Yesterday I spoke at SASCON, a conference organized by several Manchester SEOs. The organization did a really good job. The conference was organized for the first time and that meant a lot of things were new to both organizers and visitors. And that made it a refreshing conference. The organization tried to look at as much as possible to make the event a succes. These days I mostly speak at conferences, but as a media partner for some conferences (like the upcoming A4U Expo) I’ve also blogged on conferences a lot.
At conferences you can see a lot of bloggers sitting, mostly in te front row, typing and typing. These girls and guys are covering the event. That’s a good thing, because after all, not everybody can attend the conference. With Twitter it has already become more easy to follow what is going on at a conference but it is still a very nice thing that you can read back blogposts about a conference. Yesterday at SASCON I was especially impressed with bloggers Kieron Hughes and David Towers who managed to get a lot of content out there in very little time. I saw posts coming by from Kieron even before a session was actually finished. That’s a hard work because you have to pay attention and write at the same time.
I have been blogging conferences for years. And I can tell you: it can be a lot of hard work if you want to do it right. That’s why I’ve gathered some tips for those of you who plan on live covering a conference. Just to make the blogging life a bit easier.
Offline preparations: What to bring?
Covering a conference starts with preparations. And the first preparations are offline, not online. It’s about what you bring to a conference. First of all you have to keep in mind what you want to be covering: are you going for ‘just’ the text-coverage or will you also be doing interviews and videos. It does matter off course what you want to bring. If you are doing videos don’t forget to bring your camera and a microphone to go with that. At conferences there usually is a lot of sound so just the camera-mic won’t do it.
I just wanted to highlight a few things you will want to be bringing a long:
An extension cord
One of the things which is usually a scarcity at events is power. Everybody will be looking for that one outlet which will give them power throughout the sessions. If you bring along an extension cord you will probably be in luck because you will be able to not only share power, but also get power when all the outlets are full, just offer the one using the outlet you want to plug into your cord. Be sure to also check what the ‘standard plug’ in the country your visiting is.
Bring your own internet
Another scarcity could be internet. It sounds strange, but on web-conferences much of the time the wifi is a problem. The reason for that is simple: everybody wants to get on it, with their phones, laptops or other devices. If you would go to for example a medical conference the wifi would probably be better because hardly anyone is using it. It could therefore be a very smart idea to bring your own internet. When the conference is in your own country most of you will probably have a mobile internet (3G) subscription. Be sure to bring that along. In some countries, like the UK, its also possible to get a pre-paid card which will get you on the web also and with enough bandwidth, for a well price.
Long before the conference you can start preparing online. You can do much of your work before you set foot on the conference floors.
Prepare the speakers list and bios
As soon as the program is up you can start preparing your posts. Off course try to figure out which sessions you want to attend and which sessions you want to cover. To get good attention it can be a smart idea not to cover the ones everybody will be covering, but to focus on some of the others, although a ‘big name’ can always help in getting some attention.
The speakers list can be a very helpful piece of content. When covering a conference you will be writing about the speakers a lot. It can therefore be very handy to have some of your content ready before the conference starts. An introduction of the speaker, links to the speakers websites and links to their Twitter accounts can be set up beforehand. It will save you a lot of time when you are at the conference.
Set up your social media accounts
If you are covering a conference be sure to have your social media accounts all ready to go. Are you taking pictures? Be sure to have your Flickr account all set up, including folders. Making video interviews? Get your YouTube channel ready. Twittering? Be sure to inform your followers you will be twittering. They might get surprised by the amount of tweets you send out.
At the event
When the conference starts the blogging starts, which means its time for work. But you can make things easier! Not just by preparing, but also by being smart.
Let people know you are there
When covering a conference its important that people know you are there. They can help you provide content, whether it is text, pictures or video. And they can help you out when you’ve missed that one sentence or that one great presentation.
Twitter has become the ultimate event-coverage tool over the past few years. By tweeting out what is said at the conference you can gain a lot of new followers who are all interested in the conference. But even better: you can get information, quotes and more from people also following the conference. Again, if you’ve missed something you can easily find it back.
There is a very important thing when covering a conference: share. Not just share your blogposts and Tweets, but share the content you have with others. Taking pictures? Let others use them! It will help you get your content out and it will help you make friends, who in their turn will give you back some of their content, which makes it even easier for you to blog.
Let others know you are there
At conferences there are many sites which are only gathering all the posts which are written about a specific conference. Usually the organizers themselves also do this. Make sure that they know you are blogging. Tweet it, mail it, tell them. Let it know. It will get you backlinks and traffic.
Finally, the ‘tip of the week’: drink. Not just drink water at sessions but be sure to be in the bar after the conference. You will get have fun, you will make friends and might just get valuable information which will make your blogposts just that little bit more special. Plus, now they know you are there, so they will be looking for (and who knows link to) your content. Try not to get too drunk, but enjoy.