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?