How to use Twitter at your next medical conference


I thought I would give a quick overview of good ways for you to make use of Twitter at a medical conference. The growing field of palliative medicine has had a strong social media presence and the addition of more people into our online network helps get important information to people far beyond the patients and families we see each day in our work.

Twitter can be a great way to capture the small nuggets of information you glean while at a conference.  If possible don’t worry about trying to post everything from a single slide, but try to find the fact or theme that resonates with you.  Hopefully your speaker actually included the slides for you to reference later or even better posted them online via Slideshare or Scribd so you could access them anytime.  After the conference look back through your stream of posts and see a good journal of what you found inspiring.  And as a bonus you can see what other people re-tweeted and that may further reinforce what is really important.  Also if you are planning on posting copiously from a lecture make sure to include the last name of the speaker on each post so they are rightly cited.  And if you paraphrase a lot, make sure you warn everyone a few times during the day.

Twitter as conversation starter

While you are posting about an interesting point, people at the conference and those not at the conference may find that point interesting and may ask you a question and engage you in further discussion.  I have had situations where people (not at the conference) asked me questions which I later asked the speaker.  Many times the people I am posting with during a conference are people that I want to seek out and talk to in person, a good example of online engagement becoming offline action.

Twitter as feedback monitor

Are you a speaker at a conference with a good social media presence?  You might want to check the feed for your name and presentation.  I recall one presentation where everyone online started reporting an inability to read any of the slides.  Some people then posted the slides online for all to see.  If you are a speaker this is not good presenting.  And Twitter may help you avoid a problem in the future.

Twitter as influence generator

If you are a power user of Twitter you may be able to create expanding waves of influence through original posts and selective re-tweeting at a medical conference.  This can also work if you are not at the conference but the topic resonates with you.  One interesting paradox with Twitter is the more you post, the more people will follow you.  A few people will drop off, but if you post a few warnings that this is an intense period of tweeting on a focused subject, many more will stick around.  Being influential is also very possible if you are already influential offline.  Just being on Twitter and posting 4-5 tweets per day as an important offline persona can be a gfreat addition to a conference.

Twitter as event planner

If you start tweeting at a conference, chances are you are going to find other like-minded people and from that you may even decide to meet them in person.  Congratulations, you will have participated in a Tweetup!  Twitter can also be a quick way to find out what is going on at a medical conference that you may be interested in since the organization and exhibitors may be posting events.

Twitter as goodwill creator

Maybe you don’t want to be burdened with writing original posts, but you can still be part of the wave of influence by re-tweeting other people’s great posts.  In sharing other people’s posts, you are basically complimenting the other person, which makes the original poster happy, and other people will not think you are a selfish ego-ist who only cares about your own thoughts.  Besides social media is essentially about sharing, right?

Twitter as impact maker

Have 10,000 followers on Twitter?  One or two posts from a medical conference may point hundreds of people to information they never would have sought on their own.  For what was only a few seconds of your time, you will have helped grow a community and connected people with similar interests.  Personally I would be happy to post about any medical conference to my network, just ask.

Bonus Tip – Slideshare as information spreader

If you are a presenter at a conference, please consider uploading your slides to SlideShare (or Scribd) for the public and world to see, comment and download.  Don’t you hate when you look up an article and it is behind a paywall?  You might think, if only this were freely available, I would learn more and help others.  So if you are serious about spreading good medical information, then make your slides available online with great references, a disclaimer that it is not medical advice, and that you are eager for feedback and dialogue with anyone interested.  If there is anything controversial, then delete those slides.  Imagine if we could build on each other’s knowledge when creating slidedecks?

Christian Sinclair is a palliative care physician who blogs at Pallimed.

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