This year I?ve been asked a few times to do social reporting at events both small (such as the Making A Difference With Data West Midlands Unworkshop) and large (such as the MADWD Policy Briefing in London).
So far the biggest event I?ve been asked to cover online was the Charity Finance Directors’ Group IT Conference in London on 8th March, a conference for Finance, IT and other professionals within charities to meet, network and hear about new developments from speakers talking about subjects ranging from social media to cloud computing to CRM.
CFDG were looking into getting a social reporter at the conference very much as an experiment to see what elements of the day could be bought online and whether or not that might generate further discussion beyond the walls of the venue – the beautiful Royal College of Surgeons in Holburn, London.
We started out with a pre-event conference call between myself, the Deputy Chief Executive David Membry and Website and Information Officer Riza Kaya to firm up what types of coverage they were looking for and hopes for what this might achieve. I was told they were looking for snippets of the conference to be tweeted out on their twitter account (@CFDG), photos of the day and video and audio interviews with speakers, delegates, exhibitors and organisers, to give people a taste of the issues under discussion and the reactions of people present. I was also told we would be able to publish some of the speakers? powerpoint slides.
To bring all of this content created from the conference into one space I suggested creating a simple WordPress website for the conference, which would leave people the option to comment on what was covered. CFDG asked for some examples of other ?conference blogs? so they could see how this has worked in the past, so after a quick consultation with twitter I showed them:
- http://blog.eucasc.eu/ – one of the best examples I could find. Uses WordPress, twentyten as theme and incorporates hashtagged tweets, film, photos and reports.
- http://cityasaplatform.posterous.com/ – used Posterous rather than WordPress, which is easier to post upon and live-blog with but more basic-looking than WordPress. Good content gathering-together on the Media page.
- http://citizencyberscience.blogspot.com/ – Citizen Cyberscience Summit blog using Blogspot (similar to WordPress – again more basic-looking).
CFDG IT Conference on WordPress
CFDG were keen for there to be some twitter discussion around the conference. During the day I and a member of the CFDG Policy team were tweeting highlights of the conference on the @CFDG twitter account, which meant that more could be covered. We signed off our tweets ^getgood and ^policy respectively so people would know who had written them.
To follow and capture others? discussion around the conference, I suggested using a dedicated twitter hashtag (#CFDGIT) and ensuring this was announced over twitter and in the Chair?s opening speech at the beginning of the day. This also meant we could follow and respond to tweets around the conference by attendees and non-attendees alike.
It also meant we could create an archive of twitter discussion, which I did by getting a PDF report from tweetreach and embedding this into the WordPress site using Scribd.com and the Scribd WordPress shortcode to copy it over. There was a small cost for the tweetreach report (about $20) but to be honest, it seemed worth it for how easy it is to obtain, copy over to WordPress and for people to read, distribute and save (unlike flash-based twitter archives using tools like Cover It Live). I?ve since found out Twapper Keeper might have been another good, free of charge option. Ah well, you live and learn. Talking of learning curves….
Video and audio interviews
I used a simple, small handheld Kodak Zi8 camera with a plug-in mic. To be honest, I hadn?t used the camera that often beforehand (I?m used to using a Flip, but thought the built-in mic might not be good for a crowded conference venue) so although the videos are functional they?re not technically perfect – some were taken on the wrong setting, so are a little blurred. I?ve had to have a good play with the camera since so I know what the settings should be used for close-up interviews.
The plug-in mic was great for sound but its weight did become an issue – as the conversations were two-way between the interviewee and I, I thought it best I kept hold of it to point it at the speaker. By the end of the day I felt like my arm might drop off – I?m guessing a lighter, clip-on, omi-direction mic might be better next time, so it can be held between us and I don?t have to worry about my pathetic arm muscles failing me.
Luckily, my weakling limbs just about held out and the video interviews were done and quickly uploaded without editing to the CFDG Vimeo account and copied over into blog posts using the WordPress Vimeo shortcode during the day.
For audio interviews I mostly used AudioBoo, as these could be uploaded very quickly and by linking my AudioBoo account to the @CFDG twitter account for the day, links to the AudioBoo?s would be tweeted out as they went live. The only real disadvantage with AudioBoo is there is no WordPress.com shortcode to embed AudioBoo’s into blog posts, so people can?t listen to them within the blog. I fed links to the AudioBoo?s into the blog with an RSS widget for AudioBoo?s from my account tagged ?CFDGIT?.
Although there is no WordPress.com shortcode for AudioBoo there is for Soundcloud, so I did one interview using the FiRE app on my iPhone and uploading it to Soundcloud, with the intention of embedding it into its own post. As you can hear, this did not quite go according to plan:
I?m not quite sure what went wrong with the uploading – I?ve tried to do it several times. Looking at online reviews with the FiRE app, it seems there may be a few issues with it. I?ve resolved not to use this again and am sticking with the dedicated Soundcloud app instead.
More learning curves: you can?t do two things at once
Obvious, really. As the day went on, more content was being generated that needed to be uploaded (to the CFDG Vimeo account and the CFDG slideshare account in the case of speakers? powerpoint presentations) and copied over. Although there were people from the CFDG team available to do this showing them how took time and I still needed to cover the afternoon?s activities and interview the speakers and their audiences. Of course, there?s a great answer for this:
Teach a man to fish…
CFDG seemed pleased with the results of the day?s coverage – there was good, varied coverage of the day, it had generated a twitter discussion and widened the reach of the event. During the networking event after the conference Riza suggested planning ahead for similar online coverage of their bigger annual conference in May and we both agreed it would take more than one person to do it.
The answer was simple – arrange a training day beforehand to give the CFDG team working at the conference the simple skills needed to talk about it online. So later this week I?ll be training a group of people in how to use twitter, create audio and video interviews and publish content online, so there will be team of budding social reporters covering the event. If you fancy following the conversation, follow the conference blog and #cfdgac11 on twitter next Thursday 12th May!