Conferences and industry events are always a thrill.
You get to travel, schmooze and booze with peers and colleagues for a few days and you’re usually put up in a pretty swanky hotel for the occasion.
So when my editorial director, Vanessa Roberts, told me that she would be the only one from our team going to Las Vegas to cover the 2012 EMC World conference, I wept a little inside. All the lights, the glamour, the slot machines, the smell of geekiness. I’d miss out on it all while I sat here at my desk in Washington D.C.
But the truth is that with social media and the Internet, I never missed a beat.
Having covered a few technology conferences from the safe confines of my office space, I’ve now learned the value of having people both on location at an event and back at home base for support.
I’ve actually become good enough at it that I had a few vendors e-mail me about stopping by their booth at the show. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was actually nowhere near Vegas but rather sitting comfortably in D.C.
Here are a few tips I’ve gathered from my experience in remote event coverage.
1. Follow the Hashtag
Twitter’s hashtag system is a simple and easy way to keep track of any event. Most conferences will supply an official one, but sometimes, users might rebel and create their own on the fly. Before the conference, save the official hashtag as a search in your Twitter client and add any variations that you come across during the actual event.
2. Pictures and Video Tell It All
More conferences are offering official video streams in high quality these days, which makes it easy to tune into all the action on the ground. But if you can’t keep up with the activity with real-time video, search for tweets with photos and video clips.
Almost everyone has a camera-equipped smartphone, which means almost everyone is an amateur reporter these days. Check Flickr and Twitter for images and search YouTube and Twitvid for any videos that may have been uploaded by users at the conference.
3. Turn to the Blogs to Fill in the Gap
Chances are you’re not the only one who wasn’t able to make it out to that conference you’re looking for information on. Bloggers and news outlets know this, so they make an effort to provide quick updates and highlights from conferences that they cover. Do a Google search for your event and filter the results by news and blogs sources. Even better, you can set up a Google alert so that you keep up with all the latest content about the conference you’re covering.
Armed with this combination of social media monitoring, crowdsourcing and media watching, I’m able to pull off conference coverage that keeps my readers in the loop and supports the overall editorial effort around the event.
This auxiliary support for event coverage is a trend that’s probably only going to grow more popular as more conference organizers turn to social media to amplify their events.
So the next time everyone in the office is backslapping and high-fiving each other about the awesome time they’re going to have at the Bellagio for some chic conference, console yourself with the fact that you can avoid the invasive (hello!) TSA screenings and keep up with all the action from your desk while you sip on a Slurpee.