Home > Ideas > Conference + Hashtag + Twitter = Backchannel Attendees

Conference + Hashtag + Twitter = Backchannel Attendees

This idea of the day was inspired by a number of different things; NASPA’s decision to stay in AZ for the 2012 conference, @ReyJunco thinking about boycotting it, @BreakDrink thinking about hosting a web conference in place of attending NASPA, etc.

While participating in a #SAChat this afternoon (thesabloggers.org) talking about terminal degrees in higher education, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the amount of participants, information, and connections that were going back and forth.

So you have a boycott of a national conference in my mind while I am participating in a chat via a #tag that involves close to (or over) 100 people in an active conversation about one topic.

Simple idea of the day here folks for those who participate in any type of conference that involves educational sessions. You host an ED session, it gets a hashtag with your session number, example: NASPA312, ACPA563, SMSX99.

Can’t make it to a session because you want to eat lunch? Follow the hashtag/backchannel discussion. Want to continue the discussion of the session with other attendees without requiring a lunch meeting? Follow the hashtag.

Choosing to stand for what you believe in and not attend a conference due to controversial location? Look at the program booklet online, note the hashtags of the sessions you want, bring your iPad/smartphone/laptop to the beach with a wireless signal – viola, you are now learning what you want on your own terms and at your convenience while contributing your thoughts to the topic.

Hashtags. Backchannels. Two words that the world didn’t know about until about 2 or 3 years ago and they could change the landscape of how conferences interact with its attendees.

And who says this backchannel trend has to stay within conferences? TV shows have them, granted they were grassroots and started by fans. But why not restaurants, or highways?

Imagine a conference being able to brag the following line after a national conference:

We had over 2,000 practitioners in one location discussing the newest topics and practices in our field. Not only that, we had over 1,000 practitioners following the conference from all around the globe resulting in over 5,000 conference related tweets and blog entries. What an amazing feat for this field!

That’s my idea for the day – who says it couldn’t happen? (which it will once I get to be chair of a regional conference, ha!)

Rock on,

Categories: Ideas
  1. June 24, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    I’d totally support that! Not only does it help deal with issues like AZ, but it also helps fiscally strapped schools – and young professionals for that matter! I couldn’t afford national conferences my first three years in the field and had no professional development money to support going, but there were definitely topics I would have LOVED to be part of the discussion for!

    • June 25, 2010 at 2:48 PM

      Right on Sarah, technology is going to restructure the way these organizations think about how they define “attendees” because I would say I “attended” ACUI this year but that was only because so many of the people I follow on Twitter were actively tweeting and even blogging their experience day to day.

      Technology is here to stay. It’s time these conferences started to embrace them before it is too late. NASPA did a great job with this in Chicago utilizing the #SAChat community and creating @NASPATweets. ACPA also has a few twitter accounts that are pretty active as well.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. June 25, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    Darn good thinking there Joe! We are going to have to get used to more streams of conversation wherever we go.

    • June 25, 2010 at 2:50 PM

      We definitely are. I can’t wait to see what the future brings. I am already pondering how Apple’s Facetime app could change the way we use our mobile phones and what it could mean for educational uses.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Stephanie
    July 1, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    There is something lost though, when you choose to only follow or attend something electronically. I think it definitely adds a positive dimension (ie being able to participate in a webinar from my office) but the more conversations you have going at one time, the less attention you’re paying to each of them. I had to wonder with the number of people who were tweeting at acuho…are you really listening if you’re trying to type in your 140 sound bites?

    • July 1, 2010 at 10:53 AM


      I’d argue that if I am tweeting in a session, I am listening and sharing.

      Of course, I am sure there are others who when bored will tweet about what’s going on outside or making lunch plans.

      But for the majority, the tweets I followed for NASPA10 and even the ones that popped up from ACUHO, people are listening, contributing, and sharing with others who aren’t there.

      Case in point – I wish I could have been at @kmorian & @meredithlar ‘s session because there were so many tweets from it.

      Now, not being able to raise your hand and make your point in person because you are only on the backchannel is another thing. That aspect is definitely lost.

      Thanks for reading!


  1. June 24, 2010 at 6:21 PM
  2. January 4, 2011 at 10:43 AM

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