Twitter has become an essential ingredient in many conferences, especially the more technical ones that I attend. It’s great for generating discussion, for connecting delegates and speakers, and opening up to a wider audience of people who can’t make the event. I regularly “live-tweet” from such events and this also provides a really useful record of the day.
But to fully embrace and integrate the Twitter experience, many events now display relevant tweets live on-screen, either during the breaks or, in some case, actually when people are talking. We did it at the first Tartan Tweetmeet, for example, as an easy way to keep tabs on the discussions taking place at the other venues across the country. This can be especially useful for promoting the tool to attendees who haven’t yet signed up to Twitter, to help give a flavour of how useful it can be.
Here’s some of the free tools you can use to display tweets at events:
This one allows you to show a constantly updating stream of tweets, as they come in. It can display several at once, and has a handy “presentation mode” which enlarges the feed and hides the superfluous options. You can do a simple search which will return any instance of that keyword, or you can search only for specific usernames or hashtags.
There’s a basic “exclude” function although this is more for filtering unrelated content, as opposed to blocking spam. This service is therefore very vulnerable to spammers picking up on a trending hashtag – exactly as happened at the recent Digital Futures conference in Shrewsbury.
You can also authorise access to your Twitter account in order to pull in your searches and lists, as well as interact with tweets in the usual ways – allowing you to quickly RT a message, DM a contact or even report a message as spam.
This one looks nicer than Twitter Fall and you can customise the look with themes or hand-picked colour schemes. It has some useful features such as being able to set multiple criteria for what appears – for example, only show tweets with this hashtag, tweeted by this user, mentioning this user. This is ideal if you only want to show the tweets going out from an official account.
Sadly you have to sign in via Twitter to save the stream that you’ve created – otherwise, the customisation bar stays visible at all times and takes up a lot of space. But if you do sign in, you can get a unique URL to your customised stream which makes sharing it really easy.
This one offers something quite different, and is far more attractive than the previous two, employing Flash to create nifty transitions between tweets. It only displays one at a time, and moves quite slowly, so if you’re expecting a lot of tweets you certainly won’t cover them all. This is therefore better at giving a random flavour of the tweets coming through, rather than offering a comprehensive record of everything. It also, in my experience, displays the tweets in a fairly random order – you often find a tweet appearing on screen that was actually sent ages ago, which can be confusing if you’re using it to display tweets live.
Someone recommended this one and it looks promising, but I’m unable to access it because it requires Silverlight. This is an important point – if you’re planning to use one of these tools for an event, make sure you have access to kit that can handle it. Often you’ll be limited to using a venue’s own equipment, which may seriously reduce your options.
Update March 2014 – the developer has now updated this and it looks pretty neat: www.tweetbeam.com. He’s also written some interesting thoughts about moving to HTML5 to better support new browsers and devices.
The concept behind this is that you can become the administrator of a “twub” – community built up around a hashtag. This gives you lots of control over what goes up on the official stream, although that obviously requires constant moderation so you’ll need to have someone on board to focus on that during the event.
However, the site has several bugs and broken links, and it takes some time to get used to. Even logging in is difficult, as it appears to do nothing and you have to visit your specific “twub” to actually get access to the various account options. Sadly, then, I wouldn’t trust this enough to use during a conference.
So there’s a few options – if you know of any others, let me know by leaving a comment below, and enjoy showing off your tweets!