How to Live-Blog a Conference

By Kendra Canty, April 4, 2014

Live-blogging is becoming increasingly popular for conference coverage—and for good reason. It creates extra opportunities to include virtual attendees, provides additional exposure for an event and facilitates conversation among the audience. Communicating with off-site followers via social media has become equally widespread. If your organization has a blogging platform, task one of your staff members—a social media strategist, editor or another staff member—to live-blog the event and integrate social media into the strategy. Here’s the five-step process on how to do it:

1. Be prepared. Write posts prior to the event to let the audience know what to expect and what will be shared on the blog. Create a loose game plan for the event, including what panel sessions you want to cover. Also, know how many blog entries your team plans to post during the day. “Two to three blog posts per day is optimal,” says Hanna Aase, social media expert and founder of tech startup Wonderloop. “Minimize blogging and supplement with other social media platforms to send short, quick updates throughout the day.”

2. Utilize Twitter as a public note-taking forum for blog updates. Rehanna Jones, social media strategist for United Nations Development Programme, handles coverage of the Social Good Summit, which brings together global leaders to discuss innovation. She stresses the importance of using a conference hashtag to encourage conversation among a broader audience and promoting the hashtag well before the conference kicks off. “Always be on the lookout for what your audience is responding to,” says Jones. “For us, we found our posts about poverty and women were frequently being retweeted, so we made an effort to post often on those topics and used the hashtags #poverty and #women in addition to the conference tag #2030Now.” She also notes that posts containing percentages frequently are favorited and retweeted.

3. Create a separate but integrated photo blog using social media platforms like Instagram, Vine, Flickr and Tumblr. Don’t simply tell your audience what’s going on at the event; show them. Ben Fitch, digital photo editor for National Geographic, along with four other National Geographic photographers, used Instagram to photoblog all three days of the Social Good Summit for United Nations Foundation. “Followers seemed to really like photos of the big-name panelists, as well as behind-the-scenes images that weren’t accessible to the public,” Fitch says. For example, a black-and-white still portrait of Malala Yousafzai, renowned education activist and victim of Taliban violence, garnered 315 likes between Fitch’s personal post and UN Foundation’s regram of the image on Instagram. Fellow National Geographic photographer David Coventry says, “To save yourself valuable time, create a generic tagline that quickly explains the conference, copy and paste it to each photo, and then share your images via other platforms.” Jones says her UNDP team implemented Vine into its social strategy because of the platform’s growing popularity among millennials. A live blogger can use these apps to shoot very brief profiles of various panelists before or after they go onstage or lead breakout sessions, or conduct quick interviews with audience members and organizers about their responses to various aspects of the conference. Get creative. And again, hone posts according to what followers are responding to.

4. Piece your public notes together. After plenty of tidbits have been posted on social media, they can be woven together appropriately through a blog post. It might be a simple recap of the day’s panel discussions; a photo-packed, behind-the-scenes look into what’s happening around the conference; or an end-of-the-day list of popular tweets that included the conference’s hashtag, like Social Good Summit employed. Think about which social posts engaged your audience most, and use that information to write a blog post. End the blog by asking followers a question: What did they find most interesting or enjoyable during the conference? What image or tweet particularly resonated with them? Emphasize that their voice is valuable by encouraging conversation.

5. Don’t underestimate the sharing power of a catchy headline. Mark Horoszowski, co-founder of the global “experteering” network MovingWorlds, stresses this point: “You have to grab your readers’ attention with your title. Information is being thrown at them constantly in all of their social network streams.” Rephrasing a ho-hum headline can dramatically affect the number of clicks a blog post receives. For example, “Highlights of This Networking Panel” can be reworded as “5 Networking Secrets That Will Transform Your Social Media Following.” People love to feel like they are being let in on secrets or tricks, so be bold and creative with the headline. A solid title is the only bridge between your blog readers and the content.


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