|Check it out: The SEJ2007 unofficial conference blog.|
I’ve been working hard lately to get the unofficial conference blog up and running for the 2007 conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists. This blog will be authored by a team of volunteer bloggers — SEJ members and others attending the conference.
Whenever I do one of these conference blogs, the volunteers always want guidance on what they should write about. In this case, I expect most of our contributing bloggers will come from print media. They know how to write, but they’ve probably never blogged before — and most of them also have little or no experience in creating any content specifically for online media.
Consequently, they aren’t familiar with conference blogs. That’s fine — many people aren’t, although that’s starting to change. I’ve worked on some conference blogging efforts, so I’ve pulled together a list of 10 kinds of posts that work well on conference blogs.
As with any conversational media effort, it helps to know your audience, as well as your community of contributors (both bloggers and commenters). What skills and expertise do they bring to the table? What do they want? Ultimately, that should be your guide.
Here’s my list…
CONTEXT: This list doesn’t represent the only kinds of content that work on a conference blog. Obviously, there are lots of ways to use a blog to cover or discuss a conference or similar gathering. Conference bloggers can be creative, too. If you have additional ideas, please comment below — and give links, if possible!
10 WAYS TO USE A CONFERENCE BLOG:
- Covering conference sessions and events, whether live or after the fact. This can range from traditional reporting (articles) to simply sharing a cleaned-up version of your notes from the session — or even excerpting a few choice quotes (such as a Q&A exchange) to share. It helps to refer to the event as it is listed in the agenda, so people can easily find coverage.
- Personal impressions and observations. What meaning did you take away from a particular session or event? Was there a gaping omission in the keynote speaker’s address? Did a workshop teach you something that you’re excited to put to use on the job?
- Photos. Posting pictures is a great way to involve people who wanted to attend the conference but couldn’t. Whether from socializing, tours, or sessions, photos can powerfully convey the flavor of a gathering.
- Handouts and online resources. Presenters can create blog posts to serve as an online handout, where they list links and other resources that will be referenced in the session. Also, they can upload printed handouts in PDF form. This also can be great for session followup — that is, presenting additional links and resources that ended up getting mentioned in the session which weren’t covered in the prepared handout.
- Extending discussion. Panel sessions and other live events are great — especially the Q&A. However, face time is always limited. Got a question that the speaker didn’t have time to address? Turn it into a blog posting, and invite the speaker (or others) to comment in response. (This is one reason why speakers should always mention their e-mail address during sessions.)
- Personal tales. Usually conferences are organized around some sort of pre-existing community — whether a membership organization like SEJ, a community of interest like BlogHer, etc. People care about people — and a blog is not a newspaper. Therefore, I think it’s fine to use a conference blog to share anecdotes like a great conversation you had with a colleague while you were both delayed at the same airport en route to the conference, or what happened at the hotel bar late Saturday night. Of course, it’s important to respect people’s privacy and make sure the overall tone of the blog engages and satisfies the core community of readers (i.e., striking the right balance between informational content and personal tidbits). But sometimes, personal tidbits can be the most popular posts on a conference blog.
- Video and audio. As with photos, multimedia can help explain what happened at the conference. Also, on-site interviews with speakers, organizers, attendees, exhibitors, and others can be just as illuminating.
- Tracking coverage. Many conferences end up sparking coverage in mainstream news outlets, trade press, or in blogs, forums, and elsewhere online. Highlight and link to that from the conference blog.
- Setting the stage for in-person discussion. Is your community facing a controversial or otherwise important issue? Exploring that issue in thoughtful blog posts can serve as a platform for useful, productive in-person conversation (and perhaps even decision or actions) at the gathering. This can be especially important for nonprofit or professional organizations’ conferences, which generally include membership meetings and board elections.
- Followup. What happened as a result of the conference? Got a good example of how you put a new technique learned at the conference to use in your work? Do you have kudos or critiques for the conference team? Did you end up getting a job or project because of a contact made at the conference? Did you feel the conference experience was worth the time, money, and effort?
…Again, these are just a few ways to blog a conference. There are many, many more. For a different way to look at this topic, see Ross Mayfield‘s February 2004 post on conference blogging.
As for me, I’m considering the SEJ2007 group blog an experiment. Will it “succeed?” We’ll see. Actually, I’m mainly interested in learning effective ways to encourage a group of journalists and related media pros to collaborate in a public, conversational-media project. In that sense it’s already a success for me.
But will this blog “succeed” for the SEJ community, as well as the larger community of people interested in how environmental news gets covered? Again, we’ll see. I think if we get a good mix of fairly straightforward coverage of sessions and events, as well as posts focused on fun, people, issues, and questions, people will read it and enjoy it. If we attract inbound links, that’ll be great. If we spark lively discussion (in the blog comments or elsewhere), that’ll be great. If we extend the value of the conference after everyone goes home from Burlington, fabulous.
The SEJ conference runs Sept. 5-9 at Stanfor University. Watch the unofficial conference weblog and tell me how you think it’s succeeding — or not. It’s a public weblog (for reading and commenting) and we welcome input from anyone.