Blog originally published in Training Journal February 2014
For some L&D individuals Twitter is a waste of time. For others it’s a great way to develop a professional profile and keep in touch with a personal learning network. In the last few years I’ve gone from one end of this journey to enjoying the other.
One of the things I’ve experienced in the last few years is Live Tweeting – attending an event of some kind and Tweeting messages about the contents, speakers, discussions and my own observations or questions. At first I was relatively tentative, partly as I didn’t have a large Twitter following and partly I didn’t know what tone to use, what to say and certainly didn’t want to offend. I would also often follow this up with a blog of my experiences, thoughts and reflections.
As I did this more at the events I was attending I got more followers, re-tweets, conversations and positive comments. People seemed to appreciate the points I was picking up from speakers and broadcasting, or the research and resource links I added to the conversation, or perhaps my own thoughts or questions about what I was attending. I remember the day that Donald H. Taylor, Chairman of, amongst other things, the Learning Technologies Conference, came and shook my hand and thanked me for my tweets. I felt very honoured. A year later I was tweeting from the conference and spent much more time with Don, and others, which resulted in officially Live Tweeting at this year’s January Conference – an amazing and fulfilling experience.
In between times I had honed my skills a little more – drawing on my background in journalism to try and report what was being said as well as my own professional judgement from years of different experiences in Learning and Development. I spent time Live Tweeting on Learning Skills Group webinars, usually hosted by Don, and the Virtual Learning Show put together independently by Colin Steed, CEO of the Learning Performance Institute – again I was very pleased when Colin asked me to live tweet from the online conference. I was practicing the very challenging skills of listening to the speaker and watching the content whilst trying to pick out sound bites that would fit into 140 characters for Twitter, that could be read out of context, rather than in a stream, and still make sense. It took a fair amount of work for me to get comfortable and quick doing so. I’ve had almost exclusively overwhelming positive feedback from being part of what’s called a back channel, whereby you report and converse on Twitter about an event. This is great for people to follow up afterwards, to find resources (something I find particularly gratifying to share) and follow the key points and insights from well-known thought leaders even if they can’t be there in person.
One piece of constructive feedback was around Tweeting quotes or elements that are stating the obvious. It’s a fair challenge and one to appreciate that some things might seem basic or obvious. However the conclusion I came to when these Tweets were commented upon was that this might be obvious for some who have done research, who are leading the way, who are actually doing some of these things. However for others this isn’t the case. They are still developing their skills or learning new ways of doing things. Even if we are, it can be good to see things that reinforce we are working or approaching in a way in which industry leaders are advocating. Or perhaps it’s seeing a quote, saying or reference to backup an approach we are trying to get signed-off or read in a new way.
At Learning Technologies this year it was gratifying, if a little embarrassing at times, for people to come up to me, say hello and that they are following my conference tweets and how much they appreciate them, or comment on how fast I’m able to do them. Partly this is due to the effort as described above. It’s also partly having the right kit. I use a mix of my phone, mostly for photo’s as it’s easy to point, focus and put on Twitter; my iPad, often with Logitech keyboard for speed and accuracy of typing (once the blue tooth connected!); and a laptop, as I find it even quick and easier, having been typing on computers since I was a child.
A friend in the exhibition tweeted me a picture of my profile image on the large screens, with one of my tweets, which were showing around the building. He said I was “famous”. It’s obviously a relative term but fun none-the-less! The most gratifying piece of feedback from this conference was being listed in the HR Zone’s top 50 conference tweets. Not only was one of my tweets in at number two, I was listed three times in all. That made the effort I’ve put it on behalf of my own skills and of getting the information from the Conference out to a wider audience very worthwhile!