For academic advisors and higher education professionals, traveling to a regional or national conference can be invigorating. They are a great place to network, learn about trending issues, and reflect on your own practices. However, they are also expensive. New professionals can’t take advantage of the discounted student rates. Many departmental and institutional budgets are stretched thin. The average cost of many national conferences becomes prohibitive, when you add in travel and hotels. Thankfully some conferences offer scholarships and honorariums for presenters. But the ability to go to multiple conferences or geographically distant conferences is limited. Hard choices have to be made, especially if you want to get more involved in presenting or leadership roles within the organization.
These do not need to limit your learning or networking. Conference back-channels are a way that social media savvy professionals, who know about social media back-channels, stay in touch with each other at the conferences, learning from each other’s insights, networking, and trends at various conferences across the nation/world. Much of this is concentrated on Twitter, where you don’t need to be at the conference or even a very active Twitter user, to benefit from the conversations. These channels may be obvious to professionals who use social media frequently, but many colleagues don’t take advantage of these opportunities, and they aren’t always used intentionally at local or regional conferences.
Back-Channels form around specific hashtags (#…) for the conference, often including the year for national ones. These, often publicized, hashtags, link conference goers and can be followed by anyone with a twitter account. However, don’t forget that the official conference accounts (@….) and regional accounts (@… r1) may also be sharing details. While conference attendance is restricted to specific dates, back-channels are not. Using them allows you to go back in time to check out previously held conferences (#NACADA14). Conversely, they provide previews of upcoming conferences (#NACADA15) and sessions. They can also form around specific presentations (#bringyoself) to link conversations within the conference to specific topics. Many presenters often post materials on their twitter accounts or blogs and some conferences such as NACADA ask presenters to post handouts (WNY Advising Conference Presentations).
- #ACPA15 (Also #ACPA or @ACPA)
- #NASPA15 (Also #NASPA or @NASPAtweets)
- #NACADA15 (Also #NACADA or @NACADA)
- #NACADAR7 (Also @NACADA_regvii)
- #NACADAR1 (Also @nacada_region1)
- #WNYAdvising (Also @WNYAdvising)
- #CSPA14 (Also @CSPANYS)
Tips for following Back-Channels vary depending on what platform or app you are using. If you are using Twitter, search for the hashtag and then select all at the top to reach the full stream. I prefer Tweetdeck (A desktop application), where I can set up streams based on certain hashtags and users (i.e. “#NACADA14 OR #NACADA15 OR @NACADA OR .#acadv OR #NACADA OR #AdvTech”).
On a personal note, the #NACADA14 back-channel significantly changed my professional practice and networking. I didn’t have to worry which session I chose to attend, as the back-channel provided notes and slides from the other sessions, and my colleagues shared, or favorited some of the most interesting materials. Being present also allowed to attend their Tweetup where I met many of the people I had connected with online. Not only did this improve my experience at the conference, but it also created many professional relationships which have morphed into shared resources, interactive endeavors, and conference proposals.
So, the next time your budget, responsibilities, or geographic location prevents you from attending a conference, don’t fret, just look for the back-channel. You can also be intentional in creating a hashtag back-channel, if you are involved in planning a regional or national conference, to enhance the conference experience and expand its influence to other professionals across the nation or world.
Originally Published At WNY Advising Blog
> BONUS <
Podcast With Joe Ginese on Maximizing Conferences