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The best backchannels are active before, during, and after
October 26, 2010 - 7:15pm

Have you ever participated in a conference backchannel? Are you wondering what a backchannel is? A backchannel is the conversation that occurs (generally via a Twitter hashtag) simultaneously alongside a conference's primary events, sessions, panels, etc. It's a great way for conference attendees to share information, ask questions, participate in "tweetups," and generally add to their overall experience. Backchannels also serve as access points for folks who are not able to attend an event. Backchannels are easily accessed, and in my view, the best ones (#ACUHOI has been going strong since its national conference) are active before, during, and after an event.

I have been an active participant in several backchannels as either an attendee at a conference or as a non-attendee who was simply following a particular conference hashtag. The active learning that takes place through a backchannel never fails to surprise me. When I was at #EDUCAUSE10 a couple of weeks ago, the backchannel was overflowing with information. As a participant on a technology bloggers panel, I followed the backchannel from the front of the room. People who were either in attendance and/or following the tweet stream asked questions via Twitter and the panelist answered their questions.

In a few weeks, I'll be presenting at the #NACAS10 Annual Conference in Colorado Springs. I really want to have an active back channel. In order to get folks up to speed about Twitter, I am putting on a "Twitter Basics" webinar for registered attendees. Getting attendees used to using Twitter with a specific hashtag is an important step in cultivating an active backchannel. During my session at the conference, I am going to use to display the backchannel on a separate big screen. The backchannel will be taking place in the "back" as well as in the "front."

The backchannel has become part of the "norm" at conferences. In my view, conferences that embrace the backchannel are allowing for greater amounts of learning and interaction to take place. The #EDUCAUSE10 hashtag feed was prominently displayed on LCD televisions throughout the conference. The conversation was constantly evolving, growing, and creating.

Do you have a favorite backchannel memory / experience?

Do you tweet? Let's connect. Follow me on Twitter.


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