually lack context and are frustrating rather than informative.


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