59 Chats and Counting: Hosting an Online Chat the SmallBizLady Way

Veteran business coach Melinda F. Emerson, president, MFE Consulting, LLC, is a woman on a mission and that mission is to end small business failure. Knowing the critical importance of building a strong network, Emerson turned to Twitter and began hosting SmallBizChat in April of 2009.  “I wanted to create a vehicle for start-up and emerging entrepreneurs to ask questions in a safe environment and learn about things that could come up as a problem in their small businesses down the road.”

Melinda Emerson, SmallBizLadyTogether with Cathy Larkin (@cathywebsavvypr) as co-host, and her virtual assistant, Sonia Schenker (@yourjobmyoffice) who transcribes the chat, these three women have built a following that draws over a hundred participants contributing more than 800 tweets for the hour-long chat. 

Even with 59 chats under her belt, Emerson doesn't claim to know it all. “I learn something every week. Technology is great, but it is not guaranteed to work. There are limits to communicating in 140 characters.”

To compensate for these limitations, Emerson not only publishes the chat's transcript, but also publishes a Q&A from each #Smallbizchat on her blog every Thursday morning, following the chat so that  people who do not use Twitter can benefit from the information as well.

SmallBizLady formula for a successful online chat

1. Use a script.  Emerson posts questions for the experts using Q1 for the first question, Q2, Q3, and so on, with answers carrying the notation A1, A2, etc. to make it easy to follow the conversation and the transcript.

2. Have an expert guest and network of supporters who will chime in and add great value to the conversation.

3. Publish a Q & A the next day for non-Twitter users.

Emerson is finding chats work.  "As a small business coach, my mission is to end small business failure.  #Smallbizchat is one way that I work towards my goal."

#SmallBizChat takes place every Wednesday at 8 p.m., Eastern. You're invited to follow Melinda Emerson @SmallBizLady on Twitter.

From Handshake 2.0:

Melinda Emerson is a Virginia Tech alumna and spoke at Virginia Tech on March 16, 2010.


Z. Kelly Queijo is the founder of SmartCollegeVisit and a frequent contributor ro Handshake 2.0. You're invited to follow SmartCollegeVisit on Twitter, @collegevisit where she hosts #CampusChat on Wednesdays at 9 PM Eastern, immediately following #SmallBizChat.

Those posts by Z. Kelly Queijo may also be of interest:

Easy Ways to Keep in Step with a Twitter Chat
How to Rock on a Twitter Chat
Twitter Tools for #CampusChat

Handshake 2.0's Anniversary Party 2.0
An Android Pretty in Pink


  1. Z. Kelly—

    Thank you so much for highlighting what we do at #smallbizchat. Wednesday is my favorite day of the week, and we do the chat because we love entrepreneurs. I am thrilled that it is helping create and grow stronger small businesses.

    Melinda Emerson

  2. ZKQ: The truth is, as a pink-slip entrepreneur, I’ve gotten much more out of Smallbizchat than I’ve put into it. Melinda, Cathy and all of the Smallbizchat guests and regulars have been an enormous resource for me as I grow my own business.

    Thanks so much for the kind mention! Warm regards, Sonia (@yourjobmyoffice)

  3. Sonia, I find your comment so interesting because I feel the same way. I read/observe/study/lurk around #SmallBizChat but what I really should say is “I learn.” And, in doing so, I learned about your and your business and find your concept fascinating and relevant! Guess we’re both learning a lot form Melinda’s chat.
    Thanks for commenting,

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