Social media at conferences: Beyond live-tweeting

As the activities of this year’s Social Media Task Group (a focus group within the Public Archaeology Interest Group of the Society for American Archaeology – a mouthful, I know!) wrap up, I have been sharing some of the fruits of our labor, such as this Social Media Guide to the SAA Annual Meeting (2015). The conversation that developed on Twitter in response to the document inspired me to think about creative ways scholars can engage social media audiences at conferences beyond live-tweeting.


Ask the audience to promote a specific message

Direct peoples’ interest in your presentation toward promoting a paper, website, or project that you think deserves attention. If your presentation has a core message you want to make sure comes across in social media depictions, you can create a slide with that message on it and ask them to share it. This could be a useful middle ground for those who want to use their presentation time as a forum for sharing ideas that aren’t yet ready or appropriate for the public sphere.

Worst case scenario: your message is spread to a few more people than could make it into the room with you.

Best case scenario: a twitterstorm focused on the topic you research!

(Giving credit where it is due, this idea came from listening to a Maximum Fun podcast while they had their pledge drive, where they had a very successful non-scholarly NSFW tweet-storm.)


Offer visual aides

Have high-definition images or maps in your presentation that are a little hard to see? Or maybe they aren’t that hard to see but those of us with eye strain from too much conferencing might want a longer look at them? Upload them to Academia, Slideshare, an open Dropbox folder, or really anywhere online for download. Direct audience members to the link (make it a short one, please) so they can follow along or re-visit at their leisure. This is a good idea for posters, too: a digital version of the mini-posters many presenters print and hand out.

Tip: tell people how large and what file format you are sharing before asking them to download! If you are the person whose paper download causes a colleague to spend dozens of extra dollars for busting their data plan, they won’t remember you for your excellent ideas.


Promote paper or presentation downloading

If you’re a person who writes out a full paper for each presentation, and you want feedback on it before possibly turning it into a publication, what better captive audience than the people who showed up to your presentation? Even if you just offer to email it to audience members on a one-by-one basis, consider taking this opportunity to improve your work. You could even use the peer review tool offered by, or collaboration options in Google Drive and Dropbox for this.


Organize meet-ups

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a chaotic social experience at professional conferences: one meal you have 8 invitations, the next you are alone and embarrassed to go to a nearby place by yourself while everyone else has meetings. Use social media to make the most of networking. Don’t be afraid to ask if someone has time to have coffee or chat after a session. Twitter makes it even easier to do this because you don’t have to recognize the person first, awkwardly read the nametag on their chest, or risk interrupting their conversation. Just do it!

Just recently, I publicly asked someone whose work I admire to meet at a conference with a mutual friend, and many other awesome people wanted to join!

And if you’re going to the upcoming SAA conference, participate in the social media meet-up — everyone is welcome!


Track conference expo promotions and free stuff

Just like professionals, presses and vendors at conferences are using social media to attract people to their events. Almost all presses have conference discounts, and they sometimes give away free books for people who respond to a tweet! Don’t miss out on free books. Ever.

If you’re not at the conference in person, use your public platform to ask if a press would be willing to extend their conference discount to the professionals who were not able to afford attendance. Seriously, they are there to sell books and I expect they’d be happy to help. (This is especially true if you might use the books to teach – in which case you may be able to get an exam copy for free.)

There is also a lot of free stuff to be had. Pens, tick removers, radiocarbon sample size guides, public archaeology teaching materials, snazzy USB drives… I definitely pick these up every year. If you’re lucky, the Virtual Curation Lab booth will give you a 3D printed artifact. I plan to do an informal survey of the cool and creative promotional materials at the SAA. Exhibitors, you know where to find me.

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