Hosting a Tweetchat, or how to make an hour fly

Categories: Community Engagement.

On 3 July 2014 I hosted my second tweetchat via @wenurses; I asked about the future of role of hospices, particularly in the light of the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care report of 2013. I raised this question as I felt it had gone quiet and I believe the Commission’s work and final challenges to the hospice world are too important to ignore.

But what is a tweetchat? It’s a planned time and date when anyone using Twitter can join in a discussion that has been given a purpose, a profile, with a presence, a profit (adding value through shared knowledge) as well as being creative – I’m paraphrasing @learnhospice Sarah Russell, here.

Each chat has a theme and a hashtag; the @wenurses chats use #wenurses. So long as you follow that hashtag you can keep track of the conversation. There is more information about the chats and the on line community created by Teresa and Nick Chinn on the @wenurses website. I must point out the chats are not exclusively for nurses, you can get a variety of patients, organisations and individuals from the Twitter-sphere contributing. The chats cover many topics; it may pay to watch one or two if you prefer before joining in.


So, why offer to host a chat? I have become an enthusiast of social media (often referred to as SoMe) as it offers opportunities to make connections giving direct links to institutions and individuals who are of interest. The chats are a chance to share one’s own expertise, and get the viewpoints, experience and questions of others.

@wenurses have a form you must complete to submit an idea for a chat. It is useful to think about your idea, and have some links to pre-chat reading ready to submit. Be warned though if you come up with an interesting question on SoMe, @wenurses may ask you to be a host. Once agreed, and with a date set, I spend the intervening time watching for relevant articles, blog pieces and so on and start to collate them on a word document with the links embedded. Overall my preparation and chat time totals about two or three days.

As I get nearer the day I add a series of questions and comments about the theme of the chat to the document; I type them out ready with hashtags and Twitter handles as appropriate. That way I can cut and paste them into the chat as required knowing they are within the 140 character limit. To reassure myself I end up with a list of about 15 or so questions and links; I might end up only using a few of them, depending on how the chat goes.

In the meantime you will see your chat being tweeted and re-tweeted adding to the anticipation, and reminding you to be ready. The @wenurses team provide support as required.

As the start time approaches I make sure I’m comfortable, with a cup of tea, and feel ready to start the introductions before asking the first question. The chats are set to last an hour; as a host the time flies by and I cannot always follow all the conversations and respond; you may have a 100 or so joining in. I watch the chat develop after my opening question, then re-tweet, challenge, and add to conversations as seems best. The chat can take up a life of its own, and the host may not have to do much apart from add further questions. It helps to have a back up plan if your internet fails, e.g. email your questions to @wenurses or a co-host in advance.

The chat can seem very fast and quick moving one moment then slows down a little; that’s often a prompt to the host to ask another question; it may be one of your prepared ones, or a new one sparked by the chat itself. Many participants are regulars, and appreciate the hard work that goes into being a host.

At the end the host is expected to summarise at the end of the chat, within 24 hours is helpful to all, as it keeps the chat fresh in your mind. The full transcript is available almost immediately and that helps as an aide memoir. The limit is approx 500 words so you have to pick themes, therefore you may not get it all in the summary.

The @wenurse team produce a fascinating amount of data via the @symplur healthcare hashtag project. For me it’s really about the sharing, bringing together the Twitter community to discuss, share, challenge and explore our assumptions, make fresh connections, and take practice further. The @wenurses chats are not the only ones; there are lots out there in healthcare and education for example. Take a dip into Twitter see what you can discover; if interested you can see my chat summary and the transcript here.

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