Top Ten Twitter Tips for an Optimized Solar Power International 2014


In less than a week, the solar industry will converge on Las Vegas for three jam-packed days of sun worship. Not at the pool, but in the halls and among the exhibits at Solar Power International (SPI) 2014.

Brands big and small routinely lose out on a vast array of opportunities and lucrative connections at large conferences, because they have not yet implemented a strategy that puts them in multiple places at once. You can’t possibly see it all or meet everyone at North America’s largest solar trade show, but with a little help from a scout called Twitter, and a few simple tweeting skills, you can maximize your exposure.

While B2B activities on Twitter might seems like its just 100′s of people talking at each other, it’s conferences where Twitter really becomes invaluable. It’s your best source for latest news, must see sessions and which parties are worth showing up for. Twitter can bring the industry into your hands, put your voice on par with the biggest brands in the business, and dramatically improve your team’s ROI.

As you gear up for SPI 2014, here’s a list of our top 10 Twitter skills you can try out to make the show your most significant trip of your year. I’ve offered up some top examples for each, either from current SPI activity (#SPI2014) or from South By Southwest Eco (#SXSWEco), which I recently attended in Austin.

1. Start with a pre-party

The weeks leading up to SPI are often a whirlwind of preparation and deadlines. Regardless, get yourself into the habit of watching two SPI hashtags, #SPICon and #SPI2014 starting around October 16.  Around this time, you’ll notice companies starting to announce their news for the show. A quick scan every other day will give you a good sense of what the show’s themes may be.

When you see news from a colleague or prospect, it’s a perfect excuse to reach out to them. Inquire if they’ll be attending the show, and see if you can set up a meeting. Even if you don’t know them!

@[handle]: Hi Rich I am at #SPI2014 Booth XXXX. We’ve talked on Twitter but never met – will be under the same roof tomorrow.

Additionally, use this time to retweet (RT) people you want to notice you and start brushing up on your posting power.

@GlennaWiseman: RT @RainaRusso: 4 football fields worth of walking at #SPICon that’s 10,000 steps a day easy! Win a Fitbit via @ibts_solar booth 5309 #SolarChat

2. Live tweet everyday

Once SPI starts, make a commitment to tweet from the show in real time. In social media marketing, we call this “Live Tweeting.”  This activity can take many forms, but should start with your announcement on your feed that you’re traveling to SPI and why you’re excited. This heads-up post, gives your followers and others following the hashtag a chance to know that you’ll be there and connect with you.

@RainaRusso: See you there! RT @ibts_solar: We’re headed to Vegas, baby! Stop by booth 5309 at @SPIConvention Oct. 21-23 #SPIcon

@lisapinkerton: There’s something magical about being at a conference the day before it starts. #SXSWEco

In Sessions:

The conventional live tweet from a session usually includes sounds bites from speakers and questions posed by the audience. I often use my session posts as a way of taking notes on the panel. Be careful not to just post the sound bites from speakers, as it’s so common that you’ll notice everyone doing it. You want to be unique and stand out, so that other people with retweet and follow you. So instead, try to build on the commentd given, either by posing a question, a challenge or furthering the idea with your own insights.

@lisapinkerton: PicaSolar could save solar OEMs $140M in reduced silver use alone, + 15% increase in cell efficiency. #sxsweco

@AutoblogGreen: Brett Hauser from @greenlots: There have been some “colossal failures” because EV charging companies used proprietary systems. #sxsweco

On the exhibit floor:

As you wander the booths, take photos of things you think are cool, friends you run into or fun happenings. Post them on Twitter with your comment and where it happened, such as the booth number. If you see something you don’t like, there’s also an opportunity to tell the company via a post.

@austinECOdetail: Met Gabriel and his team #earth911 at #sxsweco last week. They had this super cool stool made of cork on display.

Corporate social media feeds are often managed by the marketing and public relations teams. So, done diplomatically, your comment will reach the people in the company who will care most about the company’s brand and reputation.

Regardless of how your posts shape up, always credit the speakers and companies either by adding their name in or their handle. And always remember to add the hashtag #SPI2014.

3. Party with your Tweeps

Networking on social media is a great way to build your brand and reach new people. But in person networking is where the real magic is. At the quarterly networking workshops I teach in San Francisco, I outline how one can seamlessly go from online networking to in person networking, and back to online as a way of extending networking time and opportunities.

Tweetups are sponsored happy hours where people who are active on Twitter meet each other face-to-face.  Instead of meeting a group of strangers, Tweetups provide us with the opportunity to get to know better, people we already feel connected to. At SPI this year, there are two important Tweetups to hit:

4. Get your scan on

You can’t be everywhere are once. But Twitter can! Every morning, instead of looking at your usual news feeds, or playing that game you use to wake up in bed, scan the twitter hashtag. Within five minutes it would take you to review the replays of how your base got raided on Clash of Clans overnight, you’ll quickly get up to speed on the coming day at SPI. Also, at this time take a moment to post something about what you’re looking forward to, as another way of giving the SPI community a chance to meet you and connect with you.

5. Smart follow

Using Twitter at conferences, when the majority of your industry is paying attention, whether or not they are at the show, is a great way to build your audience. As a rule, you should follow everyone that follows you, as long and as much as you want to. When you do get a new follower, thank them for following you.

If people are using the hashtag, there’s a high likelihood they have some influence in solar and following them could add to your overall clout. So, at shows it’s advisable to follow people using the hashtag. They in turn may choose to follow you, and before you know it, you’ll have grown your following by at least 10-20 percent by the end of the conference.

6. Interact

Following those that follow you is just one part of interaction. The next step is to add to the conversation, either by retweeting what they have posted (indicated by RT in the post) or by modifying a person’s tweet and adding MT. You can also reply to a post and add your own insights, questions or comments.

This is where the interaction can take on a life of its own and lead to incredible networking opportunities you might not have had otherwise, both at the event and long after it’s over. You can even invite other people you know would have interest in a topic into the conversation by adding their handles in your posts. Twitter will notify them, depending on their account settings. Do this in compelling way and voilà, you have yourself a bonafide social media networking moment that can be taken off line for more in-depth interaction.

SPI twitter post interaction

7. Review sessions and parties in the moment

Let’s face it, no matter how hard organizers try, some sessions are just boring, and some parties are just a flop. Wouldn’t you like to know that before you get to the location, or warn other before they meet your fate?  Well, Twitter is an excellent vehicle for that.

When you’re in a session that’s dragging on without much substance, use Twitter to see what sessions other people are posting about. You can save yourself valuable session time by leaving ones that aren’t working for ones that are. The same thing goes for parties and happy hours.

You can also use Twitter to bring more people to something good. Don’t be afraid to post that a session is impressive, making sure to share the room number. Additionally, if you find yourself at a bouncing party, spread the love on Twitter. Make sure you credit the sponsors of the event, so that if others can’t get there before it’s over the organizers get your kudos, which is a goodwill gesture that helps to elevate their brand.

AndreaLearned: Fun @triplepundit party last night @CliveBarATX – thanks @nickaster and gang. #sxsweco

spi twitter blog image - party

8. Make it visual

Thoughtful insights are critical to building your Twitter brand. However, well-selected photos and videos will often spread the message of your brand further than words can. People love images and videos. We love to look at them and share them.

When people retweet your multi-media, your handle (@yournamehere) gets added to the post and you get the credit. You may find a comment retweeted once or twice, while an image or video gets many more shares. A note of caution, before you share a photo or video, be sure to ask others in the moment if it’s okay. If they say yes, be sure to add their handles as well.

SPI post visual

9. Give credit where credit is due

In the other steps, we touched on how selecting the retweet symbol in your Twitter app will automatically add the handle of the person you are retweeting into your post. Twitter also offers an “edit retweet” function in case you want to modify the tweet. Often we do this to add additional insights or if the original tweet was too long.

However, some people will use the “edit retweet” function to remove the handle of the person who originated the tweet as a way of claiming it as their own. This is not how you build a supportive community and people will notice if you try this too much. They might even call you out on it, publicly; I have. Keep your ego at bay and give credit where credit is due. Sometimes, when a post becomes too long, because of the RT handle(s) at the beginning, it’s advisable to add them to the end with the word “via” indicating where you got the information. This step can save you precious characters.

This also goes to crediting speakers and companies. You can use the search function in Twitter to learn if companies or people have twitter handles already and add them to your post. While you’re at it, you should follow them too. They will get your notification that you mentioned them and it helps you build a positive relationship with them over time.

10. Stay in the moment

One trick about live tweeting is that we pay too much attention to creating our posts, watching the hashtag feed or responding to alerts we get on our phone, because it’s right in front of us. Speakers certainly like to see their names and opinions trending on social media, but they also like an attentive audience. You can miss critical information when you are too busy multi-tasking. Therefore, try to keep your live posts to an average of one per ten minutes. This will help you keep your attention on the session and retaining the most amount of information possible. Additionally, it will keep your feed from dominating the hashtag as people are following it.

Top 3 Systems for Successful Business Networking

Logo for Business Networking.001

Saturday, November 15, 2014

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Sandbox Suites – South Park

404 Bryant Street

San Francisco, CA

In the green economy much of your success is not based only on what you know, nor who you know, or how large your network is. Instead, it’s about how deeply you foster your relationships long term.

Top earners in the cleantech and sustainable industries know three systems that transformed their worlds from cold calling to having opportunities knock down their door.  In this full day workshop, speaker Lisa Ann Pinkerton, President of Technica Communications and founder of Women in Cleantech & Sustainability, will teach her time-tested, simple, systematic process for building engaging networks, including the top three secrets that turn contacts into cash.

This workshop you will learn:

  • Compelling introductions that leave listeners asking “how do you do that?”
  • Tricks for jumping in and out of conversations
  • Tips for reading body language
  • Knowing when it’s time to leave a conversation
  • Follow up that turns contacts into cash
  • How to improve your mental game to have fun at events

Have you ever felt awkward, frustrated or just plain scared about networking? Speaker Lisa Ann has. It after one frustrating night at a Green Drinks event, that she committed herself to learning all she could about networking skills. “I read books and watching videos, and attended two to three events a week until I felt fully confident and comfortable at events,” she says. “Today, I can walk into a room and tell you exactly who the highest leverage people are. I can jump in and out of conversations with ease and keep conversations going long after the event is over.
This networking workshop covers the three main systems of networking, Lisa Ann developed to make her a networking powerhouse.  In it you will learn the same techniques, tactics and tricks that the pros use to make networking look easy and fun, but most of all effective. Lisa Ann has learned from the top networking masters and distilled the main points down for you.

Workshop Outline:


  • Importance of connecting emotionally
  • How to introduce yourself
  • Knowing your green origin stories
  • 12x12x12 Rule
  • Knowing your personal resistance
  • Pre-networking

Working the Room

  • Finding high leveraged people
  • Importance of playing “host”
  • Connecting people at the event
  • Paying it forward
  • Reading open and closed conversations
  • Building rapport quickly
  • Getting in and out of conversations
  • Common signals for invitations to join a group
  • Signals for when to leave the conversation
  • Lines to use to get out of conversations

Follow up

  • Systems for follow up over time
  • Software Tools
  • Building Value
  • Social Media networking
  • Building a referral network


What people say about Lisa Ann’s networking classes:

Lisa Ann Pinkerton was a phenomenal speaker and she shared so much valuable information with us …on how to network like a “networking powerhouse.” I look forward to attending my next networking event to utilize the tools she provided. – Phyllis Garland, Garland Web Designs

Thanks to Lisa Ann for a very thoughtfully presented workshop. With the guidance in this workshop series and continued practice, I will eventually learn to be a confident, approachable, successful networker. – Janelle T

Excellent class and so much more to learn. – Michelle Gabriel, JMB and Associates

About Lisa Ann Pinkerton:

Lisa Ann Pinkerton is an international workshop leader, speaker and moderator. She teaches Green Networking Powerhouse classes and workshops to share her skills to support the green economy.  Lisa Ann is Founder and President of Technica Communications, Co-Founder and Marketing Chair for the Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and Founder of the US networking group Women In Cleantech & Sustainability. Lisa Ann also sits on the Advisory Board of Sustainable Fashion Week International and is a promotional and documentary filmmaker. Lisa Ann started her career as a broadcast journalist for nearly a decade. Her work has been broadcast on National Public Radio, PBS Television, and other US outlets.

Obliterate the Opening Remarks

bored audience

I recently attended a high-level technology summit, who’s innocence I will protect by allowing them to remain anonymous. It attracted power players from all over the world. The quality of social influence and brain power was as impressive as the quality of the content in the panels.

The event was wonderful, I really enjoyed it on the whole and feel honored to have been invited. However, as the second half of the second day came to a close, we packed three sessions into two marathon hours. What struck me towards the end of the event was how the 10 minute opening remarks of each panelist caused each panel to provide information that was more flat than they intended and reduced the energy of the room to a snore. This unintended consequence of the format allowed the panels at the beginning of the day to go long and the ones at the end of the day to be cut short. Also, this prevented the panels from taking questions from the audience, which on a whole is usually when a room starts to wake up and the panel actually begins to become interesting. Thus, I call on all moderators of the world’s future panels to obliterate the opening remarks and organize panels around Conversational Clarity.

Let’s face it, opening remarks are boring. My former NPR editor called them “delay of game” content. “Get to the point and get me interested!” he would say.

Being a former NPR/PBS reporter and talk show host forced me to learn the art of Conversational Clarity. It’s a technique that forces moderators or hosts to skip the background and get right to the meat of the topic.  Though the delivery of their answers panelists can pepper the conversation with their expertise, background and the missions of their respective organizations in ways that audiences would retain better than opening remarks. This format creates more compelling content delivery that causes curiosity in listeners, piques their interest, and prompts them to follow up for more information.

The Art of Conversational Clarity

Conversational Clarity requires a moderator to understand where their panelists are coming from and ask opening questions that cut to the chase.  It does require preparation from the moderator, so if you are organizing an event make sure to give your panelists plenty of lead time.  Encourage them to connect with their panelists two to three weeks ahead of time to discover the messages and points they are looking forward to making on the panel. Additionally, encourage your moderators to offer panelists ideas and sample questions that can start off the panel.

At the event, Conversational Clarity starts with detailed, yet brief introductions by the moderator based on panelist bios. Overall, this short speech should last no more than 20 seconds and only offer the highest level of detail. Organizers should instruct their moderators to modify and rewrite bios so that they can be read in a more conversational tone.

Moderator introductions skips the opportunity for panelists to ramble on for ten minutes about their company and what they do. After that these short introductions, the first question should bring up the largest challenges to the topic at hand, as a way to jump start a dialogue of actionable items people could implement to accomplish the end goal. An example of a CC opening question might be:

“Much has been made about the rise/fall of [insert topic]. In fact, [insert statistic]. To kick off this panel, what is the one strategy you would recommend to overcoming the challenges to get us to [insert desired result].”

Each panelist can answer the question and offer up an example from their own experience. By doing this they can drop open threads about who they are and the organization they represent. Since everyone has some type of mobile device these days, interested parties will likely look them up online to learn more about them and their organization in the session. I, myself, routinely peruse the websites of people on a panel to learn more about who they are during the event. I find when I’m interested in learning more about a person or organization, I actually retain the information better. This is likely due to the seeking hormone response of dopamine and the finding pleasure reward of opioid.

Once each panelist has answered the opening question, the moderator can follow up with the next, detailed, well researched tough question.  A common transition from the first to second question is,

“So what I’m hearing is X, Y, and Z (mini recap). Which leads me to my next question…”

After this second question has been fulfilled, it’s important for the moderator to let the audience know that they will be opening up the panel to questions after this third question. That allows the audience time to prepare. The last thing you want to do is open up the panel to audience questions only to hear crickets from the room.

Opening up a panel to questions early is critical. Panel after panel that I have moderated has proven to me that the audience always asks more compelling questions than the list most moderators can prepare. Additionally, audiences love a back and forth with the panel and those asking the questions. Suddenly, people stop checking their email and start listening attentively to the dialogue that’s been created.  At that point the session takes on a life of its own and the lift of the energy in the room is palpable. That’s when a moderator knows they have done a good job.

Managing the Energy in the Room

Energy management in a panel is critical. Well documented research shows the lack of audience participation can cause the attention in a room to plummet. Especially if half of your audience is jet-lagged!

Activities that can raise the energy in a room include:

  • Questions
  • Clapping
  • Laughter
  • Call and response
  • Storytelling
  • Exercises (on stage or in the room)

By including one or more of these elements every five minutes, you can raise the energy in a room markedly.  The next time you are at an event, check in with the energy of the room and how you feel. Then check in with your interest in the panel (your energy level) after one of these items above have happened. You may notice that you feel better, more engaged and/or with a greater ability to retain the content being presented.

Managing the energy in the room also means moderators must have a strong enough sense of self that they stop panelists who drone on too long or halt participants who have more a soapbox to stand on than a question. To the moderator this can feel like being rude, interrupting people and taking the heat of it. More often then not, however, the audience is also feeling the same way the moderator is, and welcomes their leader taking control of the situation, in a friendly way of course.

Obliterating the opening remarks is not going to happen overnight. It requires moderators to think like talk show hosts, preparing ahead of time and managing their limited time exquisitely.  It also requires panelists to feel comfortable with serving on a panel that doesn’t guarantee them “air time” to talk directly about themselves and use the crutch of slides. Slides are sometimes important to conveying complex ideas in a panel, and I encourage them in limited use, but not as a routine or requirement.

Panelists should want to serve on your panel regardless of whether or not they are guaranteed 10 minutes to drone on about themselves. If a panelist doesn’t feel confident enough that they will be able to pepper their answers with proof points and content regarding their own organization, then they might not be dedicated enough to your topic to serve as a quality resource.

Overall, obliterating the opening remarks is about putting the needs of the audience above the self-promotional needs of the panelists. If only 10% of moderators took this approach to their events, participants would see a significant increase if the quality of events. Energy envy would percolate though the audience and future moderators would seek to emulate those moderators they admired.

Lisa Ann Pinkerton is founder of Technica Communications, as well as Founder and President of San Francisco’s Women in Cleantech & Sustainability. Lisa Ann is a former award-winning broadcast journalist who reported for National Public Radio, PBS Television, American Public Media, Free Speech TV and a variety local stations.

Charging Scarcity Holding Back EV Growth


Article originally published in Cleantechies

At the turn of the 20th Century, it took only 13 years to replace the the horse and carriage with automobiles. A system that had dominated for centuries as a preferred means of transport was displaced seemingly over night.. Today, transportation is witnessing another technological shift to electric plug-in and extended range vehicles. However, four years in to the shift, it’s still to early to say how the transition to an electrically dominated automobile industry will compare to the switch from horse to “horsepower.”

At the 4th annual Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Driving Charged and Connected event last month, experts debated the challenges and speculated on the speed of the move to electric vehicles. The answer promoted by many was that the issue is not one of technology development, but a question of the public’s desire to deploy it, i.e. a willingness to finance the infrastructure needed.

In 2011, Google announced it would install 450 charging stations with free “fill ups” to employees. Today, the Mountain View campus is conducting over 900 charging sessions a day. That’s a charging load of approximately 7.5 MW of energy each day. “We built it, and the EVs arrived, and they keep on coming,” said Rolf Schreiber, technical program manager for electric transportation at Google. “That amount of power is like displacing over 500 gallons of fuel.”

Schreiber says Google’s current charging stations are over-subscribed and the campus’s electrical infrastructure has exceeded the ability to put in more charging stations. “Our expanded charging system has helped several Googlers decide to buy new EVs of their own,” said Schreiber. “Now we must develop strategies to balance the needs of drivers who need to charge, verses those that want to charge.”

For Google EV drivers commuting from the East Bay, the opportunity to charge at work is critical to their ability to get home. Additionally, many Googlers depend on charging up at workplace because the apartments they rent do not accommodate their charging needs. Meanwhile, others who simply want to charge but don’t really need to, also feel entitled to a charging option at work, whether or not it’s a necessity.

“It’s not really in our culture to institute top down mandates,” said Schreiber. So in response, he says the Google community is starting to regulate itself. Systems like email lists help people ask others to move their cars if they are finished charging. Charging buddies take turns swapping out each other’s cars to share the same plug. Some Googlers were even asking for fee based charging, as a way to regulate behavior.

From a company perspective, all of this ad-hoc charging organization and plug-swapping cuts into employee productivity and causes range anxiety for workers when they should be focused on other things. That got Arcady Sosinov thinking about the potential of mobile and autonomous charging. During the Silicon Valley Driving Charged & Connected event, his startup FreeWire demonstrated an innovative prototype called the Mobi, which stores energy using second-life EV batteries and then moves around the workplace parking lot to charge vehicles. Combined with a business model he calls “Charging as a Service,” Sosinov aims to solve the challenges facing workplace charging.

“Employers are frustrated that their costly infrastructure upgrades are charging only two cars per workday. Not to mention the time workers take out of their day to shuffle cars in and out of spots,” said Sosinov. “Instead of bringing the car to the station, it’s much more efficient to bring the station to the car.”

With FreeWire’s solution, companies can forgo costly infrastructure upgrades and charging station installation. Instead, needy EV drivers request a charge by leaving their charge port open and the Mobi moves from car to car throughout the day. At the end of the day, the charging station takes itself to its own base station for an overnight fill up, at a fraction of the electricity rates charged during the day. When companies move offices, their charging infrastructure moves with them.

While Freewire envisions fully automated charging, its first generation system is not robotic. Instead, the first gen model employs an attendant to transport the charger from car to car. Sosinov says a conventional charge station usually averages about two cars per day, but this first FreeWire unit can charge an average of 8 cars per day, a 300 percent increase in utilization.

“Scalability of existing infrastructure is a huge challenge and it’s not about the charging hardware itself,” said FreeWire co-founder Sanat Kamal Bahl. “Instead, it’s the cost of laying down conduit, digging up the parking lot and costly electricity infrastructure upgrades. The expense increases exponentially as you move the chargers further into the parking lot.”

Tech firms in Silicon Valley, where EV adoption can range as high as 25% of the workforce, clearly see huge benefits in FreeWire’s solution. Not surprisingly, the startup’s recent announcement of a limited availability pilot program has stirred up strong demand among potential corporate customers.

Regardless of how EVs are charged at the workplace, the larger impediment to electric vehicle adoption experts saw was the significant lack of charging options for those living in multi-unit dwellings, another market where FreeWire might thrive. In California alone, 41 percent of residents live in apartments. To date, forward thinking companies have been footing the bill to provide apartment dwellers with workplace charging as an employee perk and recruitment tool.

However, from the landlord prospective it’s a chicken and egg problem. They don’t see the need to add infrastructure if people are not going to use it. However, EV dealers say, many people don’t purchase EVs if their apartments don’t offer charging beforehand. In fact, only 8 percent of all EV owners live in apartments (this writer being one of the few). With apartment vacancies at an all time low in the Bay Area, property owners feel little pressure add amenities that would eat into their profits.

That’s something Mario Landau-Holdsworth of the startup EverCharge says is going to quickly be changing. The company specifically targets multiunit dwellings, home owners associations and large corporations to maximize a property’s charging capacity, while spreading the installation costs across the membership of users.

EverCharge’s charging technology communicates wirelessly with its charge ports to share load capacity across the system, allowing power to be stepped down as more cars request charging. This adds capacity to the system, without overloading the electrical infrastructure.

“With traditional systems a vehicle is assumed to be using full power all the time. EverCharge monitors  needs the individual vehicles to allocate the power according to their needs. The excess power can be allocated to other vehicles allowing up to ten times as many vehicles to charge using the existing capacity of a site,” remarked Landau-Holdsworth. “Complexes can get up to 10 times the capacity, without the costly upgrade to their infrastructure.”

Whether it’s smarter practices or more clever charging approaches, the infrastructure for EV charging is steadily growing. Yet, the tipping point may depend more on the success of enrolling new infrastructure providers, and less on convincing consumers that electric vehicles are a better buy than their fossil fuel counterparts.

Lisa Ann Pinkerton is Founder and President of Technica Communications, as well as Founder of San Francisco’s Women In Cleantech & Sustainability.  Lisa Ann is a former award-winning broadcast journalist who reported for National Public Radio, PBS Television, American Public Media, Free Speech TV and a variety local stations.