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Using Twitter to Meet New People on the Way to Conferences

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 Sep 2014

Travelling to a Project Meeting

Using Twitter on the way to eventsLast week I attended a #LACEproject consortium meeting in Graz, Austria. The LACE project, which is funded by the EU, is “bringing together key European players in the field of learning analytics (LA) and educational data mining (EDM) in order to support the development of communities of practice and share emerging best practice“.

The consortium meeting provided a valuable opportunity for me to meet colleagues in the project, most of whom I had only come across in our regular video-conference calls.

As the leader of the work package which covers communications and dissemination I have an interest in how social media tools can be used both for supporting communications and collaboration across the project partners and also with the wider community of people with interests in learning analytics.

Developing One’s Professional Network

The potential value of use of Twitter at conferences, workshops and seminars is now widely appreciated. However one aspect which is probably not so well-understood is using Twitter while travelling to events.

This occurred to me last week following my tweet at Heathrow Airport:

On my way to Dusseldorf and then Graz for a meeting.

Twenty minutes later I received a response to my tweet from Nick Pearse (@drnickpearce):

@briankelly I’m off to Graz tomorrow for ECTEL workshop, are you off to that? …

As can be seen from the Storify summary of our Twitter discussions we tried to meet during the EC-TEL 2014 conference but since my meeting took place at a different location we were not able to do this. However our brief exchange of tweets motivated me to look at Nick’s Twitter profile:

Sociologist having fun teaching anthropology + sociology! at Durham University’s Foundation Centre. Digital scholar interested in social media + pedagogy

and visit his Digitalscholar blog. His areas of interests overlap with mine, I felt. But unfortunately it looked as though we wouldn’t have an opportunity to meet.

As I was leaving Graz I made use of the free WiFi available at the airport to, indirectly, say that I was leaving:

At Graz airport. Couldn’t connect to Internet. Rebooted tablet; no joy. Started IE; saw click to connect button. Should I make IE default?

Nick was also at the airport on his way home:

@briankelly i’m here too, are you getting the frankfurt flight?

Unfortunately we were on different flights but we managed to have a brief chat before we left. This confirmed our mutual areas of interests and we agree to get in touch after we had returned home.

Twitter as the Interactive Business Card

Back in April 2008, in the early day’s of Twitter usage I wrote a post explaining one of the benefits of Twitter for academics, especially when travelling to conferences: Twitter? It’s An Interactive Business Card.

Since then the online infrastructure has developed significantly. Many people will now own a smartphone which will provide access to networked tools such as Twitter. In addition no longer is WiFi access limited to conference venues and hotels; increasingly WiFi is available. often for free, at airports and railway stations. We can now exchange our virtual business cards whilst travelling!

Trip to LACE meeting announced on FacebookSome people may have concerns about the risks of sharing their location. It’s true that there can be risks in using one’s phone in dodgy areas, but this is not normally the case in airports. And my approach to minimising the risks associated with people knowing that I am not at home is to make sure I’ve locked the doors! I also shared my location when travelling on an extended trip to south east Asia  as a way of ensuring that details of my journey were publicly available in case I had any problems on the trip.

I should also add that I also use Facebook to check in to train stations and airports when I’m travelling. Again I’ve found this useful, for example, when friends suggest places to visit while I’m travelling. However use of Facebook doesn’t provide the serendipity for making new connections which Twitter can provide.

In the past I have also explored the potential for use of dedicated geo-location services such as FourSquare and Gowalla. However I’ve found that these don’t have sufficient take-up to be of value (and Gowalla folded in 2012). I’ll therefore continue to use a combination of Twitter and Facebook when I’m travelling to work-related events.

Do others do likewise? Do you have any stories to share of the benefits of such approaches, or of the risks?

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

2 Responses to “Using Twitter to Meet New People on the Way to Conferences”

  1. […] Twitter as an interactive business card (and way to meet people at conferences) […]

  2. […] tools that can also be used to aid networking at events. Brian Kelly has written about Twitter as an interactive business card and here I want to mention the Blendology badges that we used at SpotOn London 2013. Blendology tap […]

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