Soon it will be spring conference season, and you’ll be hitting the conference circuit. Conferences can provide fantastic material for blogging. In fact, I’ve seen many people get their start in blogging by guest-blogging from conferences for a blogger who can’t attend.
Blog coverage of conferences is getting its share of visibility these days – from the ability of blogs to cover conference developments faster than many main stream media outlets, to suspicion surrounding conferences that don’t allow blogging.
In the past few years, I’ve blogged from numerous conferences. Blogging from a conference helps me immerse myself in event — probably coming away with more than I would otherwise.
So I’d like to share few things I’ve learned from conference blogging. I’m envisioning this as a three-part series. The first installment (this one) covers some basics – you as the communicator. The second offers some tips on how to get the most from your blog in conjunction with conferences. The final installment talks about some ideas for posting video from conferences on your blog.
1 – Start with the basics. We’re not all trained journalists (and don’t need to be), but it’s important to help readers understand the key facts and features before you delve into opinion and commentary. Those facts and features include: Where and when you’re blogging, what the event is about, who’s participating, how the event got started and how it’s unfolding, and why you’ve deemed the event worthy of your readers’ attention.
2 – Master the interview. One way to launch your career as a conference blogger is to interview speakers and attendees, sharing their opinions with your readers along with your own commentary. If you decide to do this, remember that often times the most interesting interviewees aren’t the keynote speakers, and, for that matter, they may not be presenting at the conference at all. The most interesting interviews may well be those with people you happen to meet over coffee first thing in the morning, long before sessions have begin for the day.
Start conversations with people you meet at an event. Let them know you’re blogging. Look for opportunities to speak informally with attendees and get a sense of their interests and passions relating to the event. If you meet someone who knows very little about the event or industry, but for some reason felt that they should attend, perhaps you can turn this into a story. You might ask why the individual decided to attend the event, how accessible they’re finding the material, and ways they think the event could be improved to make it easier for newcomers to get involved.
It’s perfectly fine to work from a template or script when pursuing your interviews. Jotting down a few basic questions for yourself can help jump-start conversations and interviews. Below are a few. With a bit of tweaking, you can make each of these relevant to the angles of the conference you hope to cover.
What do you hope to learn from this conference?
What are your top few takeaways from this event?
What ideas or products interest you, and why?
What will you go home and share with your colleagues and friends about this conference?
Which sessions resonated with you, and why?
3 – Make it interesting. Straight session notes make for boring reading. If you’re used to using your blog as a place to take notes, mention to your readers that you’ll follow up with some thoughts and analysis at a later date, and then do it. Your readers will appreciate the extra time you’ve taken to provide your individual opinion and insight, no matter what the topic.
4 – Narrow your focus. You don’t need to cover everything. If you’re covering an event for your own blog, then you’re probably already familiar with the kinds of topics that will interest your readers. Seek sessions and individuals that connect with those topics, and begin looking for angles there. Your readers will appreciate specificity. Many times, specificity will come from writing on topics you’re passionate about.
If you’re covering an event for a blog that’s not your own – perhaps as an invited guest blogger, have a conversation with the blog editor or readers familiar with the blog as a way of exploring possible story angles connected to the conference. It may be appropriate to cover a session or single track of sessions. In doing this, you’ve effectively sharpened the scope of your writing – a good thing.
Next in the series on conference blogging: You’ve mastered the nuts and bolts of conference blogging, now take advantage of everything blogs have to offer and push your conference blogging to the next level.
Note: The feature photo is one I took of Rahul Choudaha (then of Indian School of Business) while I was blogging the 2006 AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers) annual conference in San Diego.