If you’re attending a conference or other event related to your blog’s niche, you might want to consider live blogging from the event. Live blogging is basically just posting regular updates to your blog as the event is taking place, rather than blogging about it after the fact.
Live blogging can be a very valuable resource to your readers if done right. If you take the time and keep focused throughout an event to provide useful information to your readers, they’ll often consider your blog the go-to place for event coverage in your industry. If it’s done poorly, though, all those blog posts will likely just be looked at as filler or fluff by your readers, and may even annoy some to the point they unsubscribe from your RSS feed.
Use the information below to guide you through the live blogging process.
Before the Event
Live blogging requires a bit of preparation that isn’t necessary for regular blogging. The most important thing, of course, is internet access from the event. If you’re a tech blogger, this almost certainly won’t be an issue. But for non-tech events, internet access may not be available, or you may be required to pay. Depending on where the event takes place, broadband wireless through your cell provider might not even be a reliable way to get online.
Check the event’s website or call the organizers to verify internet access. Also be sure to ask whether it’s free or paid, and whether you need to sign up ahead of time. If there’s no internet available, see if they can verify that broadband cell coverage is available. If they can’t, check the website of your provider to see if they have coverage maps available, or call their local sales office to find out.
Beyond internet access, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to cart along your laptop for the event, or if you’re going to try live blogging from a netbook, tablet or cell phone. This is largely going to be dependent on what format your blog posts will be. If you plan to post tons of images, then a phone with a camera might be the best way to go. If your posts are going to be more text-heavy, though, you’ll probably want to opt for something with a keyboard. You can always try blogging from your phone and then switch to a tablet/netbook/laptop if you decide it’s necessary. And nothing says you can’t mix things up and use one gadget for certain parts, and another for other parts of the event.
Another thing to consider before the event is whether you want to live blog everything, or just certain parts. You may want to live blog during a keynote, for example, but otherwise you might just do more traditional blog posts. Look at the schedule for the event and decide which parts are likely to be of interest to your readers, and plan on live blogging those, but consider forgoing the rest.
Choose Your Format
If you’re considering live blogging an event, you probably already have a blog. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use that blog for the event. There are tons of options available to potential live bloggers and choosing the right one can mean the difference between success and failure.
Your Existing Blog
Using your existing blog seems like the most obvious choice. If you plan on using a laptop, netbook, or tablet, it’s no different than blogging from your home or office. You’ll likely want to set up a specific category or tag for the event, to make it easy for people to follow. It’s also a good idea to set up an introductory post.
Alternatively, you can set up a single page or post on your blog for the event, and update that one post throughout a specific workshop, event, day, or other timeframe. For larger conferences, you may want to have posts for each day, or each event within the conference. You might also consider having multiple authors who can blog about simultaneous events.
Using a service like Twitter to live-blog an event can work very well if all you want is a running commentary of the event. While these generally preclude longer posts, it is a good way to give short updates.
If you’re going to use a microblogging service, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. First, check to see if there are any hashtags already associated with the event and make use of them to get a wider audience. If not, create one and publicize it. Another idea is to integrate the microblogging feed with your existing blog. Devote a page to the event and have your feed display there. That way, if you have readers who don’t use the microblogging service you’ve chosen, they can still easily access your live-blogging feed.
Free Blogging Services
Using a free blogging service like Tumblr or Posterous can also work well, especially if you want to blog from your phone. Posting to Posterous is done via email, and Tumblr posting can be done via apps for both the iPhone and Android, so if you use either type of phone you’ll be able to post easily. The Tumblr web interface also seems to work well on smartphones, so that’s also an option.
Choose Your Technology
Again, you’ll need to decide whether to use a phone, laptop, or something in between. The best choice is to use whatever is most comfortable for you. Consider the environment the conference or event is taking place in. Is seating going to be tight? If so, you’ll want to opt for the smallest option that works for your purposes. Consider battery life, too. If you won’t be able to charge during the day, battery life is going to be more important. For this reason, you might also want a backup plan in case your device of choice’s battery dies.
You may want to consider carrying extra batteries, too. If you’ll be staying in a hotel or away from home, make sure you remember all of your chargers, too. Rather than carrying a ton of adapters, consider using a powered USB hub for any of your devices that can charge via USB. This saves space in your luggage and is useful if you need the extra USB ports.
Decide whether you want to carry a camera or video camera ahead of time. If you’re buying new equipment, make sure you have a trial run before the event. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve been recording something for an hour and then when you go to upload to your computer you find either no recording or one that’s blurry or has no sound.
At the Event
There are a number of things you want to keep in mind while actually at the event. First of all, be ready to make mistakes. Live blogging is bound to have some typos, grammatical errors, and sometimes bigger mistakes. It’s unavoidable if you’re trying to blog in as close to real-time as possible.
Be respectful of others around you. Keep whatever technology you’re using to live blog from bothering those near you. This means not taking up multiple chairs or commandeering dining tables with your equipment. If space is going to be tight, use your phone or a netbook/tablet instead of a full-size laptop.
Make sure if you’re using a camera that you’re not using a flash for photos of presenters or speakers. It’s rude and distracting, especially if they have a few dozen flashes going off constantly in the crowd. If the lighting is low, turn up the ISO setting on your camera to compensate, rather than using your flash.
If you’re using your phone, make sure your ringer is set to vibrate or silent before the start of any workshops or events. Having your phone ring in the middle of someone’s presentation is annoying to those around you and should be embarrassing to you. Also, if the lights are set low, make sure you turn the brightness on your phone/laptop/netbook/tablet’s screen down so that it’s not disturbing to others.
Is Live Blogging the Best Idea?
Depending on the event, you might want to reconsider live blogging all together. Some events just aren’t well-suited to it. If something is very in-depth or complicated, blogging it live might be difficult. And if accuracy is paramount to what you’re covering, then taking time to write proper blog posts after the fact is probably a better idea.
You could always take a hybrid approach. Live blog interesting tidbits from the events, or if something interesting or unexpected happens. But then write full blog post(s) covering the event afterward. These could be done immediately following the event, or a day or two later. Just realize that if you wait for a few days you may not have much new to say, and you may not remember everything accurately.
One time when live blogging is almost certainly not a good idea is during a film screening. Whether this is a documentary, a presentation, or an opening, any kind of device that lights up is going to be distracting to those around you. Blog away before and after the event, but refrain from posting updates during the film itself.
Beyond Live Blogging
Don’t just limit your live coverage of an event to your blog. Consider all the other ways you can reach out through social media to provide coverage. Set up a Flickr pool of images just from the event, and allow others to post to it. Use sites like Ustream.tv for live video feeds. We’ve already touched on using sites like Twitter, Tumblr, or Posterous for alternatives to just posting on your primary blog.
Live Blogging Tools
There are a few tools out there available to help you with liveblogging an event. Some are stand-alone services, while others are plugins for existing blog platforms.
Live Blogging for WordPress
Live Blogging is a great plugin that lets you create a single post that can then be updated live (without requiring users to refresh the page in their browser). Updates are automatically marked with the time, and display in reverse-chronological order (with the most recent posts on top).
CoverItLive is a live blogging service that can be integrated via an iFrame into another website or blog. In addition to text updates, CoverItLive also lets you post images, video and audio content. CoverItLive also has a number of other features, including commenting, polls, panelists, and RSS feeds.
ScribbleLive is a platform specifically for collaborative liveblogging. It lets users embed images, video, and other multimedia content, as well as integrate your ScribbleLive feed with your existing website or blog.