Event, writing tips

The Ancients’ Lost Guide To Live Tweets

Kidding. But now I have your attention, here are some tips and tricks to make your online event more accessible, and to get the most out of online engagement!

Friday 26th March 2021 I’m going to do a sponsored tweetathon to raise money for the Romancing the Gothic project. The goal is to try and hit the £500 target, or at least contribute a fair way towards it. The money raised will go towards the costs of the paid-for Zoom platform, WordPress Premium fees and assorted admin costs, compensating Sam for their time if possible, but mainly towards giving speakers a fair fee for their time and expertise, particularly scholars in precarious employment.

I’m going to play all the talks I’ve missed back to back, and do a tweet thread on each one in real time, as I listen, without pauses. By this, I mean that I will basically be note-taking via tweets.

I will allow myself 60mins total breaks through the day (to include toilet breaks) but the rule is that I cannot pause in the middle of a thread, only between them. My playlist currently has 13 talks, and that means if I get through them all, it will be 13 hours of tweeting. o.O I managed 8 last time.

Donate directly to Sam’s Ko-Fi, with the note #RtGMarathon2.

Live-tweeting is a skill that improves with practice, and there are many reasons to develop it and to get an experienced, designated live-tweeter to cover events and talks if you’re thinking about accessibility.

Many events have moved online in a hurry since the pandemic began, and others are slated to continue being streamed or blended in the future. With the advent of more online conferences and lectures than before, there is a greater accessibility potential, too.

I started live-tweeting conferences when I was newer to Twitter, at a conference, and my pen ran out. How was I going to continue taking notes? I tried my note app but struggled with the interface. My brain works better when it’s parsing and filtering info very quickly, and I noticed that people were tweeting about the talks we were at (the speakers had said this was fine). So I started tweeting my notes instead. This was back in the day when tweets were 140 characters, but I already had my own personal shorthand for notes which was based on mainstream text abbreviations.

Fast forward to today, and with a lot of practice, here are some examples of my live-tweet threads:

I do this for free as a means of note-taking where Romancing the Gothic is concerned, and as I go to pretty much every talk, it’s become a Thing. Obviously I miss some talks, and I’m going to marathon these on Friday 26th March 2021 using the hashtag #RtGMarathon2 to raise money for the project. Last time I did 8 threads over about 8 hours without a break in a tweetathon to raise money for Umbrella Cymru, and you can find those threads using the tag #RtGMarathon.

Planning For Live Tweets

If you want your event to be live-tweeted, it helps a lot to plan this in advance, and I shall tell you for why.

  1. Check in advance if your speakers are ok with their work going online in short form. They may not be if they intend their paper to only reach the immediate audience of ticket holders, and not a wider audience who are unfamiliar with their work. If they are testing out a theory on their audience of peers, for example, they may not want this to be taken out of context by the general public who can access the tweet version. Additionally, if the tweet-thread isn’t contextualised like this, then any errors they make or any issues with their methodology can be picked apart by strangers online, and are now a matter of public record that can be found by others – employers, students, peers, etc – with a simple search.
    • If your speakers are fine with it, or are fine but with some caveats (e.g. “please don’t tweet pics of the images on my slides, as that may have copyright implications”), you can put this in the programme itself for everyone to know.
    • Alternatively, you can mark people who do not want their papers live-tweeted with a simple sign next to the paper title (explain in the front of the programme the policy on live-tweeting and accessibility, so people know what’s what!)
no live-tweets please we’re British

2a. Setting up is much easier if you have a designated live-tweeter who has access to PowerPoint slides and speaker info beforehand. It’s a lot easier to just copy/paste info into a tweet. Same goes for keywords and key names in the presentation that the live-tweeter needs to know how to spell! Sometimes the slides click onwards quickly and you’re still trying to tweet the previous one. So if all the info is available on the slides themselves, having the powerpoint slides sent to the live-tweeter before the talk is also a big help.

2b. If there are images that it’s fine to tweet out, then sending .jpg or .png copies to the live-tweeter and having pre-prepared alt-text to copy and paste into the description box [up to 1000 characters per image] makes that far more accessible for people with screenreaders.

3. The intro tweets: what to include!

  • The Event’s hashtag so people can find the thread easily. If there are multiple panels, good practice is to add in the panel number. For example, for the upcoming Romancing the Gothic conference celebrating the Centenary of Georgette Heyer’s novel, The Moth, there will be 3 panels of 20min papers throughout the day, plus a session of ‘lightning talks’.
    • #BlackMoth100 #S1
    • If you search for #BlackMoth100 you’ll now get a feed of every tweet using that tag. If you search for #BlackMoth100 + #S1 you’ll get a feed for Session 1 tweets.
    • You can also make it easier to search for a specific paper: #S101 for paper 1 of session 1.
    • Try to keep tags short to maximise room for actual tweeting!
  • The Session/Panel title
  • What to expect from the thread. Start with an introduction that lists the speakers, their honorifics and pronouns, their institutional or business or centre affiliation [or if they are independent scholars or equivalent in their field] and their paper titles.
    • You can then link anything relevant such as publications, posts, profiles and websites, or if appropriate, buy links.
    • Here’s a messy example::

#BlackMoth100 – intro thread to whole event – generic info goes in this thread. Here’s the programme image! (tweet a pic of the programme, describe the image in alt-text) The following will not be live-tweeted: [say who, no need to say why]. Rules – e.g. asking that people don’t use an unroll app on the threads?* Ticket sales still open? Can people tweet questions during the conference if they are not participating via tickets? Where to support?

Explain the hashtag system to other tweeters and readers. What tags and @s do you want people to use? This helps to keep everything coherent and all tweets will appear on one feed.

How is this going to look in practice? Here’s an idea:

New thread:
#BlackMoth100 #S1 – recap the content of the session, the speakers.
You can keep this as one master thread for the session, and then when it begins, add this into the thread like : #BlackMoth100 #S101 > First Speaker. Thread. #BlackMoth100 #S102 > Second Speaker. Thread. #BlackMoth100 #S103 > Third Speaker. Thread.

People wanting to read S1 all the way through can find that session easily. If they are looking for a specific speaker, they can do that via that speaker’s tag. You don’t need to have it set up like this, do what makes sense for your event and its audience.


*Unroll apps can sell the data they collect from unrolling, and circulate it without credit. Be careful with these in general. If this is a cause of concern to your speakers, then that’s another reason they may not wish to be live-tweeted. Explicit permission is a must.

5 Dos and Don’ts

  1. DO figure out a consistent shorthand for your tweets with abbreviations that will be easy to understand in context. If you want to abbreviate things on the fly, write out in full and put the abbreviation [in brackets] after it, then continue.
  2. DON’T break the thread! If you do, link the next tweet in the sequence.

3. DON’T worry if life interrupts you. That happens. If you miss some stuff, apologise, let people know the errors are yours not the speaker’s, and continue! IDEALLY, set yourself up in a cosy space, go to the toilet beforehand, shut the door, headphones on, feet up, crack on. Whatever works for you.

4. DO try to focus on the main points, paraphrase, and link to other stuff that your readers might be interested in.

5. DO include support links like PayPal, CashApp, Venmo, Ko-Fi etc if appropriate. Let people know where to support the speaker and the event for each thread you do.

Most Importantly…

Have fun!

Good luck!

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