Why Tweets From Conferences Are Terrible

By Philip Bump , written on March 12, 2012

From The News Desk

For people in the room, Howard Dean's scream seemed perfectly reasonable.

Having just placed third in Iowa, Dean was firing up the crowd, riding the energy of the room. "We're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yeah!" Massive applause. Hardcore supporters reassured.

Unfortunately for the former governor, the microphone he was yelling into was unidirectional, meaning it only picked up his voice. So when the clip was rebroadcast outside of energy of the room -- and without any additional context from the rest of the speech -- Dean's exhortation came off as bizarre and inexplicable.

This is why Tweets from conferences are so terrible. (I'm talking to you, South by Southwest.)

The point of a conference is to gather people for presentation and discussion. When you're in the room during a panel or keynote, the jokes land well, the questions are pertinent, every line falls into place. Energy builds. The crowd is engaged.

And then people in the crowd take lines out of context and unidirect them out onto Twitter, throwing in a hashtag as a little rotten cherry on top.

A recent study by academics from Carnegie Mellon and MIT outlined the types of tweets that people found most interesting, and the most annoying. The Atlantic's Megan Garber described their findings about unpopular tweets thusly:

[T]weets that contain old information, repeat conventional wisdom, offer uselessly de-contextual news, or extoll the virtues of the awesome salad I had for lunch today don't, ultimately, do much to justify themselves. [Ed. - try replacing "salad I had for lunch" with "panel I attended."]
Oh, and they are littered with "Twitter-specific syntax," like hashtags and mentions.

Does this mean that one shouldn't Tweet from a conference? Not at all. It simply means that one should remember there's an audience that isn't in the room, or at the conference, for whom the Tweet might fall as flat as Howard Dean's scream did for television viewers back in 2004.

The wonderful thing about Twitter is the ability to convey ideas, information, and enthusiasm in real time. Just as the wonderful thing about a microphone is that it amplifies what a speaker is saying.

I think you see where we're going with this.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

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