APG PMC & Twitter

I am just back at my sister’s house after my first day of genealogy conferencing here in Knoxville at the Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference. The sessions were informative, I got to see an old friend and met several more that I had only known online up until this point, in addition to making new acquaintances.

I had a grand ol’ time Tweeting who I was sitting next to and what sessions were up next until after lunch. That’s when a request was made to refrain from texting or Tweeting as each of the afternoon speakers was introduced.

What a disappointment! I had heard this was an issue at last year’s APG conference too, and thought that perhaps they’d opened up to all the benefits Twitter can bring to a conference. I know that of which I speak, having run the PR for the past two Association of Independent Information Professionals conferences.

I do not know with whom the decision lies to ban or discourage Twitter at the APG events, and thus have not been able to find out why they don’t approve of its usage, but want to address some of what I think may be their concerns here:

First of all, Tweeting will not discourage attendance at a conference — yes, some audience members may tweet a key point here or there from a speaker, but this is a filter through which potential future conference attendees will become interested in the conference. Attendees are not going to be able to give away any secrets 140 characters at a time. They are going to provide free advertisements about the great sessions and speakers your event attracts, which could net new attendees in the future.

Secondly, it will not disrupt the session. Go ahead and admonish folks to turn down the sound on their phones to prevent beeps and rings from interrupting the speaker. If I were a speaker, I would ask my audience beforehand who is Tweeting. That way, I’ll know (or hope) that someone looking at their phone or laptop instead of me while I’m talking is perhaps Tweeting what I have to say. That’s instant gratification for a speaker — an audience member finds a tidbit interesting enough to share with their online followers.

Twitter is a necessary tool to use in event planning and marketing these days and the best part is, that your audience can do most of the work for you. If you set up a hashtag to promote a conference before the event, buzz can be generated before the first speaker takes to the podium. The conference organizers need only sit back and watch as attendees Tweet about what they’re enjoying about the conference and the takeaways they found most valuable. Yes, some may complain about the food or that the session rooms are too cold — great! That’s instant feedback you can act upon to improve the conference right then and there or at least to plan for in the future.

I can understand that event organizers may fear losing control of the message and content of the conference by allowing Twitter and other social media activity. There are proactive steps you can take to manage this, however. Firstly, set up that hashtag and advertise it early so that all your attendees include it on their posts. Not only can their readers follow along then, but so can you. Second, many organizations advertise a social media policy for their events, including guidelines on what’s appropriate to Tweet and post. There are other bloggers, out there (ahem, Amy Coffin), who can speak to this better than I. Third, monitor the posts about your event — retweet the stellar ones, revel in your successes and plan to fix anything about which your audience members may have complained (and then advertise that you’ve done so). Create the impression that you’re on the ball, not behind the times.

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6 thoughts on “APG PMC & Twitter

  1. Amy Coffin says:

    The Southern California Genealogical Society provides a social media policy for all Jamboree attendees.

    A social media policy sets the expectation for the types of information to be distributed from the conference and how. It sets boundaries and provides guidance on how to respect the copyrights of speakers.

    I was pleased to see so much focus on online presence at the APG conference today. The “don’t Twitter or text” statement was disappointing and confusing. Does that mean I also can’t take notes on my computer? Can I even blog about it?

    A social media policy published ahead of time and in the syllabus would really help in this situation. Until then, I simply can’t share about or market APG without fear of violating a confusing and misunderstood rule.

    Thanks for the dialog, Missy!

  2. taneya says:

    This is very disappointing to hear about. I most definitely agree with you about the benefits of encouraging and using social media for conferences and that APG hasn’t understood this yet is a shame. Social media is only increasing in use and gen orgs and societies will need to keep up to stay relevant. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Kerry says:

    I wrote a long comment and then deleted it, because I really can’t discuss the techno-phobia of so many in the genealogical community without ruffling entire flocks of feathers.

    I really wish people would actually learn about these tools before they shut them down. I built my old (non-genealogical) blog entirely on Twitter. I got ad revenue, consulting offers, and other work entirely from relationships I built on Twitter. The whole business world is running TOWARD these tools because they see that people are using them to grow their business. Only one group I know runs away from them–this one. It’s bizarre.

    And then they’ll say, “Gee, why aren’t we able to grow our membership?”

    Ugh. Don’t get me started.

    • baysideresearch says:

      Kerry, it is frustrating, that’s for sure. But I do have hope that if enough of us continue to try and educate the rest, organizations like APG will come around. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

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