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Live Blogging Tips at SXSWi

So here I sit in the DFW airport hanging out with David Berkowitz waiting for my connection to Austin. What better way to spend that 45 min than to write a helpful blog post? A big part of my “mission” for SXSXi is to create content after all.

I have several other goals like networking (reconnecting and especially new contacts), competitive research, recruiting and potential client prospecting. But content marketing is our bread and butter. It can be an effective tactic for you too, especially if you can learn to be highly efficient at liveblogging conferences.

Here are a few tips that will not only give you a tested and proven guideline but should improve your efficiency and quality of output.

  • Create a schedule. Whether you're blogging on your own or with a team, pick which sessions and related topics you plan on covering before the event. SXSWi has almost too many concurrent sessions and with such a large event, not planning will lead to getting to sessions late. That means a crappy seat in back and likely not anywhere near an outlet.It's very easy to get distracted while at the conference and with live blogging, there's no time to waste. If you know which sessions you'll be covering, it can help to create draft blog posts ahead of time and include as much information in the draft as you can. This will make it easier to finish off the post as close to the session time as possible.
  • Plan ahead. When planning out which sessions, interviews or events you'll cover, put together a grid showing session names, times and who should be covering (if you're part of a blogging team). Coordinate sessions coverage avoids duplication and ensures the topical mix of content you plan on covering is properly represented.
  • Write the posts offline in an application like notepad. Then transfer the post to the blog. Many session rooms have poor if any internet connection at all. Make posts in an offline document and transfer them over to your blog software when you're ready to publish.
  • Take photos. Photos of the panel or an individual speaker are great and can add a lot to what otherwise would be a text heavy post. Photos of the PowerPoint slides can be particularly useful if the presented goes fast or doesn't follow a logical order. You can reference them later when finishing the blog post after the session ends. With photos, we've set up a TopRank Blog account at Flickr just for conferences. There, we create a “set” for each conference event and are sure to link to those collections of photos from within the blog posts.
  • Promotion tips for conference photos on Flickr: Be sure to add titles and descriptions to each photo. Include an anchor text link from the description back to the blog post it's used with. With your Flickr account, be sure to network with other Flickr members that would be interested in conference photos. The more relevant people in your Flickr network, the more people that “see” what photos you're posting. Images taken through out the day and eve should be uploaded, titled, tagged and commented/linked before the next morning.
  • Take videos. Just about ever digital camera can take web quality video. We added 4gb memory cards over an hour of video for each camera can be taken. Interviews with attendees, speakers and exhibitors are particularly popular. You must keep in mind that with large companies, employees can rarely do a video interview without approval from their Legal and/or PR departments, so you need to schedule those ahead of time. You also need to be aware of the video taping policy of the conference. Most events do not want you to take videos of the sessions themselves.
  • Add some flavor to your videos. You don't necessarily need a pro level of post-video production to get good promotion value out of conference videos. You should however, be sure to use software like Windows Movie Maker (free) to add text to the video indicating the topic and your blog URL. Also, set up a channel on YouTube as a way to organize and promote your posts along with accounts at other video sharing sites.
  • Sit close to the panel AND the screen. Also, if there is just one large screen in the room, sit between that and the panel. That way you can get clear photos of both the panel and PPT slides. If you have one of the most common digital cameras, don't bother with a flash if you're not close to your subject.
  • Network with other bloggers. When in the sessions or in the press room (if you're blogging on a press pass) be sure to connect with other bloggers. You have something in common — the formidable task of taking a mix of presentations, some great and some psychotically unorganized, and turning them into a story that makes sense to a savvy search marketing audience — all in real time. Connecting with other bloggers both offline and online can facilitate information sharing as well as links.
  • Promote your posts. Once your posts go live, then be sure to make an effort to promote the posts to your network and to interested social communities. For example, promote screen shots of your videos to Flickr with a link to the video post. Let interview subjects and other bloggers know when you've posted. Leverage your social community networks (StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, Facebook and niche/vertical specific sites) to draw attention to particularly “promotable” content.
  • Tag your posts and media. For some conferences, the organizer will advise the attendees to use a specific tag to make it easy for readers to find posts specific to that event. For SXSW, people are using both #SXSW and #SXSWi for the interactive portion. Generic tags are also useful. Use these tags not only with your blog posts and Technorati, but also with photos, video and social bookmark/news submissions.
  • Establish a few basic blogging guidelines or simple processes. Here are a few that we start with:
    • Create drafts of posts BEFORE the conference with notes.
    • After sessions posts are saved in draft form.
    • All posts must have images, ideally of the session panel.
    • All posts are associated with relevant categories and tags.
    • Alternate title tags with keywords are written.
    • Post titles start with a consistent naming convention along with a short description.
    • Once posts are edited, editor makes them live.
    • Better quality posts are vetted for promotion within blogger networks.
    • Round up posts are published at the end of each day or at the end of the conference.

The biggest takeaway for better liveblogging is to plan ahead and follow through with promoting your content once it's live. What liveblogging tips have you found to be effective? Any tips or tricks on being more efficient?

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