Last week the Museums Association Conference came to town and Edinburgh was awash with museum professionals. I had the pleasure of kicking off the event with a tweet up. It’s more fun to meet people from the internet than you may think, so here are my top tips for running your own tweet up:
- Understand the purpose of your tweet up: Is it to promote your museum or is it an opportunity to get like-minded people together? The purpose will influence the type of things you do at your event. In a museum, it might be important to attract local tweeters, who engage online, but haven’t visited the museum yet. If this is the case, create activities which show off how great your museum is AND gives people something to tweet about (so all their twitter friends hear how cool the museum is too). You could get the curator to give an exclusive tour, do craft activities or hold a wine tasting. Anything which makes the attendees feel special, and gives them something to talk about with each other and on twitter. At the Museums Association tweet up we felt the most important thing was to create an informal networking opportunity, so we picked a great venue which had a bar.
- Create a #hashtag so you and all the people attending can follow the tweets. It’s also a great way to get your event noticed with those that haven’t yet heard about it. The hashtag at the Museums Association conference was #Museums2012. A hashtag is a short string of words or letters, starting with the hash symbol. When creating one for your event try to think of something short, which hints at what your event is about. Include it in all your tweets about the event.
- Use Eventbrite to help with bookings and controlling numbers: This popular service allows you to capture people’s twitter usernames when they sign up to help with the smooth running of the whole event. Also, when announcing an event on twitter, you may want a way to control the numbers of people coming as it could snowball out of control. Remember to add your hashtag to the description on Eventbrite!
- Get the conversations started before the event takes place: Once someone has booked a place at the event it’s nice to follow them on twitter and tweet to introduce yourself. Remember that tweet ups are still a new concept and people may have some questions about how it all works. Getting the conversation started before the event also helps create a buzz.
- Create a twitter list: of all the people coming to the tweet up. This helps attendees know who else will be there, and they can choose to follow the list or follow individuals on the list.
- Provide Twitter name badges: It’s nice for people to have a name badge with their twitter username. At the Museums Association tweet up we took a creative approach to this and let people make their own badges on wooden pegs. We hoped it would be a talking point and a chance for people to interact over some sequins!
- Few hours before: Send out a few tweets with pictures to show the event preparation taking place. The aim is to get people excited about attending. Also make sure everyone knows exactly where the venue is, for example by tweeting the venue website and/or a photo. Arrange a big screen to display all the tweets, try something like Twitterfall. It’s also nice to provide some refreshments, if you’re in a museum see if you can get some money for a case of wine and some soft drinks
- Plans change: Remember that even with all your careful planning, some people won’t turn up on the night and other people will just arrive without having booked a place. Make sure you have some spare name badges and can make the new arrivals feel welcome.
- The big event arrives: Remember as the host it’s your job to speak to everyone who attends and introduce people to each other. You may find that it’s hard to be a glittering host and keep an eye on the twitterfeed. It’s important to monitor and keep the online conversation going, so it might be worth appointing someone else to be chief tweeter.
- After the event: When holding tweet ups in a museum, I’ve found that a few hours aren’t enough and people want to continue the chat in a nearby pub. Announce that your team will be going to the local for a few drinks afterwards and everyone is welcome to join. Phone or tweet the pub beforehand and get them to reserve a table. The next day it’s nice to tweet people to thank them for coming and for the twitter banter.
UPDATE: Thanks to Rebecca Atkinson, from Museums Association for sharing her experiences of the tweet up at the MA conference.