I am definitely not the first person - and I'm sure I won't be the last - to have my Twitter epiphany at a conference. Mine came at Great Ideas 2009.
I seem to have developed a tradition of being a relatively late adopter of social media technologies, and then caving to peer pressure at the Tech Conference. My 2008 cave? Facebook and LinkedIn. My 2009 cave? Twitter. After being pestered to get with it for at least 6 months, I finally did. But I wasn't quite Getting It until Great Ideas.
"I Get It!" #1 - I gave up on the Twitter interface and installed TweetDeck. If you're still using the basic Twitter interface to try to manage things, don't. Get TweetDeck or Hootsuite ASAP. Actually, there are lots of great apps that can help you manage (and have fun with) Twitter. But, if you do NOTHING else, at least upgrade your own user experience.
"I Get It!" #2 - Tweet the main points any speaker is making in any session you attend. Your own tweet history = instant session notes!
"I Get It!" #3 - I was tweeting away during a session given by Lindy Dreyer and Scott Briscoe using my shiny new TweetDeck install and I noticed that I had a new follower - @jeffhurt. And he was @ replying me a question for the presenters. And not only wasn't he in the room, he wasn't even at the conference. And I asked it and got an answer for him and @ replied back.
Now I know what you're thinking: if everyone can get the content through Twitter, no one will come to my conference. Nope. Because they still miss the networking and hallway conversations. As a matter of fact, if *some* of the goodness of your conference gets out on Twitter, it could potentially increase attendance, as more people see what they're missing.
I know what else you're thinking: what if people don't like the speakers and say mean things? And I'll be honest - that could happen. But we're back to the standard answer that's always given to the "what if they say bad things about us?" question: they're saying it anyway. Wouldn't you rather know? The real problem with the feedback mechanism is that most presenters (I include myself) lack the ability to pay attention to the crowd in the room, keep the flow of the presentation going, and pay attention to the Twitter stream, which might tell us that we're missing the mark before it's too late and the presentation is over and we get back our evaluations weeks later and it turns out, people weren't getting what they came for and if only we'd known we might have been able to make some adjustments. (Also, most of us save the really catty comments for direct messages :)
So how are you using Twitter to make your organization's meetings better and/or enhance your own experience as an attendee or virtual attendee?