The Beginner’s Guide to Live Reporting from Conferences

I won’t lie to you. Live reporting from conferences is a challenging task. An appointed live reporter needs to listen meticulously, type with lightning speed and publish more or less without typos in real time. But with the rampant uptake of hybrid meetings and the rise of the online attendee, live reporting has the potential to become a vital part of your event content marketing strategy.

But for starters, what do we mean when we talk about live reporting in the context of conferences?

Livereporting is a form of continuous stream of updates that are published in real time in the absence of, or alongside, streaming video. Online reporters use it to deliver the most recent developments in the events that they follow. (1) For viewers, it’s highly engaging as reporters update news every few minutes and provide them with exciting comments in real time.

Despite certain challenges, live reporting has a number of undeniable advantages for event planners and marketers. It allows you to:
  • provide extra context to your online audience
  • increase engagement of your online attendees
  • bookmark event content
  • create content for your blog or the website on the fly
  • extend your event’s lifecycle by sharing captured content
This June, I was asked to report live from the innovative FRESH conference in Barcelona. The main goal was to capture sessions in their entirety; not only what was said, but also the meeting format that the presenters used to deliver their message. While I did not post every few minutes (as many live reporters do), I wrote an average of five longer posts a day that were instantly published.

Here are eight steps detailing how you too can report live from your event:

1. Select your tools

The first step is to choose your word processing tools and publishing platforms. Before you make your choice, think of the content type that you’d like to capture and how you’d like to publish it.
  • Will you simply live tweet?
  • Or will you publish short articles on your blog?
  • Will you also include pictures?

Here are two lists with some powerful tools:

Word processing tools

Google Docs: Live reporting is often a collaborative effort, and Google Docs allow you to share written text with your team members in real time. So everyone always has the latest version.

Evernote: Well I assume you are pretty familiar with this app. With Evernote, you have lots of options to organize your notes, include different content types and have your notes synced across all devices.

Grammarly: This is the ultimate grammar editor that sniffs out any typos and grammar glitches in your texts. It has a great writing mode too.

Hemingway Editor: Hemingway App makes your writing bold and clear. This app helps you make your work concise and up-to-the point, and that’s crucial with live reporting.

Publishing tools

Your blog: This is the homeland of live blogging. You can either have one long blog post that you constantly update or you can publish shorter articles continuously. If you don’t have your own blog, try one of the most popular platforms such as WordPress or Tumblr.

24liveblog: 24liveblog is a simple and powerful cloud-based live blogging platform. You can easily embed it to your website and create a new experience for your readers.

Twitter: Live tweeting is the twin brother of live blogging. They can hardly exist without each other. You can either conduct the entire live reporting on Twitter or tweet the published articles from your blog.

Instagram: Events are treasure troves of beautiful visual content. Capture it and share it here.

Facebook: Facebook is primarily efficient before or after the event. So don’t forget to give your content a second round of exposure once the conference is over.

2. Create your own agenda


Preparing a solid action plan before the conference is the key to nailing live reporting. Because once the event kicks-off, things get going really fast.

Go through the conference program thoroughly, and select the sessions that you plan to report live from. Then create a timeline in your word editor and include the following:
  • session title
  • speaker name
  • Twitter handle
  • session time
  • link to the session description
Make sure to cover the opening session, keynotes and general sessions as they form the backbone of any conference. And in most cases they enjoy the highest online viewership.

On the other hand, selecting from concurrently running sessions might be tricky. Generally, it is quite difficult to assess in advance which one will be preferred among the audience. Pre-select the ones with resonating topics, but be flexible to switch sessions on the go if you see that the audience prefers the other options.


3. Research speakers

Naturally, the session selection process goes hand in hand with researching speakers. A big name does not necessary mean a great presentation. Therefore, a thorough study might be necessary in order to pick up gems from the agenda. When studying the presenters, try to focus on the following:
  • Check youtube videos to see their previous presentations
  • Find out what company they represent and their position in it
  • Get their Twitter handles so you can just copy-paste them into tweets
  • Make sure to get names right and spell them right

4. Synchronize with the team


As a live reporter, you will (most probably) work with a team of people – social media persons, photographers, assistants. Dividing up the roles and synchronizing with the team is crucial to ensure that everything runs smoothly onsite. Have a meeting before the event and discuss the following questions:
  • Who will write reports and which tools will be used?
  • Who will publish the written content?
  • Who will take care of tweeting article links?
  • Will photographers be able to provide you with pictures in real time?
At the FRESH conference, we were a team of three. One team member took care of social media including Facebook updates, live tweeting, picture posting. The second member took photos, did retouches and published the content. And I focused solely on writing live reports from the conference sessions.


5. Be charged


This might sound obvious, but staying charged at a conference is not always easy. Juggling a number of tools and apps drains your laptop and mobile devices very fast. Therefore, find the right spot with power plugs located close enough so you can charge your devices at all times.

Extra tip: Bring a power bank as a backup with you. From my experience, smartphones hardly ever last an entire day of tweeting and using event apps. And you don’t want to miss the highlights because you were searching for a plug. My power bank saved me a number of times when my iPhone got to an alarming 20-10% of battery power.


6. Find the right spot

Arrive at the venue a little early to find yourself a place that you’ll be comfortable with. Proximity to power plugs is crucial, but you also want to have a good view of the stage and speakers so you don’t miss anything.

And photography. Don’t forget about photography. You’ll probably be snapping photos during the event too. You should decide in advance what pictures you want to capture, and how.

What is the best spot for a shot that no one else will have? Is it a close-up of the speakers or a general view of the entire room? Are you positioned at the correct angle to get that shot? Are there any obstacles?


7. Type first and edit later

When the event gets rolling, things happen really fast and information flows at a rapid-fire pace. It’s important to realize that no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to report on every single thing. And that’s fine if you manage to capture the essence.

When the session kicks off, focus on typing, not editing. Edit the text during the breaks. To get familiar with the topic or to fill in missing parts, come back to session descriptions in the agenda to keep you on the right track.


8. Publish and share

Once you write the draft and do initial edits, it’s time to release the article. Depending on how you divided tasks, you’ll either need to do it yourself or, ideally, you’ll have an assistant who will help you format the text, add pictures and release it.

As soon as you have the article published, share it across your social media channels in order to bring it to your online as well as onsite attendees.

During the FRESH conference, my primary role was to capture the session content in writing and provide the final draft. Another team member copied the text from the shared Google Document, added pictures from the photographer and published it on the conference website.

Extra tip: When you use Google Docs for sharing text documents during live reporting, decide on the marker that will indicate that the text is ready to be published. It will make your life a lot easier.

In summary

Live reporting is an exhausting but truly rewarding task. You create tons of valuable content on the fly that you might not be able to produce after the conference. Not only can you bring greater value to your online audience, but you can also significantly extend your event’s lifecycle by sharing the captured content in the weeks or months that follow.

(1) Definition by Wikipedia, Liveblogging

Post written by JURAJ HOLUB

Marketing Manger at Writing blog / Speaker and Event Enthusiast/ Passionate about copywritting, photography and philosophy Follow me on Twitter @Juraj_Holub


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