I had the honor and the pleasure of moderating @prsarahevans #journchat this past Monday night. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I’m very familiar with the Twitter chat session because of #PRStudChat. However, the #journchat community is considerably larger and moderating the conversation taught me a few more best practices with respect to creating and maintaining a dynamic community discussion. First and foremost, I want to thank so many of my colleagues/friends who showered me with incredible compliments that night. However, for the record, the true appreciation and the reason why I looked like I could “ROCK IT,” was a direct result of the passion, enthusiasm and incredible knowledge in this community. I just got the conversation started and the community did all of the work!
Nonetheless, here are a few of the tips that I’d like to share with you about how to handle a large community for a significant period of time (2 hours).
– Be prepared for the discussion by visiting the community prior to your session and by listening carefully. Being an active part of the discussions and understanding the dynamics and the interests of the group is key.
– If you listen and participate, then you will quickly learn the types of questions and content to share in the community. I think some of the best questions during #Jjournchat focused on what was happening in the news. It’s easy for community members to provide insight on prominent news stories as they relate to a community member’s career or personal experience.
– Have a tweet sheet ready of things you know you have to say including “Rules”, set questions in advance (as you wait for the community to send in their questions) and/or have prepared any type of informational tweets that will go out to the community as housekeeping reminders. I don’t send out timed tweets for a chat session but rather just have them ready, so I can get them out in a timely fashion. Remember, although you have a tweet sheet, make sure you still inject your own personality and talk to people!
– Take the time a day beforehand, or the day of to the chat session, to reach out and ask members of the community about topics of interest they’d like to discuss, or find out what questions they would like answered.
– Use other communities as resources. If you find interesting and passionate “hot buttons” in other forums, you can use similar topics to ignite the same type of spark with the group you are moderating.
– Show your personality and engage with people before, during and after you moderate. For example, if you see that someone would like to attend and can’t, then let them know that they will be missed! Or, if you notice that someone signs in late, a warm welcome will make then him/her feel a part of the community, no matter what time he/she signs on. And, pay special attention to any questions that people may have as you move along. I also asked a friend and colleague to be my eyes and ears during the session (Thanks @mikinzie). Mikinzie helped me so much! As people made comments or had questions, she would DM me if she thought that I missed something. Which, quite frankly, moving at that speed you tend to miss a lot.
– If something goes awry…don’t panic. There were a couple of bumps for me. One was harmless, but nonetheless you have to act quickly. I found out the link I tweeted with a question, for the group, didn’t work. It’s a simple message to the community. For example I said something like, “Working on getting a new link”…. or “Will be posting a link that works in a moment.” It just tells everyone that you are on it…you know you messed up and that you are fixing the issue. In general, I found #journchat community to especially patient and very forgiving even when I didn’t include the question number with a question! (That was one of the Rules).
– I also think that Sarah set up #journchat to be extremely organized with its housekeeping, especially the way the RULES are stated in the beginning. They are easy and concise and chat participants are able digest the information. And, if someone during the session asks you a question, you can just tweet the rules directly, making it a simple process.
Some more helpful tips ….For #PRStudChat, @valeriesimon and I do a couple of things to help the community. We have a Twitter Guide for anyone that is new to the community and we make it available for our special guests to review. We also set up a wiki and a LinkedIn Group so that the conversations can go beyond Twitter into other networks where people can join in and collaborate even more (#journchat has a LinkedIn Group too, if you want to check it out.)
As a moderator, there are many things that you can do to aid the community. That’s what you’re there for…to listen and to help and to feed the community the information that ignites their passion and creates great discussion. But, remember, it’s the community that takes the information and runs with it and it’s also the community that creates the dynamic discussion so all of us walk away with insight and new knowledge.