Want to attend a conference but don’t have the money or are unable to travel? Try attending using the backchannel.
What is the Backchannel?
It’s an online conversation that takes place at the same time of a live conference session or any other event (e.g., presentation, webinar, learning event, etc). It’s an electronic version of the side conversation taking place during the event.
How Do These Conversations Become Electronic?
People attending the live event share:
- Thoughts (e.g., observations, agreements, disagreements, additional context)
- Related photos of the event
- Resources mentioned in the presentation
These items are shared through a microblogging tool, like Twitter. People use their mobile phones, iPads, laptops or any other device that has Twitter and Internet access to publish.
There Are Millions of Conversations on Twitter, How Do I Find & View These Conversations?
One of the ways to collect and organize tweets for an event or topic is by using hashtags. It’s a tag or short identifier that groups all the conversations using that tag into an organized stream. People at the conference use this tag on their tweet so that it is grouped with the other tweets using the tag. Here’s an example:
How Do I Know What the hashtag is for the Event?
Hashtags usually follow a “short acronym followed by year” format, but not always. Here are a few variations of recent conference hashtags:
- ASTD 2011 International Conference & Exposition – #ASTD2011
- Learning Technologies – #lt11UK
- Learning Solutions – #LS2011
- Training Conference 2011 – #Training2011
Here are a few ways you could find the hashtag:
- Using Twitter, search for the conference name and see if there is a # symbol within the tweet (like in the image above)
- Send a tweet asking if anyone knows the hashtag for the conference
- Look on the official conference website (see list of suggestions below)
- I’ve noticed more hashtags listed as social media becomes more popular
Where Can I Find Conferences to Follow?
Here are some conferences that might be of interest to follow. You can also look for presentation or webinars. Many of these events have a channel that you can follow:
eLearning Guild Conferences
Elliot Masie events
eLearning Conferences Worldwide
World of Learning Events
Teaching and Learning Conferences Worldwide
What Do I Need to View These Conversations?
You only need two things to view the conversations:
- Twitter account
- The hashtag for the conference or event
Is the Backchannel a Replacement for the Conference or Event?
No, this isn’t meant to replace the conference or event experience. If you’re not able to attend live, then this is a method for you to experience and learn from the secondary conversations. If you enjoyed a backchannel experience, make sure to return the favor the next time to attend a live conference or event.
Are There Any Summaries of the Backchannel Event?
Yes, David Kelly has great resources. See his site for summaries.
Where Can I Learn More?
There are many methods for using the backchannel as a participant or speaker. This post is focused on using the backchannel to follow and participate in conferences or webinars. Jane Hart has a good overview with many resources for Using the Twitter backchannel at an event
What About You?
- Have you participated in the backchannel of a conference or webinar? What did you like/dislike about the experience?
- Have you live tweeted an event? Did using the backchannel provide you with a better experience at the event?
- Have you presented at an event where there was a backchannel? Was this helpful or disruptive to the presentation?