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How to Really Cover Events, Social Media Style

Posted in Cocktails and Spirits, New Media and Tech, and Podcasting

I’m a big ol’ critic of the current frenzy for social media. That is, I’m critical of the “social media can do EVERYTHING, replace ALL mainstream media, CURE CANCER, etc. school of thought. But I am not critical of the tools that make it possible to exchange information, or add deeper meaning to the content of media. Platforms like Twitter, podcasting, uStream, and Facebook, to name just a few, can unleash not only creativity of content-makers, but the imagination and enthusiasm of content consumers.

I’m thinking about this today because I’m working on a plan to cover a conference I’ll be attending this summer. Tales of the Cocktail is an annual event for bartenders, beverage professionals, and cocktail enthusiasts, held in New Orleans.

I say “cover” because, as a long-time journalist (and proud of it) that’s how I view events that I attend. I see my attendance as a way to bring information, context,and energy to people who can’t attend themselves. that mindset is in my DNA. I want to tell people what happened, how it felt to be in the room, and who made what kinds of impacts on or within the audience. Frankly, I’m still working on the interactive part; how, using social media tools, can I let my audience influence my coverage, ask questions, give me feedback?

So much of what passes for social media coverage of events is poorly thought-out or lazy. Pointing a camera at a speaker, or lieblogging a seminar on Twitter feels great in the moment, but how, six months later, can content consumers process hours and hours of video, or Twitter posts which, if archived at all, lack real context outside the instant they occurred? I want the work I do in July to stand on its own in December, and also be consumable by busy people who wouldn’t have time to sit and watch old seminar sessions. I want what I do to inform people who attend the conference the following year, or discuss and write about its topics between events. You know, kind of like those old-fashioned things called news and feature articles used to provide a record that people could rely on for reference.

My idea right now is to combine liveblogging with edited audio podcasts. My version of liveblogging will be more like note-taking than instant news reporting. After all, this isn’t an Apple product announcement, with readers hanging on every word I write. From the liveblog posts, which can stay up for anyone who needs that level of detail, I can construct more orderly “permanent” stories that place what I’ve seen, heard and experienced into some kind of context.

Podcasting, which will always be my medium of choice, gives me the ability to record both the voices of speakers and fellow attendees, and my own. I’m likely to roll a lot of tape, then edit what I collect into manageable audio pieces that can be released one or two per day during the event. If all goes well, I might do shorter, more frequent live-to-tape podcasts consisting of interviews, or cocktail tasting notes. These could be aggregated into their own feed for people who are comfortable consuming a lot of audio in bit-sized chunks.

These are preliminary ideas. I know from attending Tales last year that it offers ample opportunity for learning, and for sensory overload. My challenge is to distill (yeah, that’s what I said) what I see and hear in ways that make it valuable to readers and listeners, both in real-time, and after the fact.

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