How to live tweet an event

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(l-r) BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet, freed former Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy and his lawyer Amal Clooney talk at the Frontline Club on Oct 7 2015; Interhacktive @charlotteagb live tweeted the event. Photo credit: Charlotte Beale

Why live tweet?

Share: If you’re interested in an event you’re attending, the chances are that others who can’t make it or don’t already know about it will be interested too. Live tweet to give them an insight into the best bits of what’s being said.

Grow: You will gain followers, exposure and skills. You’ll catch people’s attention. And live tweeting is a great exercise for honing that key journalistic talent for filtering what’s most important, then broadcasting it to an audience.

Save time: Writing a report after the event, if you need to, is much easier once you’ve already distilled the best quotes. It can be little more than adding structure, conjunctions, full stops and some context.

What to live tweet?

When I’m listening to speakers and looking for quotes, I have the “so what?” test running in my head. When you hear a short, important phrase you think worthy of a quote, ask “so what?”. If there’s a clear answer why your followers should care about the quote, then go ahead and tweet it.

Direct quotes are best, in “ ” marks:

Paraphrase if you have to:

How to live tweet?

Before On the day of the event – or earlier if it’s hotly anticipated – tweet at regular intervals to let everyone know you’re going to be live-tweeting. Include details – when, from where, and what about, as well as a link to the event. Entice with pictures!

Check if there’s an event hashtag. Make sure you are following all the parties you’ll want to tag: the speakers, the chair, the venue and the organisers.

Gather your equipment. I prefer live tweeting from my iPhone because:

    1. SILENCE: Typing into a phone is silent; typing into a laptop isn’t. Depending on what kind of event you’re at, tapping away at a laptop keyboard can be disruptive and you may draw weird looks from irked audience members next to you. Obviously if it’s a tech conference, you’re absolutely fine, but at the above Frontline Club event on stateless peoples, the rapt audience did not appreciate tap-tap-tap in the corner.
    2. HABIT: Our minds are habituated to typing brief phrases into a phone keyboard, rather than the long sentences we usually write into laptops. Brief phrases suit live-tweeting.

Have your laptop open too – it’s useful for confirming the odd detail or searching Twitter for a tag you need while your tweet box is already open on your phone.

At the event Sit at the back or sides of the room. I find other audience members tend to get irritated by my flipping between phone and laptop, and this in turn distracts me. Live-tweeting takes focus – distractions aren’t welcome!

Don’t worry if you start tweeting a quote, but then the speaker comes up with a far more interesting one you’d rather tweet. Delete your draft so far and go for it.

You will miss quotes – that’s part of the nature of tweeting live. You’re giving your audience the most salient points, not a blow-by-blow documentation of the event.

You’ll find as you type quotes in that most come up over 140 characters. You’ll need to crop sentences all the time. Paraphrase succinctly, using just a very short quoted phrase if that helps. If only one tag will fit in the tweet, I usually put the speaker.

Tag anyone relevant to a specific quote; for instance, when Gonzalo Vargas Llosa mentioned the UNHCR, I tagged them in the tweet. It’s a great way to get your live tweets more exposure.

If you notice typos or misquotes after you’ve published a tweet, I copy the tweet, paste in a new one, delete the original one and republish the correct tweet. Don’t worry about the tweets being out of time sequence. After Remember a concluding tweet so your followers know it’s over. You also might want to post any follow-up links.

New followers, likes and retweets will continue for hours and usually the next couple of days after the event.

Repeat at your next event!

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