How Not To Hold A Tweetup

I recently attended a tweetup run by some folks that don’t really understand the basics of social networks. As a social gathering it was ok; as a tweetup…well does fail whale mean anything to you?

Despite this valiant attempt at trying something new, it was clear that the organisors needed some advice. Here’s my attempt at helping out:

1. Don’t have a focus for the event or ignore the focus of the event.

Have no clear goals nor objectives for your event whether it’s a just a social get together or if there is something to discuss or promote. Keep people guessing about what to expect. Forget about branding. Don’t bother with an agenda. Just allow tweeps to mill around aimlessly and hope they figure out what you’re trying to do. In fact, don’t even bother welcoming folks or making any introductions.

2. Just wing it.

Don’t get bogged down with details. Just issue a blanket invitation and see who turns up. Don’t use services like EventBrite or Twivite. keep your guest list a secret. Forget Facebook and other social networks too, they’re not Twitter right? You don’t want generate too much excitement in advance of the event…that way you can manage expectations.

3. Venue Schmenue.

We all know that size isn’t important. So having a ballroom for a crowd of 40 or a Pub Snug for thousand is all part of the adventure. The same goes for food; always cater for 40 people regardless of the expected turnout. As organiser, you get first dibs on the food anyway! Also don’t give WiFi a thought: strength and range can be variable, but just cross your fingers and things might turn out ok. Oh..also don’t tell serving staff anything about the network or how to access it…that way you have a better chance of keeping your guests in the dark.

4. How about that pound sign?

A hashtag can make help make a tweetup more fun. So lots of hashtags will make it lots more fun, right? Don’t announce a hashtag, let your guests use whatever they want! Or if you must, don’t announce the hashtag in advance of the event, you don’t want people clogging up the twitterverse tweeting about your event do you? It’s probably best to wait until you’re half way through the proceedings to let people know. (Hashtags are keywords with the # symbol in front of them that become links to a list of all tweets using that keyword.)

5. Keep tweets a mystery.

Who cares if people are tweeting your hashtag? It’s all just noise anyway right? So don’t bother with a Twitterwall. Tools like Twitterfall let you plug in a hashtag and set the speed of updates to be projected onto a wall for everyone at the event to see. It does make the event a lot more fun, encourages tweeting and helps people network, but you don’t want any of that for your event do you? Better let people just meet and greet ‘the old fashioned way’. What’s better than that for a tweetup?

6. No pix please.

This relates to point number one. By not giving your guests anything to tweet about you can cut down the noise. So don’t allow photographs to be taken. This way you’ll avoid having them live tweeted, posted to flickr and Facebook. It keeps things quiet and ensures that ‘outsiders’ won’t hear about your event, product, company, etc.

7. Keep it to yourself.

If people can’t be bothered to turn up, why let them benefit from your event. So don’t live stream any speeches or presentations (if you MUST have them). ustream.tv might be easy to use, but why let people from around the world take part in your event? Don’t bother podcasting your content either; once something has been said, it’s over right?

8.Branding & sponsors equal clutter.

If you are sponsoring a tweetup or hosting one with sponsors, don’t bother with branding (see first point). Otherwise you’ll have this room full of people tweeting your messages to the world, and who wants that eh? Let’s keep news of sponsors’ generosity quiet. Don’t they usually prefer to keep a low profile?

9. Let them eat cake.

This is the single most important takeaway. Don’t help people use twitter at your tweet up. Don’t provide interesting, compelling content that they might want to tell their friends about. Keep schtum.

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Sherrilynne Starkie is a consultant at PDMS. For almost 18 years, Sherrilynne has been advising blue-chip organisations on both sides of the pond, covering Britain, Canada and the United States. For three years, Sherrilynne was the Tech Talk columnist for the Isle of Man newspapers. She serves on the steering committee for Isle of Man Women in Business, is on the Executive Council for the Isle of Man Junior Chamber of Commerce. In the past she was on the management committee for the Isle of Man British Computer Society and the marketing committee of Junior Achievement.