Tweeting Etiquette At Conferences

Many academic groups are split by the use of social media at conferences. With this blog I would like to alleviate some of the stress for those who are in between the argument as well as for those who are opposed.

I have already blogged about the benefits of social media, so I won’t do that here, instead I will show (1) how social media at conferences, using Twitter as an example, can be used effectively.

I will also discuss (2) how social media at conferences can be used ‘badly’  – causing upset. And, I will outline some ways (3) how conference organisers could prepare their social media before after and at the conference.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet – YES Tweet.

I had a blog outlined with the above title a while ago, but Jacqueline Gill published her blog piece first, Tweeting at conferences  in November 2014. Jon Tennant gives a run-down of the issues involved in Tweeting at conferences in his guest blog for the EGU – click here.

We have to remember to be polite. As well as keeping your tweets polite, one must be mindful of people’s research. Taking pictures without their direct consent has been going on for a while, for example, people I’ve spoken to at conferences generally agree that they would take a picture of a presenters slides even before the days of smartphones. These pictures were for personal use and not be published. Taking pictures is easier than making notes with pen and paper. Therefore, it is not polite to take photos of data slides and publish them on social media without the presenters permission.

Your Twitter profile is in the public domain and whilst it is a good reference for your conference notes – it is a public notebook

Remember why you are Tweeting. Are you Tweeting to network, reach out to your research field peers and advertising the event?

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 09.10.41

I Tweet to reach out to people in my field and I make it quite obvious I want people to use social media to get in contact.





Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 09.10.57In another way I have taken pictures of other presenters slides to 1) Show people who’ve missed the conference what is going on, 2) What is about to start so people in concurrent session can follow – and see what they’re missing 3) Network and promote. (This Tweet just shows the opening slide: Title of talk; Authors; Institution).



Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 09.11.40Slides are also a great way to advertise services to others in the field certain services useful to that research community.

Before you Tweet think aboutWhat is public, what is private, and what is sensitive data?


I don’t want people to take pictures or Tweet my presentation slides.

Picture this scenario: The researcher has great fresh new data, the conference is next week and the best way to meet researchers to talk about methods and how to interpret the data, and hopefully collaborate. But the researcher is against the clock (as usual) and can only present the raw sensitive data so Tweeting the presentation data is not appropriate.

At the beginning of the talk the presenter says, “Please don’t Tweet any part of this presentation”.

An avid social media user walks in late to the session because the last concurrent session ran-over. They didn’t want to miss this session and Tweet it without realising they shouldn’t.

People get upset.

We can all think of ways to avoid this scenario and even the words policy-making have been uttered. Click here for another great blogger.

Feel in control of your presentation:

There are easy counter-measures we can make, without resorting to official policy-making so we can all be made to feel more in control of our presentation.

  1. Assume everyone is going to Tweet your presentation – every part of it. (You’d be so lucky if your presentation were that interesting!)
  2. Say at the beginning of your presentation that you have data/results which are sensitiveSair-do-Twitter2-1ev432y
  3. “Please, No Social Media” Say this, but indicate specifically, which of your slides you do not want Tweeted. Put a symbol up. That way people can see you don’t want your stuff putting on the web

We are in a world of social media. We are in an age where we connect online. Future generations of researchers are going to have to learn now how to conduct themselves at conferences with our help.

Conference Organisers – do your bit.

There is a lot of advice for conference organisers on how to include social media at conferences, and whilst some of it is quite ‘involved’ and high-tech, with ‘Twitterfall’ screens and inviting professional social media bunnies to hop around but there are some simpler measures:

  1. Get your hashtag out as early as possible. Delegates and wanna-be delegates will want to talk about the conference as early as possible on lots of different social media platforms.
    1. Make sure your hashtag is short and simple and can carry on to the next meeting. the ‘Eighth Conference of Awesome Researchers 2015’ #CAR2015, #8CAR
    2. Do a quick search to see if your hashtag isn’t already taken by another event.
      1. Also, some conferences over-lap, so if you are all Victorian Historians academics, why not every meeting that year have the same hashtag, #VHC2015 – you’d be on in different weeks and using the same hashtag ‘cross-pollinating’. It’s normal to have more than one hashtag; one for meeting #VHC2015 another for subject #VictorianHistory (usage at the conference depends on what you’re Tweeting about)
  2. Talk about social media. You can’t ignore it in the hope it’ll go away. Ask the accepted speakers and poster makers when they present at the meeting to indicate clearly if there is sensitive material they do not want featured on social media. This includes poster presentations.
    1. Banning social media from conferences is not the answer. People have worked hard and not everyone has sensitive research or even want to Tweet about research, it should be OK to Tweet about the trip to the Darwin museum or fossil hunting.
    2. Organise a workshop on social media for researchers to discuss what it means to them.
    3. Put it on your agenda. Ask someone who uses social media to come along to the AGM and discuss the society’s view on using social media at conferences but also for outreach and advertising.

If conference organisers did their bit to support delegates and address the problems and pitfalls, everyone would be the wiser. Overall it’s all our responsibility to be polite and think about what we do at the conferences. Put Social Media On The Agenda.


Useful links:

Find out here where the future of communications is at!  FORCE – The Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarships S

Scholars write papers on Tweeting at conferences click here. there are a few good points in here but it is possible to Live-Tweet every talk if you have enough people on Twitter. Just saying.


The Twitter for Academics eBook is out now – click here for more information or click here to go the Amazon website –

About Dr Jojo Scoble

Freelance Science Communicator. Microbiology PhD Oxon. Fiction Writer. Social Media dilettante. Ideas Factory.
This entry was posted in academia, blogging, conferences, Social Media, Twitter and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Tweeting Etiquette At Conferences

  1. Wonderful post. Started following you on twitter. A lot to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been at some conferences lately state as part of the terms and conditions of registration/attendance that photographing presenters’ Power Point slides is forbidden (irrespective of Tweeting them)


  3. Pingback: ISHPES 2015 Social Media Guidelines | ISHPES2015

  4. Pingback: From #realtimechem to #whywedoresearch: Who are the Tweeting scientists? | Piirus Blog

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s