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Liveblogging Tips from #BlogChat

Posted on Oct 31st, 2011
Written by Lee Odden
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    Audience SES San Jose 2009 I’ve been liveblogging conferences since about 2005 ranging from ad:tech Chicago thanks to Steve Hall to a brief time working with Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable covering search marketing conferences. Since then TopRank has liveblogged nearly 100 events from SES Hong Kong to Intel’s first Social Media Summit.

    When Mack Collier asked me to join #BlogChat to talk about liveblogging in anticipation of the upcoming BlogWorld Los Angeles conference, I had no hesitation. Liveblogging has helped TopRank Online Marketing and myself personally achieve numerous business and marketing goals at a fraction of the cost and far more effectively than many traditional marketing, advertising and content creation tactics.

    Despite the practice being around for quite a long time, many people have no idea what liveblogging is. In fact, technology and tools have evolved to change much of what it means to liveblog events. It used to be that you’d sit in on a session, write notes into an article and file the story/blog post within 1/2 hours or so after the presentation ended. Now, liveblogging can take the form of live tweeting and then taking those tweets and compiling them into a post later or curating tweets through tools like Storify.

    During the #BlogChat focused on Liveblogging on Sunday night, Mack wanted to focus on two key questions. I’ve taken a stab at listing insights, advice, processes and suggestions for each.

    What are the Top 2-3 things you should know before you attempt to live-blog an event?

    Thanks Mack! Appreciate the opportunity & really looking forward to this. I have a lot more than 2 or 3 (fortunately and unfortunately) I’d like to split my 2-3 things answer into suggestions relevant to pre, during & post even liveblogging. This is by no means a comprehensive post about liveblogging – but a summary and elaboration of what came up during the #blogchat about it.

    Let’s get a handy link out there right away: 12 Live Blogging Tips for Better Event Content Creation

    Pre Event Live Blogging:

    • Answer why, who, what, when, where – Plan for specifics but be open to spontaneity. It’s really useful to have firm ideas about the purpose of liveblogging. For some it’s just a way to capture content for personal use. For others, it’s a way to create content for a blog or even repurpose into a compiled guide of tips for conference attendees. Or it might serve multiple purposes as in my case where I needed to build my writing skills, attend events on a budget and create content. Also, liveblogging can create connections with speakers.There’s an expression I’ve used many times – If you want to get into the media, become the media. Liveblogging was the proxy for me to do that here with Online Marketing Blog.
    • Create suspense – Write a pre-event post, reach out to session speakers for tips, crowd source sessions to cover. I learned this from Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable. Create a grid of sessions you (and/or your team) will be covering during an event.  Pre-event posts will inform your readers and subscribers what’s coming. This can be important if your blog posting frequency goes way up. It also gives you the opportunity to mention the speakers in the post. Their Google Alerts for their names will put you on their radar.I’ve had success with reaching out to speakers beforehand, advising that I’ll be liveblogging their session and to see if they have any tactical tips to share for a pre-event blog post that will promote their session.  A small number of tips from each speaker is easy for them to do, and results in a great compilation.  Here’s an example of where I’ve done that: 37 Tips for Optimizing Blogs and Feeds – SES New York. Obviously it helps if you a c0-speaker or moderator, or if you know at least one of the presenters.
    • Be a media sponsor. TopRankBlog was the 1st Blog Media Sponsor for SES, Pubcon, SMX, eMetrics. Although, we are currently only sponsoring SES and OMS. Being a media sponsor is more than a press pass. It’s mutual exposure for the blogger and the event: online, offline and through email. Advertisers pay huge $$ for sponsorships and media sponsorships used to be reserved to print magazines and large email lists.Not just any blog can become a media sponsor. You really need to be a credible blog in the category with a pre-existing audience. Size and quality of other social networks come in to play besides blog subscribers as well as a healthy email subscriber list. However, getting started liveblogging events that you’re already attending is a great start.
    • Duplicate yourself. There’s only so much you can cover on your own, so recruit other people to liveblog with/for you and you’ll provide mutual exposure as well as another source of great content. Find out if other people are already going to attend the conference or if you have secured a media sponsorship, see if you can give away a free pass as part of your event promotion. Then require the winner to liveblog with you.
    • Be open minded about what “event” means for live blogging. “Real world” conferences, workshops, press events and training sessions are common situations for liveblogging, but also consider virtual conferences, webinars, tele classes (where allowed). There’s a ton of archived content that’s never been blogged. In fact, if you can’t afford to attend conferences, get started with free webinars.  Video archives of conference presentations are also a great opportunity to practice liveblogging skills with the added benefit of being able to replay the video as often as you want.  With webinars, be sure to mention speakers, the event and link to the brand site that hosted the webinar in your blog post. That can get you on their radar.As a speaker in webinars, I’ve suggested to participants that there’s nothing wrong with liveblogging the presentation I’m giving and that has turned into blog posts (and links).
    • Identify specific sessions, topics, approach and a “hook”. Think about style: transcription, running commentary, pure reaction, real time article. There are a variety of formats for liveblogging, so pick a format and even an angle to the session beforehand if you can. This will provide structure to fill in the blanks, providing you know about the topic and the speakers.
    • Live tweeting running commentary can be used as liveblogging. It was suggested during the #blogchat that maybe live tweeting has replaced live blogging. That is true to some extent. As you’ll see from the links at the bottom of this post, curating those live tweets has also replaced roundups and liveblogging to some degree.  It’s easier to do, but not quite as valuable as summarizing highlights and takeaways.  There’s no reason you cannot mix a little of both live tweeting and blogging together.
    • Pre-write portions of the post such as intro, speakers and other language that is fairly predictable.  Having static information pre-written can save time and also adds to the format you’ve decided to follow for liveblogging.
    • Use Evernote then post to WordPress or your blogging platform of choice. Evernote is awesome because you won’t lose your work as can happen with a WordPress glitch or bad internet connection – an inevitability at most conferences. Plus Evernote synchs between devices, which can be handy.
    • Have the right equipment – charged laptop, camera or phone, backup internet source and a power strip. A computer that runs out of battery power just as the keynote speaker finally says something interesting can ruin your entire morning. Same for internet access if posting in a timely manner is important to your liveblogging goals.

    During Event Live Blogging:

    • Get yourself in the right frame of mind and bring the skills. Focus on what you’ll be doing and type FAST. If you don’t type very quickly, then learn. Or you’ll be miserable. Same goes for multi-tasking. Taking photos (and resizing them), live tweeting and writing a 800 word liveblog post within 45 minutes is very doable, but only with lots of practice.
    • Sit in front, take photos, (video is usually a no no at conferences). Smart speakers love livebloggers and may even call you out during their presentation, which helps when you network with others. I’ve never left a conference thinking I’ve taken too many photos or networked with too many new contacts.  I have however, regretted not sitting closer to the front to get a decent photo.  Most people are afraid to sit up front and those are the best seats. Do what others are unwilling or unable to do and you’ll create a competitive advantage from the start.
    • Follow a format. Trying to capture everything that’s said can be boring & impossible, especially if speakers don’t follow any kind of structure. To get a good liveblog post from a session with speakers that ramble, or a topic you’re not super familiar with, just listen for the best quotes, stats and highlights for a “10 tips about topic XYZ post”.
      You can also use some of those nuggets to live tweet with the conference hashtag during the session.

    Post Event Live Blogging:

    • Share your post via social channels & use the event hashtag in the title tag and the body copy. Great content isn’t great until it gets consumed and shared. Over and over again. Help that along by promoting your liveblogging efforts and of course, make it easy to share.
    • Do a roundup post of all that you covered each day or at least at the end of the conference including images, video interviews and tweets. Link to other livebloggers that are covering the same event.
    • Add a post-session video of yourself giving commentary. Do an interview with speakers or with attendees.  Adding multiple media formats can really spice up your liveblogging efforts.

    What are the advantages to live-blogging an event versus simply doing a recap post once you get home?

    Real time isn’t a luxury, it’s expected at events. People are going to get the information from somewhere, why not from you? If you can consistently provide quality live blogging coverage, you’ll win many new friends: speakers, event, media, subscribers and maybe even prospective clients and employees.

    Live coverage meets a need for event attendees, speakers/brands (they view as news coverage) & those not attending However, there’s no rule that you can’t do some kind of real time coverage AND do a recap post once you get home.

    Liveblog coverage is treated as media coverage by many Public Relations departments and that means a link from company newsrooms.

    Live blogging events can take many forms and there are so many ways to gain value from it that there’s really no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. Like anything, if you set goals, make a plan to reach those goals, execute and evaluate the results to refine future efforts, you’ll undoubtedly discover what flavor of live blogging is right for you.

    More about press passes: Since 2005 I’ve been able to attend numerous events due to liveblogging. Initially, I was able to get “sponsored” to liveblog on a press pass. Once basic credentials were established, I was able to secure a press pass for several other events in exchange for pre-show promotion and liveblogging during the event. Then Matt McGowan agreed to have TopRank’s Online Marketing blog as the first blog-based media sponsor of the SES conference and we’ve been working with SES in this regard longer than any other blog. Media sponsorship agreements allow me to bring 1 -4 of my staff to each event to liveblog.  These passes are not a given and must be earned through quality work. The agreements must be renewed each year.

    Today, I rarely ask for (or get) press passes because I speak at nearly all conferences I attend.  However, we do still send staff to liveblog events as part of our media sponsorship agreements.  Over nearly 6 years of liveblogging events, my team and I have benefitted from about 54 press passes. This was not a steady number over each year, as it has fluctuated like a bell curve. 2007 through 2009 were highlight years and the number of staff we send has decreased since. We do plan to increase again in 2012.  I wanted to clarify this from the #blogchat thread, since the 50-60 press passes mentioned includes my team and I.

    Thanks again to Mack Collier for having me on #blogchat and also for everyone that participated. I was great to see friends like @copyblogger, @heidicohen@ed & @rochelleveturis stop by 🙂

    Here are links to a few creative curation and recaps of the Live Blogging #blogchat:

    • Socialscraps curated and organized tweets from the #blogchat via Storify
    • Kristof Top links shared via Tweetreports
    • SmartCollegeVisit collection of tweets from the #blogchat via Storify

    Are you a conference live blogger and what are some of your live blogging tips?