Bringing a laptop to a conference is a pretty good idea. Not only it helps summarize notes – I type much faster than I write – but you can also email these notes, share them, post them online, etc.
These days it seems every conference – even small ones – have a Twitter Hash tag (and why not? It doesn’t cost anything). What this means is that people can send messages with this tag, and everyone who “listens” to this tag will get it. It’s a bit like group chat. This is one of the things that differentiates Twitter and Facebook (as I mentioned in my one of the first posts in this blog: Explaining Twitter to Facebook Users).
This has several effects I didn’t fully grasp until Affiliate Summit East 2009. Motivational, educational, you name it.
For starters, days before a conference starts, people already start tweeting using the hash tag (i.e. in Affiliate Summit West 2010 it was #asw10). So even if you’re at home, you’re already starting to feel the ‘vibe’ of the conference, get the excitement. People announce they’ve left their homes, that they’re at the hotel, that they’re checking in, that they’re meeting other participants. Some people even upload photos. And since it is all in real time, you get pulled into it. You feel you’re a part of the conference before it even started.
Furthermore, during sessions people constantly tweet about what they listen to. This proves to be extremely useful from several reasons:
So my second point: you know who is present. During one session I discovered that two of my Twitter friends (whom I never met in person until then!) were in the room with me. We tweeted each. One even uploaded an image of the speaker (in real time, of course), so I could even tell where he was sitting in the room. Later I went to meet him.
Third, people constantly tweet the highlights of a session, the important points. There was one moment where I missed what the speaker said, but knew it was important. I looked at the stream, and multiple people tweeted that point. I just copied this directly into my notes. Moreover, thanks to the Twitter 140 characters limit, the point has to be concise, and this greatly facilitates the transmission of ideas in this context.
Fourth, you get to “hear” what’s going on in other sessions as well. So in a sense it allows you to attend multiple sessions at once. I actually took some of the tweets from other sessions as notes, as they were very relevant and interesting.
Fifth, one session allowed people to ask questions through Twitter and had its own hash tag. This certainly improves interaction between audience and speaker. Another session I attended had a contest where people suggested ideas and at the end, there was a reward for the best one.
Sixth, I tweeted quite a lot of the good highlights from sessions I attended. Some were actually retweeted by people who were NOT at the conference. So this helped spread useful information beyond the conference. In my opinion, this can be said to make Twitter itself a more valuable site. I remember that during Blog World (a conference that took place several months ago and I didn’t attend) there were occasional retweets of highlights from their sessions – some I found fascinating. And I wasn’t even there!
Finally, sites and conferences now take this into consideration. For example, the conference I speak at next month, Social Media 201, constantly “listens” and places on its website tweets that use the #sm201 hashtag. Or another example: ad:tech NY had a huge screen which featured select tweets that use the #adtechny hash tag (see the above image).
I think what we’ve seen here is a glimpse into the future of education. Where future students will get more and more opportunities to interact with the speakers and each other in real time, as well as potentially virtually “attend” sessions they are not present in. So not only the conference hash tag is great for passing information and ‘bonding’ everyone, but it also contributes a great deal to the effectiveness of taught sessions. I find this fascinating.
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