Extracted from an internal post by my colleague, Anne-Marie Imafidon, who wrote about her experience organising the live-blogging of a senior management offsite conference - bringing the conference live "to our desks".
Before the Event
- Plan what to say - What is the angle? Who is your audience? Who is blogging? At the conference 5 VP delegates were nominated to aptly represent what was going on, for the benefit of those not in attendance. They had a clear image of those sat at their desks whilst writing and made sure that they used appropriate language in all of their posts. They also related content to previous sessions and communications that the group would have received. They had the question 'if I wasn't here, which bit would I want to know about?' in their minds as they took notes, drafted and redrafted their posts. Have a copy of the schedule before the conference starts, so you can be prepared for what is coming, and divide coverage up, if necessary. The VPs paired up and two of them took notes on each session. They then either published one piece (written by one, edited by the other) or published two pieces, from differing perspectives. Ultimately the content is far more important than the tool.
- Establish a hashtag before the conference. Click on hashtag gives you everything to do with the conference, no matter where it was posted, or who posted it. This includes status updates and related conversations all over the platform. It also means that any references to the conference can be tied together, giving a full view of what went on. I'd also suggest that you promote this tag, so that others who want to join the conversation can do so easily.
- Know your way around the Jive platform on the device you intend to use. There is little that can be done to mitigate against dodgy internet connections and faulty VPNs (other than only ever using 3G iPads above ground). You can however prepare yourself and your fellow livebloggers by getting acquainted with your iPad/iPhone/Laptop and its respective Jive interface before the conference. This means that you'll already know your password and fewer things can go wrong - you won't post your blog in the wrong place, or post a status update instead of a blog post. It also means that you'll be able to format text without much help and will be familiar with tagging your contributions well.
- Decide whether you'll have a tweetwall. This seems to be the norm at certain external conferences. Will you allow attendees to also follow the conversation going on? Some say it is distracting, but considering the conversation matches what's going on in the room, it's not as distracting as you'd think. It also allows there to be an 'extra person' in the room, contributing to the discussion. This is a great way to include the wider population in the conversation in real-time. That's definitely a win for engagement, if nothing else. Having a tweetwall makes it easier for the moderator to include the 'extra person' in proceedings too.
During the Event
- Support needs patience. I can't say this enough. Things will go wrong. We had to try three times to get the Global Head of the division onto the Jive platform (due to some of the above not being done for him in advance). In the end, two iPads, one laptop and a couple of hours later he had read the entirety of the contributions, and made some (verbal) comments. If the technology falls to pieces in your hands, it's not your fault. Have patience with your devices, and..
- Have some backups and alternatives. For 5 livebloggers we had 7 iPads and two laptops. In the end, some of the posts were written on iPads/Blackberries and then emailed/pastebinned onto laptops to be put into the Jive platform. We made the technical problem as small as possible. The livebloggers were able to write their contributions, have them edited and checked by the necessary people before having to worry about posting.
- Ask open questions to solicit feedback. As previously mentioned, a senior executive brought content from the discussions into the room. Another blogger also began a discussion to garner feedback and ideas from the crowd. This generated extra discussion that was exclusive to the division’s population on the Jive platform but directly correlated to (and useful for) those at the conference. Another win for engagement, especially if(/when) senior management take up the sentiments and run with them.
- Only include what's necessary or needed. We included only the necessary details for those at their desks to feel a part of the experience. There was no need for a blow-by-blow summary of panel discussions or breakdown of the evening menu. The group did well to identify what the 'exclusive gossip' element of their coverage would be. This worked well for those at their desks, as an antidote to the official schedule and presentation summaries.
- Be dynamic, change your overview page. This was something spur of the moment that worked well. The page should change as the conference moves forward. We initially put up detailed profiles of the bloggers. Pre-conference this was great, to build anticipation. During the conference, this isn't necessary. Those visiting the group wanted to see live updates, not pretty faces. We changed the layout and changed some of the intro text to present tense. Post conference, I've changed to past tense, cleaned up some tags, added new ones and am allowing the 'Popular Content' to surface (rather than chronological Recent Content). As with any overview page, as a Curator you should be highlighting the best content and you shouldn't be afraid to move widgets around. Nothing's set in stone.
- Choose your content types. We mainly used blogs and discussions. During the conference, others contributed with Status Updates. I don't think anyone feels a great loss because few photos have been used. Be smart as to which content types are needed and which ones will help drive the message. Key quotes work well as blog titles and 'Mr X has just entered the room!' works well as a status update. Longer quotes and summaries work well as blog posts, with @mentions and good tags.
After the Event
- Wrap it all up with good ol'fashioned Comms. You can leave the good, meaty bits of the message for Comms as everything during the conference has been light and live rather than considered and in depth. What messages do the organisers want to convey officially? What have been the major takeaways? Comms has a great job of doing a roundup and highlighting significant moments, then linking back to the relevant live blogs.
- Tell the people at home about what's happened. This may be a Storify style roundup on the Jive platform or it may be a quick note out to your network, to let them know that your posts are still (and will for a while be) available. It's not too late for them to chime in, or include issues discussed at their next team or project meeting. You might provoke a few reflective blog posts. Also, communicate statistics. Everyone wants to know that there were over 2000 views in under a week - they were either a part of that or they've been missing out.