How to Live-Tweet a Professional Meeting: Lessons from #NAPC2014

I’m here at the 10th North American Paleontological Convention in Gainesville, Florida. I’ve been sitting in sessions and live-tweeting the talks as a way to both take notes on the talks and to disseminate the information presented to those who cannot attend the meeting.

There are lots of people here also live-tweeting the meeting. Some have a lot of experience, having live-tweeted meetings before, others are just now trying it for the first time.

I thought I might take a moment here to explain how one live-tweets a meeting. First,I’ll start with explaining what it means to ‘live-tweet.’Twitter is a micro-blogging service in which users can post statements of 140 characters or less. This can be done using text messaging on a phone, a dedicated app, or via the Internet on a web browser.

What is ‘Live-Tweeting’?

Live-tweeting is broadcasting things that are occuring or being said in real time, as they are happening. When live-tweeting a talk, posts are made with snippets or interesting sound-bites of what the speaker is saying. All the Twitter followers of the person live-tweeting then can read the tweets and know what is happening.

At a professional meeting, such as NAPC, a Twitter hashtag is given so that all tweets related to the meeting can be marked and found later. In the case of the meeting I am attending, the hashtag is #NAPC2014.

Here are a couple of examples of live-tweeted statements from talks:



Note that they both include the hashtag, and the name of the person speaking who’s getting live-tweeted.

Here’s an example of the end result of a whole meetings worth of tweets, in this case a stable isotope meeting I went to last summer called ASITA. I talk about using Storify to summarize tweets in a blog post yesterday.

You can see not everything is a tweet about a talk, but many are and all are related to the meeting by the hashtag #ASITA2013 in that case (it appears that the same hashtag got used for another meeting last year as well).

How do you live-tweet a meeting?

There are some important things to consider when planning to live-tweet anything.


Sometimes, meeting organizers have policies about live-tweeting. Check on them.

Also, remember some things presented in talks are proprietary or embargoed. Speakers should indicate this at the beginning of their talk, but they don’t always. Be aware of that.

Then, in all tweets, include both the hashtag, and the name of the speaker. When there are concurrent sessions, including the speaker helps tie statements to the right talk.  It doesn’t matter if the hashtag goes at the beginning or at the end. For myself, I always put them at the end. (Hashtags can go in the middle, too, if you want, but that would be weird.)



Sounds simple enough, and it is in principle, but not so much in practice. It’s hard to type that fast in a fast-paced talk. And if you’re using a phone, it can be a nightmare.

Making it fast and easy.

When there’s free wi-fi available at meetings, you’ll notice that the live-tweeting is abundant. Most people don’t have the patience to only use their phones.

For myself, I have a tiny laptop with a massive battery. It makes it possible for me to tweet real fast.

Here’s a couple of other suggestions:

1) Use the copy and paste feature of your tweeting device (phone or computer) to paste the hashtag and/or the speaker name, to save yourself the time of typing it every time.

2) If you’re using a computer, take advantage of web apps like TweetChat, that will enter the hashtag for you automatically. I use the heck out of TweetChat.

When the day or meeting is over, you can then Storify your tweets into something convenient for you to refer to later. Please check out my post from yesterday for a bit more about that.


  1. Anna Sharman says:

    Live tweeting is easier on a phone if you have a keyboard app that learns your favourite phrases. I use SwiftKey X on an Android phone, and it’s revolutionised the way I live tweet (and the speed). After I’ve written a couple of tweets starting with the hashtag and a speaker name, the next time I type the hash symbol the hashtag and name automatically get suggested.


    1. Penny says:

      Thanks for sharing this. I haven’t really explored phone apps much, because my old phone’s battery can’t possibly last long enough to tweet much of a session. I need to upgrade and try some new things!


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