Tweeting Your Way to a Better Conference

Posted by Tara Connolly, Marshall Rollings, Mar 20, 2012 0 comments

The Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts conference (SEA), an initiative of the North Carolina Entrepreneurship Center (NCEC) in partnership with national group Self Employment in the Arts, was at a turning point. As we planned the third annual conference for February 2012, we knew this would be our “make-it-or-break-it” year. Having seen a drop in attendance and revenue during the second annual conference, we needed to regain the momentum we cultivated during the first annual conference, which attracted nearly 300 attendees from nine states to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) to participate.

We reworked the conference structure and partnered with a regional arts initiative, the Tri State Sculptors Association Iron Pour, hosted at Sculptor Jim Gallucci’s studio, to incorporate the event into pre-conference reception. We knew SEA 2012 was packed with diverse content and value. But could we reach and re-engage our target audience? We increased marketing across multiple channels with support from Opportunity Greensboro, The Coleman Foundation, and Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff. Additionally, two weeks prior, we arranged a "live tweet" for the conference, which surpassed our expectations and helped to generate more buzz before, during, and after the conference. On February 11, 352 people, including 198 students and 107 artists, gathered at UNCG for the third annual SEA Conference to share entrepreneurial strategies and resources to help emerging artists become successful in their careers and to network among students, emerging artists, working artists, business professionals, and community organizations.

We saw a significant increase in attendance from the previous year (including a 400 percent increase in student attendance), surpassing our goals and attendance figures from the first conference. In particular, the "live tweet" garnered an enthusiastic response and positive feedback from several stakeholder groups, meeting our objective to engage both attendees and non-attendees in online dialogue about the conference. More than 25 tweeters, both attendees and non-attendees—from across the U.S. and as far away as Australia—participated, logging 350+ #SEACon2012 tweets and 50+ retweets. See the #SEACon2012 Live Tweet Case Study below more information about the live tweet interaction and results. We also gathered the following takeaways from our success:

  • Before the conference, we identified partner groups with an interest in the content or an affiliation with one of the speakers and encouraged them to participate and share content with their network, resulting in more RTs during conference and sharing of recap material after conference
  • Utilized "live tweet" organizer’s existing social media network, including many contacts with interests in conference content (most non-attendee participation was on part of members of live tweet organizer’s personal network), resulting in more RTs and participation among non-attendees
  • Utilized conference recap blog posts as mechanism to reach out to "live tweet" participants and partner groups after conference, resulting in more sharing of at #SEACon2012 content during weeks after the conference

Here are some helpful resources for organizing a "live tweet":

Are there other resources you would recommend? Add them in the comments below. (Authors' Note: The Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts Conference, directed by Bryan Toney, was founded by Dr. Dianne Welsh, Hayes Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at UNCG. Originally hosted at the University of Tampa, SEA Conference is modeled after the national Self-Employment in the Arts Conference, administered by North Central College in Naperville, IL. Comprised of three content areas (performing, literary, and visual arts), the SEA 2012 schedule included four series of breakout sessions including both discipline-focused sessions and broadly applicable entrepreneurship topics as they apply to careers in the arts.)

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