5 Ways to Use Twitter to Be a Better Panel Moderator

Yesterday I moderated a panel on B2B social shopping at the Lift Summit in Atlanta, and I wrote and scheduled some tweets first thing in the morning, before I went to the conference center. Let me first say that scheduling tweets is okay. So long as you are monitoring Twitter for a response, there is nothing inherently wrong or inauthentic with writing tweets at a time that is better for you and posting them at a time when it is better for your followers. Advantages of pre-scheduling these tweets are that I didn’t have to worry about wi-fi, power or trying to tweet while I am moderating.

I am not someone who watches Twitter while the panel is going on, so none of the below suggestions relate to that. While it is something that I should do to gauge the response from the room, or even take questions, I prefer to focus on the panel. Based on the previous sessions, most tweets were content based from people sharing what was being said, rather than commenting on how it was said or why. Additionally, we had lots of interaction with the audience, so in this instance, we were covered on that side too.

The role of the moderator is to make sure the session moves along and provides relevant and interesting content to the audience. The following suggestions help in that process.

Conference Hashtag
Make sure you know the conference hashtag. This is the word or phrase preceded by the # sign that appears somewhere in tweets from the conference. Generally the organizers will promote the upcoming conference with a hashtag. If they do not use a hashtag leading up to the conference, it is up to the attendees to establish this. It can be based on a previous year’s conference, or just the most logical abbreviation or short phrase that is unique that represents the event. If you are establishing a hashtag, make sure you search Twitter for that hashtag before you start using it. Encroaching on an existing hashtag can cause confusion to conference attendees. Using a hashtag on all your tweets, especially the pre-scheduled ones, is the best way to make sure attendees see your tweets, if they are following the hashtag. Anyone tweeting from an event should use the hashtag, as it is the best way to connect with new people at the conference.

Announcement of the Panel
My first tweet was scheduled at the start of the conference. It announced that I was looking forward to my panel, which included the session name or topic, listed the panelists, provided a link to the schedule and included the hashtag. This tweet reminds attendees about your upcoming session. If it is a big conference with simultaneous sessions, it is helpful to include the room where you session is taking place. This also let my followers know that I was at a conference and provided a link to the schedule. If the conference is of interest to them, they can follow the hashtag and keep up with tweets from all day, not just my session. Since some of your followers are in the same industry as you, everyone benefits from them knowing that you are someone who speaks at conferences. People are always looking for speakers at events, and this gets you added to their list of possibilities.

Twitter Names
I scheduled a tweet similar to the one above, but was focused on the Twitter names of the panelists. This went out at the start of the session. This makes it easy for the attendees to identify the speakers in their tweets, or follow them on Twitter. Sometimes signs are posted in front of speakers with their Twitter names on them, but it is always easier to use them if you can copy and paste from a tweet. When scheduling these, be liberal with the time you choose for it go out. Sometimes sessions run a little bit behind, and you don’t want to focus on changing the scheduled time for a tweet when you should be thinking about the upcoming session.

Reference Links
As you prepare for the session with the panelists, there will be some links that provide good background on the topic. If there are just a few links, you can schedule a few individual tweets with those links. Make sure you let attendees know that you tweeted out these links, so they know to look for them. If you have lots of reference links to share, consider creating a folder on a social bookmarking site, like delicous.com, and you can schedule the tweet with a link to that folder of links to post at the end of the session.

Thank Yous
You should always thank the panelists, organizers and even the audience for their attention. Scheduling these kinds of tweets to go out at the end of session is just a way to make sure you thank people. It is easy to get distracted talking to people after a session, and forget to do, so this is a good way to make sure you express your gratitude.

Bonus: Soundbites
This something that I have not done, but I have seen other people do this. While you are preparing for your session, and speaking with your panelists, you will understand what their key ideas or contributions to the discussion will be. You can schedule tweets, maybe one or two from each panelist, with a key point that you expect they will make during the session. The two biggest caveats for this method are getting the timing right and getting the words right. If this tweet goes out before they say their key point, or they use totally different words, this may not make sense, so be sure to let your panelists know you plan on doing this.

Are there other ways you have used Twitter to be a better panel moderator?


  1. says

    We tried this approach at an Insurance industry conference, ACORD LOMA. We didn’t schedule tweets, but we had some associated folks tweeting during the session to get things started. Also, we told participants to tweet their questions. We had someone monitoring the tweets, and when a question arose, they shared that with the moderator who addressed it.

    I would definitely try it again, though we only had a handful of participants, but I believe with the tips listed here and the experience, we can grow that.

  2. says


    Thanks for the comment. Yes, you must have an appropriate audience for Twitter to provide additional support for panel presentations. By pre-scheduling tweets before you know the make up of the audience, you are prepared whether the audience is online during the session of not. Monitoring Twitter for questions during the session is much more dependent on the social media savvy of the crowd.

  3. says

    Interesting article. Twitter allows people in the audience and people who are not even present participate in a conference, especially when the Twitter stream is displayed on the big board. I have developed a simple and inexpensive way for people to display Twitter – Twisplays – one-line LED signs that display Twitter streams. Twisplays can be put front and center or off to the side – or even in the corridors where people can network and follow the Tweets.

  4. says

    If we are going to use Twitter in conferences I think it is imperative that we listen to the conversation. That is a challenge when you are also the facilitator for the conference or a panel.

    At a recent conference for Safefood.eu where I was fortunate to be the facilitator for the whole day, we had someone responding and live Tweeting from the back of the room on behalf of Safefood.

    I had an earpiece so I could hear them when we came to the panel discussions so could understand which questions were being raised and then could indicate over the mic that we wanted to answer a specific question at which time we then also projected the Tweet onto the main screens.

    As the conference was about social media, using Twitter through the conference and in the panel discussions brought to life the opportunity social media presents.

    It was also a bonus when we got a Tweet reply from Scott Monty and other notable authors from the US to our conference in Ireland, that truly made the audience take notice!

  5. marian casey says

    Hi Jeffrey,

    Good tips on how to use twitter during conferences. I would add one other tip and that is to set up posting guidelines for the twitter feed. Specifically, I’m referring to ground rules that state tweeters should adhere to the standard rules of professionalism when posting tweets. (i.e. posting respectful and relevant tweets, use professional and constructive language when posting tweets about the speakers and content etc).

    Recently, I presented a lecture on Social Media and Business at a conference and was tweckled (twitter hecklers) by a couple of audience members. The first problem was that I and my colleague were not informed of this twitter feed by the conference organizers and as a result were not participating or monitoring the feed. A few “mean girls” were tweeting very personal and negative comments during our lecture (that we could not respond to) that did not offer any constructive or meaningful input about our content.

    As you can imagine, we were quite hurt when we later read these tweets. As social media promoters, we support the free flow of information sharing that is the basis of these networks; we also believe appropriate business etiquette and professionalism should be promoted. In the end, these twecklers were called out by other tweeters in the twitter feed and the focus was off of us. We learned a few lessons from this experience:

    1. Presenting (as we know it)has radically changed in the age of social networks and as a result speakers must be prepared to receive feedback in multiple forms (not just the standard evaluation form).

    2. Encourage conference organizers to utilize twitter feeds but also include some basic posting guidelines (please don’t slam our speakers -be courteous and professional).

    3. Are they even listening? Is the audience busy tweeting what they hear and answering tweets during a presentation. I know people can multitask but what are is the audience missing or misinterpreting if they’re busy tweeting?

    Just wanted to share my thoughts – hope it’s helpful.

  6. says

    Joshua: Thanks for sharing you simple display to get Twitter easily on view for those not in the room.

    Krishna: That sounds like a good solution to have a second person monitor the tweetstream.

    Marian: Yes, this is one of the many things that has changed about speaking at conferences. In your case a few apples were eventually called out by the rest of the professionals in the room, but there have be instances where the entire audience has turned on a speaker and the speaker was not aware until the end.

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