Five conference coverage tips for freelancers

Covering a conference or trade show can be a daunting task for freelancers. Here are five tips for getting the most value when covering events.

1. Preparation
Make sure you prepare before the event and plan what you’re going to do. Sure, the plan might change as circumstances dictate but having a plan means that you won’t be left doing nothing productive. Schedule your time, read conference material and talk to others that have been to similar events to make sure you’re ready for as many different scenarios as possible.
2. Power
If you’re taking a laptop, make sure it’s fully charged. If you can, have a spare battery as access to power outlets can be tricky at some events. For voice recorders, cameras and similar gadgets, try to buy gear that can either use standard AA or AAA batteries or can be charged over USB. This will reduce the number of chargers you need to carry.
3. Bags
We often buy bags based on their aesthetic value but that’s not a great criteria. Aside from comfort, bring a bag that is generously sized so you can easily carry the stacks of papers you’ll inevitably accumulate. Backpacks a re particularly
good as they won’t hurt your back as much as a shoulder satchel. However, they’re less convenient.
4. Business cards
It might sound silly but make sure you have a stock of business cards and make sure you give them out. We’ll talk about designing a great card in a future post but make sure your cards are current with a phone number, email address, your company name, website and a brief statement that describes you (what’s commonly called an “elevator pitch”). Lots of people hand out business cards so make your memorable. Given that cards can be purchased very cheaply it might even be worth producing event—specific cards.
5. Note-taking
My favourite note-taking application is Evernote. The beauty is that I can take notes on my laptop, iPad or phone and all the devices sync over the cloud. It’s easy and free. I know that I can use a paper and pen (I keep those
in my bag just in case of emergency) but as I need to convert my notes into stories, having them online makes that easy. It also means that my notes can be searched.

Also, with Twitter so common, most conferences have a hashtag – a code that starts with a “#” that can be used to identify tweets that relate to a common topic. Find out the hashtag for the event and then collate all of the related tweets. That will give you a stream of conference notes from lots of people and not just your own point of view.

Also, with Twitter so common, most conferences have a hashtag – a code that starts with a “#” that can be used to identify tweets that relate to a common topic. Find out the hashtag for the event and then collate all of the related tweets. That will give you a stream of conference notes from lots of people and not just your own point of view.
So, what are your tips?

Comments (2)

  1. David Flynn

    Reply

    Bags: if there’s a lot of walking to do at the conference and a lot of gear to cart around you might even want to consider a wheely-bag, like that used for airplane carry-on – but be warned, a very crowded conference can make this more a hindrance (both for yourself and other attendees).
    Be disciplined: that fab dinner can be fun, as can the drinks afterwards (and the drinks after those), but don’t end up short of time to sleep or write. Both are useful habits.
    Seek advice from other journalists who have attended this conference before: they can advise as to what it’s really like ‘on the ground’. Are the halls so large that you’ll have to allow a lot of extra time to get from one interview to the next?
    Choose a home base: this will likely be the press room, unless your hotel room is right at the conference venue. Know where it is from Day One, know what’s on offer (food, drinks, phones, press kits etc) and make this work for you.
    Set a schedule and stick to it: allow plenty of time in the morning for waking, shower & shave, breakfast and daily prep. Don’t end up running around like the proverbial headless chook: know at the very start of each day where you’re going and what you’re doing.

    • Reply

      That’s great advice. For conference newbies it’s really tempting to get sidelined into the drinks and meals but using that time productively can be useful and lucrative. I’ve often sold stories from conferences by getting back to my room quickly and getting something together for my editors while my compeitors are at the bar.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.