How to maximise Twitter use at events (a conference, congress, field day etc)

Using Twitter to help publicise and broadcast proceedings of a conference, congress, field day or other event?


  • fostering worldwide ag event/conference reciprocal travel
  • putting rural information and conversations in front of unfamiliar audiences
  • encouraging event attendance and participation
  • increasing much-appreciated publicity for event sponsors and gratis presenters
  • maximising the ideal event networking opportunity for rural/regional residents.

But I see SO MANY wasted opportunities in relation to fantastic rural conferences and other events, that organisers have put so much work into.

I am happy to help run event twitter accounts (more info below); but here’s some D.I.Y. tips:


  • If the size or frequency of the event make it worthwhile, open a twitter account specifically for the event, as early as possible.
  • Include the name of the person who is writing the tweets, in the Twitter account bio. People infinitely prefer conversing with an identifiable, specific person rather than someone anonymous; so the account will be more successful.  Naming someone in particular also helps guard against imposter/unofficial event accounts (it happens).  It lends more credibility.  In the event account twitter bio, it’s common to write something along the lines of: “XYZ conference: Blogsville, 5 Sept 2015. Tweets by @BettySmith”.  (Or just the person’s name rather than a link to their own twitter account; especially if their profession isn’t obviously relevant.)
  • The person running the account can be anywhere on the planet – they don’t have to be attending the event, as long as there are people at the event who are tweeting.  The event account manager retweets (adding a missed hashtag or other info, as required), replies/comments, copies other people into relevant messages, asks and answers questions, passes news/comments on to event organisers etc.  They interact – they don’t just broadcast.  In fact successful event tweeting relies on receiving tweets from a number of people, not being a lone voice of enthusiasm; and often people at an event are too busy to be able to keep up with a complete overview.  For the account manager, being out of the ‘forest’ can be an advantage.  Done well, it is very time consuming.
  • Obviously the event twitter account has to be run by someone trustworthy, who will manage it in a professional manner.  Ideally someone with a twitter track record.  An event twitter account should be a-political, not too sales-pitchy (instead, informative), not involved in nepotism/favouritism or parochial and largely free of personal opinions and controversy. But on the other hand- not devoid of personality and character either – or it will be as dry as dust for followers (and thus, of reduced effectiveness.) A good event account treads a fine line, and must be run by someone familiar with the target audience (ie if it’s a rural event, for best results the twitter account must be run by a rural person.  Not, for example, a social media manager based in a capital city.)
  • The email address and password for the event twitter account (and any other event-related social media accounts) should be known by several people.
  • The long-term plan for the event account should be discussed from the outset.  Will the account be run by the same person, next year?  Will it be closed? Or morph into something else?  Etc.
  • Once the event is over and tweeting is going to cease, a final message to that effect should be tweeted.  EG: “This year’s conference is over, but we look forward to recommencing tweeting prior to next year’s”; “This is the last tweet by @BettySmith, someone new will be at the helm next year”; “This account is now closed. Contact us for info, via the website.”; etc.


  • Always pick a standard hashtag; include it in every single event-related tweet, right from the outset, and encourage others to do likewise.  To not do so is to miss an easy but massive opportunity to reach the public and the media.
  • Decide on a hashtag as soon as the event has a name and date.
  • Include it in the event twitter account bio (or the account bio of the person in charge of tweeting), so that everyone can easily find the standard hashtag to use right from the outset.
  • Only use ONE hashtag per tweet; and be consistent (same hashtag every time). Keep it simple (Twitter is NOT instagram. Don’t waste message space & make tweets painful to read, by including more than one hashtag.)


How do you choose the most effective hashtag?

  • Choose a recognisable/logical hashtag; but one which is also as short as possible. An acronym of the organisation’s name is ideal. Eg the National Farmers Federation conference next year could be either #NFF16 or #NFFconf.  The latter maybe preferable if NFF is holding a number of events & they want to keep the tweets for each event separate, and/or if they want to draw attention to the fact that they are conference-related tweets, only.  The former may be preferred if the NFF wants tweets from all their events in 2016, to appear when someone searches.  IE it’s a filing/marketing-related decision. Note; just writing “16” is preferable to 2016 – two extra characters does help write longer messages. 2016 really is unnecessary – it’s not as if these tweets will be confused with 1916 or 2116.
  • If the hashtag is too long a) it takes up too many of the 140 characters allowed in twitter messages & b) people are likely to forget it or stuff it up (and just one character out, means it won’t appear in a search); and c) people attending the event simply don’t have time to stuff around tapping long hashtags into their phones.  This means that many great conference messages will not be seen by other conference attendees, or others who are following the conference proceedings from afar (some of whom may have benefited from the messages, and some of whom might have been inspired to attend the next conference).  What a waste; so easily avoided!
  • Before settling on the exact hashtag to use, search for what you’re considering to ensure it’s not currently being used for something you mightn’t want to be associated with, or which may be confusing.  A good example of confusion is the fact that Australians quite often write #ABC, not knowing or forgetting that America’s largest broadcaster is also called the ABC.  If you want to distinguish an Australian event, adding “AU” to the end is common (“Aus” is better, but of course, wastes another character).

A great example of hashtag use:

The International Rural Women’s Conference, held in 2015: #IRWC15.  This hashtag was short, unique and extremely easy to remember.  A search today, 6 months after the conference, still brings up a plethora of tweets sent regarding this conference; all filed neatly for anyone to refer back to in an instant – as yet unadulterated by unrelated event tweets, as none have used the same hashtag.  There’s some great information there, plus photographs.  If this event was to be held again next year, it would be very useful for people considering attending to search for the old hashtag to get an idea of what they might expect.


Using a good hashtag can result in the conference tweets being so prolific that they make the top 10 hashtags in use, ie they’re ‘trending’.  This was the case at the Australian Women in Agriculture (AWiA) conference in Alice Springs, in August 2015, which was the number 4 most-used hashtag in Australia, at one point.  #AWIAconf was a great hashtag – logical but short; not character-hogging, incredibly easy to remember, and quick to type in. And as it’s used every year, the tweets from all the AWIA conferences can be found with just one search (the most recent usually appear up the top).  So what benefit is there in having a ‘trending’ hashtag? It brings the related topic to the attention of the general public and journos, who are always looking for good new stories.  What an easy way to help get rural Australia’s voice heard, drawing attention to forward-thinking discussions, new information, and professionalism.

Using a good hashtag also helps conference attendees instantly search & discover everyone else who is on twitter, at the conference.  Some of whom they may well have conversed with on twitter, but never met in person. Maximising networking opportunities, so easily!  “Tweetups” are especially appreciated by regional and rural Australians, who may otherwise not cross paths in person.


  • When conference attendees book, ask for their twitter account name & permission to pass it on to other attendees.  If possible, write their twitter account name under their name on their nametag, or include it in a public list at the registration desk.  (Your twitter account name……. Permission to include it on a list provided to other conference attendees  Y/N (circle).  Right from the very outset people on twitter at the conference can follow one another, and make plans to catch up in person.  (Also worth doing for LinkedIn.  A private event-related LinkedIn group is a fantastic place to hold professional discussions & share personal contact details, as well.)
  • At the opening of the event mention the twitter hashtag being used, and reiterate on subsequent mornings.  Encourage attendees to write their own tweets, comment on those of others, as well as retweeting and assisting others around them who may have twitter queries.
  • A live twitter feed can appear on the presentation screen during event breaks, via a laptop with an internet connection.  This generates fantastic interest and snowballs Twitter activity – well worth doing.
  • If there is a specific twitter account associated with the conference, create a publicly viewable list of all the speakers who are on twitter, and a separate list of all attendees on twitter.
  • Give the speakers publicity on twitter and encourage them to publicise the event. (Everyone benefits.)
  • Write the conference hashtag into a pinned tweet. Pinned tweets aren’t visible to mobile phone users, but anyone checking the twitter account on computer will see it.



  • *Never forget that the speaker is king, followed by the audience – the people who have taken the time (and probably paid) to attend.*  Tweeting messages to people who aren’t there, must be a lesser priority.
  • If possible, do mention the fact that you are tweeting, to the speakers. Preferably before the day, but if not, before they speak.  This gives them the opportunity to mention if there’s anything they’d prefer wasn’t tweeted or repeated publicly and identifiably (information on the Chatham House Rule); or bear instant public quotation in mind when speaking.  The speakers then also know to read what was tweeted about their presentation, afterwards (and RT what appeals to them, reply, clarify and say thanks).  Alerting them to the fact that you’ll be live tweeting also means speakers will know you are actually listening and writing about them, rather than presuming you’re bored & checking Facebook videos or making hairdresser appointments.  It’s most off-putting for a speaker to see audience members who appear to be glued to their screens and not paying attention.  Ensure you look directly at them and make it apparent that you’re listening intently, throughout the presentation.
  • So: always sit where you won’t distract other listeners, or the speaker.  Off to one side is best, as your screen may distract people behind you, and you can move to the side to get a photo with minimal disturbance to others. Only sit up the front if you must be there to get numerous photographs; otherwise, walk up the side to take a pic then return to the back.  Up the back has another benefit – you can often spot others in front of you who are tweeting.
  • Check for other people’s tweets and RT the good messages they write (unless of course you have identical followers), rather than doubling up and writing tweets that say the same thing.
  • If you notice any event tweets without the official hashtag or with an incorrect hashtag, contact senders as soon as possible with a message along the lines of “Thanks for the great tweets!  It’d be good if other event followers saw them, so please use the official hashtag, #(whatever it is)”.  Others can mistakenly presume the incorrect hashtag is the official one, and use can quickly spread to others (so twitter followers then miss seeing a large number of interesting messages).

Event tweet content:

  • Use photographs carefully – bear ‘do unto others’ in mind. IE aim to only tweet the most flattering images of speakers.
  • Put thought into tweeting pics showing screen presentations. Because speakers may not want every single slide broadcast via twitter, especially if they are a regular speaker or slides show very specific/valuable research details. Don’t presume the speaker has thought all this through – particularly if they aren’t an active twitter user.  If in doubt; take a pic of the speaker’s slide/s then check whether it’s ok to tweet them, after the presentation.
  • When taking photographs – only use a flash if it’s actually required and will  be of use.  If you are further than a few metres from the subject, the flash is likely to do nothing to improve the image, merely be an irritation for others (and sap battery power at the same time).  If you don’t know how to turn the flash off, find out before the event.  Use exposure compensation adjustments on cameras (later model phones have this ability) to get a better quality photo – dim lighting and bright screens are not conducive to good image results, in ‘auto’ mode.
  • Obviously – dissension is much better expressed via an in-person query at the end of the presentation, rather than via twitter.
  • If the speaker is on twitter, include their account name with quotes you are tweeting.  If they refer to other people, and they are on twitter, include their account name as well.
  • It can be useful to write the twitter account names for the speakers onto a piece of paper prior to the event, so it’s quicker & easier to include them in live tweets (& the list can be loaned to others).
  • As much as possible tweet the speaker’s exact words, however abbreviating quotations is often unavoidable.  Twitter users understand the need to paraphrase/summarise; just ensure the speaker’s meaning is clear & all vital info is included in one tweet.  If something is tricky, write a draft & refine prior to sending, after the presentation concludes.
  • I find it impossible to concentrate and cogitate on everything that a speaker is saying and send good tweets at the same time. The more interesting and thought-provoking the presentation, the more this applies.  So I often write tweet wording down on paper, particularly regarding complex concepts, and send these tweets once the presentation has concluded.  This also helps ensure that good questions are formulated for the speaker, in time for the end Q & A session. Sending a few tweets after a presentation is over (eg, that evening), can also help get messages seen by people who missed the live tweets, so a delay has an additional benefit.


I ran the March 2015 International Rural Women’s Conference twitter account, and I’m happy to help with others. .  After the IRWC conference it seemed a pity to waste the IRWC15 account, so I renamed it @Agri_Events and use it to promote rural events, worldwide.  If you have an event planned, specifically of interest to rural women, let me know via my main twitter account, @FionaLakeAus or via @Agri_Events.


Ideally there would be a lot more proactive, reciprocal assistance than is currently the case. Do retweet and respond to the messages from people running events, and bring the events to the direct attention of anyone specific who you know who may be interested.  It’s quick and easy to do, and makes the organiser’s job so much less arduous.  Organising events is time consuming, often stressful, and usually voluntary.

PS:  Here’s hoping the internet service in Australia’s remotest regions is improved as soon as possible, so that everyone involved in agriculture can use twitter (as well as run their businesses more efficiently).


The above post was written on 4th Sept 2015 & will be added to/improved, down the track.

Summary of blog posts with tips on how to best use Twitter: