I was poking around the comments on my Preparing to Live Blog an Event post and came across a conversation about live blogging events at ProBlogger that made me think more about how I’m going to handle single-handedly “live blogging” a 3-day conference. The discussion also made me think more about what exactly “live blogging” means.
The social media maven for nonprofits Beth Kanter defined Live Blogging as: “basically taking notes, photos, or recordings at lectures, conferences, and presentations of what was said and posting it to your blog.” (quote found here) I agree with Kanter’s basic definition, but for anyone who hasn’t tried live blogging before, I think this definition isn’t detailed enough.
If I had to define live blogging, I’d define it this way:
“Live (multimedia) blogging is capturing the words, sounds, and images at an event and posting them online to a variety of Web 2.0 enabled sites with the goal of sharing the experience for those who cannot attend while preserving key moments in an archive.”
Here are some more of my thoughts about live blogging.
1. The view is skewed.
I think that there is no way to avoid the fact that each live blogger will bring their own personal perspectives, experiences and understandings to the multimedia content they share. Is this good or bad? I think it can be both. Knowing where a live blogger is coming from is key – although they will quickly reveal their POV after a few posts.
Should a live blogger remain totally neutral? Sure, like a journalist should. Is that realistic? Not at all, but it is worth striving for. When I live blog the upcoming 3-day event, I’ll be covering specific sessions requested by my client. However, I may hear things differently than others in the room because I’m not in the same field as the attendees. That can be a good and bad thing. The client sees it as a good thing as I will likely bring a fresh perspective to the coverage.
2. Live Blogging doesn’t necessarily mean real-time.
I think some people mistake live blogging for real-time coverage, which you can’t really achieve if you are typing, even if you are a phenom typist. So unless you stream live video or audio, you can’t consider live blogging real-time. With microblogs like Twitter, you can certainly attempt near-real-time live blogging, but if you’re flying solo like I am, I’m not as concerned about near-real-time or real-time.
In my case, the goal isn’t to create a real-time experience for people who cannot attend. If that were the case, I’d stream it all live using Ustream.tv, Qik.com, Justin.tv or another such site. I’d even look into CoverItLive which many live bloggers are raving about. But the tools you choose are based on your goals.
My goal is to carry out a proof of concept, demonstrating how Web 2.0 tools can work in concert to create a rich, dynamic and unique presentation of an event that can be distributed/shared and archived for future reference. They key is to know your goals before live blogging and pick and choose the tools and methodology that will best achieve those goals.
3. Live blogging needs to be “vibed.”
By “vibed” I mean that the live blogger should use their social media instincts to pick and choose the right medium at the right time for the right effect. I don’t think that there is any way to dictate in advance which tools you will be using at what point of the live blogging project. Each session requires a creative gut check.
If one session features an incredibly dynamic speaker, a little live video streaming might be in order. If another speaker relies heavily on PowerPoint, a few photos of choice presentation slides could pepper a culling of key points that are posted as text quotes. Picking up audio often can be helpful, especially during post production to fill in the gaps and go back to post quotes that you missed during the session.
I don’t think a live multimedia blogger has to feel obligated to use all tools or stress out over using more of one over the other. Sometimes the decision of what medium to go with is also a comfort level. A writer may lean more toward text, a photographer more toward still images, a videographer more toward video. The key is to be open to the instinct to grab an audio recorder when that feels like the tool needed at the moment or even to put down the digital tools altogether and use pen and paper for a while then transcribing the notes later.
4. Go deeper.
Because I’m not attempting to document every moment of every session I attend but instead to capture standout moments (which, of course, will be subjective based on the way my brain responds during a session), I want to supplement the session content. I’ll be conducting spot interviews with panelists and speakers before and/or after sessions in a catch as catch can fashion.
Having been a reporter for a number of years now, I feel very comfortable posing a few questions to total strangers. Not everyone feels comfortable interviewing others, however, so that activity would not be in their bag of tricks. I’ll toggle between video interviews with my Flip camera and audio interviews with my Roland Edirol. I’ll also grab interviews with session attendees to get their feedback and takeaways.
5. Flexibility is key.
If I happen to have my Nikon Coolpix still camera in hand at an opportune moment to grab a soundbyte, I’ll just use its digital video capabilities rather than digging through my bag for another device. If the wifi goes down for a while, I’ll just type my text offline and archive images, video and audio to be pasted into a blog post later. If one device runs out of juice, I have several fallbacks and won’t stress over it.
Live blogging isn’t about perfection. It is about spontenaity and point of view. It is a collage and montage. It should be dynamic, organic and flexible. Too much structure or rigidity can kill a live blogging project (or the live blogger).
6. Do your homework.
I’m going to score over the session descriptions and panelist and speaker bios and make some notes to trigger some interview questions and give me some background as a framework. But I’ll also be careful not to let the description or bio color my perspective or limit my thinking.
How many times have you attended a session based on what the description said only to find that it wasn’t about anything related to the blurb? In those cases, we often spend more time examining the disconnect than we do listening to the actual presentation – we’re so worried that we’re in the wrong room or peeved that the description wasn’t accurate. Just letting go and being open to the new, unexpected information is important – especially as a live blogger.
7. Be at the top of your game.
For me, getting plenty of sleep, limiting my evening alcohol intake to one glass of wine, and drinking plenty of water is key to being fresh and alert for work as is eating carefully to keep my energy level up and sugar level even. I’m partial to eggs for breakfast and fish or chicken with a salad for lunch. I need to avoid caffeine until I can no longer avoid it and try to take it in the form of chocolate when my energy really starts to flag after lunchtime. While I love the clarity my brain thinks it has with coffee, the crash is often too staggering to be productive.
Another very important tip for any live blogger: Identify the nearest bathroom at all times. Then run your audio or video device while you are taking a bathroom break to review later and see if you missed any nuggets.
8. Not all live blogging is public.
My challenge live blogging the 3-day event is that the client wants all the elements to be private. I had to verify that each site I’m using online offers private posting. Twitter does. As does Utterz. And Vimeo for video (as well as YouTube, of course). Also, I have a feeling that those who cannot attend this conference don’t have the time to sit around and watch Twitter and the blog all day to see what new content has popped up. I think they’ll eventually poke around out of curiosity when pointed to the archive of content from the client’s e-newsletter or web site home page.
Knowing who you are live blogging for is just as important as knowing why you are live blogging. A non-techie audience will be much more forgiving about the speed of posting because frankly they are just not that into the instant gratification of Twitter, Seesmic and the like.
What other things do you do or think about as you prepare to live blog?