At a recent conference I was asked why I was tweeting so much, and I felt a blog post coming on! Tweeting during scientific meetings can have several benefits both for your current research and future career. It’s easier now than ever to get online at these events. Most conference venues have wireless internet, and it’s completely acceptable to have a laptop, tablet or smartphone out in front of you during a session. I’ve compiled a (non-exhaustive) list of the main reasons I tweet at academic conferences and you should too!
1 Tweeting during a talk helps consolidate information
It can be all too easy to let your mind wander off during a talk – particularly if it’s been a long session or if lunch is approaching! Rather than being a distraction, I find being active on Twitter keeps me engaged with the speaker. Tweeting during a talk keeps you thinking about the take-home messages, and summarising these into 140 characters helps you process the information.
Remember that most of your Twitter followers aren’t in the room with you. Make sure you organise the information into standalone tweets that make sense outside the context of the talk. If you can find the speaker’s Twitter handle, make sure you give them a mention them in your tweets – hopefully others will do the same for you!
2 Use the conference hashtag to start networking
We all know how important networking is for our research and careers, but this is a task many PhD students find particularly daunting. Getting on Twitter can be a great first step to make things a bit easier. Find out what the official conference hashtag is (if it doesn’t exist, create one yourself!) and follow the online feed. Follow others that have similar interests and add your own voice to the conversation. It can then be much easier to approach people in person if you’ve already interacted online.
3 Stay in contact with other researchers after the conference
Networking like a pro at the event is all well and good, but it’s important to stay in touch after the event too. Twitter is one way to avoid bumping into colleagues at the next event, having a panic about whether or not they will remember you, and wondering how to reintroduce yourself. If you’re following each other on Twitter, you’ll be constantly in touch with what one another is doing and you’re more likely to be remembered. Additionally, Twitter can provide a more informal way of initiating contact than sending that awkward email.
4 Increase your Twitter following and online presence
The more you tweet, and the better you tweet, the more followers you should get. Tweeting during a conference demonstrates to others that you have something interesting to say and are worth following.
5 Publicise your own work!
If your work relates to something interesting that’s being talked about at the conference, tweet about it (using the hashtag of course!). If you’re the one giving a talk, tweet about it. If you’re giving a poster presentation, tweet about it. Studies have shown a correlation between the number of mentions on Twitter, and the number of citations a journal article receives, so remember to provide links to any relevant papers!
6 Engage people with your field of research
This should probably go without saying, but it’s still worth mentioning! When you tweet, it’s not just other academics that see your tweets, but members of the public. Also take into account researchers from industry, science communicators, teachers, etc, that are following you. Try and make some of what you tweet engaging and interesting to non-specialists. Perhaps provide a (very) general picture of how the field of research is progressing, or some insight into what scientists actually do at conferences.
7 Storify your experience after the conference
Storify makes it easy to compile tweets about a particular topic – conferences included. You can use tweets from your own feed and others to summarise what you heard and share your conference experience. The conference organisers and other attendees may be compiling their own Storify summaries and might include your tweets!
Amelia is a PhD student at the John Innes Centre. She tweets (not just about conferences) as @AmeliaFrizell.