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My second publication-supercharge your conference experience with social media

February 28, 2012

It seems I’m developing a bit of a habit of extolling the virtues of social networking in the Physics Teacher. This time, it was a response to an advice column for new teachers about getting the most out of a conference experience.

aking your conference experience to the next level with social media

And here’s the text of the article:

I enjoyed reading Jill Tennant’s “Insider Conference Tips”; however, I think she overlooked one thing that can make conferences even more useful and strengthen the connections you make between attendees—social media. Many conferences are finding themselves completely transformed by participants live-blogging and tweeting presentations, colleagues who haven’t previously met arranging “meetups” via Twitter, and, perhaps most powerfully, using social media to allow those who can’t be there in person at the conference to still participate.
Here are three quick tips to make your conference experience even more powerful using social media:

  1. Get a Twitter account. Begin to follow other physics teachers (here’s a good list to get started). A few weeks before the conference, send out some tweets to see if anyone is planning on attending, and try to arrange a meetup over a meal or coffee. Most conferences havea hashtag (e.g., #aapt11) that you can follow to find out more about what’s going on at the conference. Here is an example of part of a tweetstream from an attendee at the 2011 Summer AAPT conference.
  2. Consider making your notes available on a blog or some other social medium. Everyone scribbles down notes during conference presentations, but how many times do you actually go back and use them? Why not start up a blog, and write your notes and summaries of presentations up as a blog post? This offers a number of advantages: you’ll always be able to go back and find your old notes quickly and easily, you’ll allow others who couldn’t attend the same presentation or even the conference itself to learn from your notes, and you might even find that your readers have a number of useful ideas that add even more to the experience. Here is an example of a number of summary posts from the 2011 Summer AAPT Meeting, by Stephanie Chasteen: (aka sciencegeekgirl).
  3. Look for ways to collaborate using social media while you’re at the conference. It isn’t uncommon at some of the more “wired” conferences for a participant to tweet out a link to a shared Google doc so that many people in the same room can collectively create one set of notes far superior to what any single person could have written.

And of course, the real opportunity here is for conferences and organizations to integrate social media and technology tightly into the structure of the program. Encourage presenters to spare us the 100-page packets and share them via a weblink instead, or publish a directory of attendees that includes Twitter handles and blog urls. Use social media to promote the conference, send out updates and changes, and keep everyone connected. Social media is a great opportunity for presenters, too—create a backchannel to allow your audience to participate in discussion, or use Poll Everywhere as free clickers to allow participants to answer questions during the presentation.

Social media is a great way to make those conference connections and learning extend beyond the conference in time and location, significantly enhancing the value of your professional development.

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