To tweet or not to tweet?

Blog post by Katy Turner (@katymeturner)

Who is responsible for tweet etiquette at conferences? Organisers? Presenters? Tweeters?

Conference organisers can certainly set the tone for an event with pronouncements like this one:

Tweet from Trish Groves (@trished)

Clear guide #ICTMC2017 on seeking permission to blog, tweet, take pics (I should’ve read this sooner)

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This feels rather heavy handed and puts all the responsibility onto tweeters to “get permission” which rules out real time tweeting and could limit or even censor open discussion of ideas including the community outside conference attendees. I am going venture that the above was written by someone (or a committee of someones) who doesn’t “tweet”.

In our connected 21st century world, most conferences actively encourage tweeting. There are some excellent guidelines e.g. Ten Simple Rules of Live Tweeting at Scientific Conferences
(http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003789#s2). These are aimed at conference organisers e.g. choose a short hashtag (and check for unexpected clashes), publicise hashtag, encourage tweeting, use twitter to enable questions from outside and tweeters (mechanics of what to tween and how to tweet responsibly).

What about the presenters themselves? Conferences are exciting because they are a place to share new ideas with the other 3 people in the world similarly passionate about modelling sexually transmitted infections (or whatever floats your boat). Tweeting can widen and broaden the conversation and include people inside and beyond the conference. How can we continue to extend and diversify the conversation, whilst also protecting unpublished research and intellectual property?

Here are my top tips for presenters

1) Visual cues on all slides as tweetable or not

Presenters can indicate how much tweeting of their talk is acceptable. This doesn’t need to be onerous. I used the following stickers on all my slides when I had early unpublished results in a couple of slides that I didn’t want tweeted (FIgure 1). Simple to explain and use.

Figure 1 To tweet or not to tweet

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2) Accurate informative reference information on all slides which include published data large enough to actually read

Ideally, references will be open access so tweeters can then help publicise the research by locating references and linking during the talk (I find this really useful as a twitter consumer) as well as linking to other relevant material the tweeter may be aware of.

3) Make slides tweet- (and audience-) friendly

Large, bold graphics and clear visual message make better tweets (and slides) than a table of numbers or list of bullet points.

If you have any other ideas for making tweeting work better for you during conference season we would like to hear from you.