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If you've never covered a virtual event -- whether one that's always been virtual or an in-person one that's now online for the first time and finding its footing -- there are things you can do to keep your coverage focused and informed.
Fortunately, while the event format may be different, many fundamentals remain the same.
Here are some best practices to ensure your reporting doesn’t miss a beat.
1. Keep up with communications.
Staying apprised of what’s happening at an event is always paramount, but even more so in a digital space. Without a tangible welcome packet, bright signage, or crowds to follow, make sure you know where to be online and when. Be on the lookout for last-minute updates, too; whether speakers swap time slots or you’re advised to use a different link, something will most likely change.
2. Make an agenda.
As you read the event updates, jot down moments that interest you and then create a plan. Some events may have one single stream that you can tune in and out of throughout the day, while others will offer multiple channels for different types of content, so schedule your time accordingly. Just because the event is online does not guarantee that everything will be recorded and available in perpetuity.
3. Test your equipment.
Knowing you won’t be onsite in a press room, consider your environment. Are you using a new device or working remotely in a space you’re not used to? Be sure to check system requirements for any streaming services or software the event may be using. If you’re going to be on camera, test the technical controls and prepare the physical space that you’ll be in to keep the background distraction-free.
4. Consider live coverage.
Live blogging or tweeting accompaniment to an in-person event often offers a behind-the-scenes view of the action that readers love. For a virtual event, the organizer may already be doing something similar; adjust your plan accordingly so you’re complementing, not competing.
5. Use social media.
Even if you are not doing live coverage via social media, you should still participate in the conversations. Depending on how the event is structured, Twitter may be the only way to have discussions with other attendees — and can be a source of unexpected insight.
6. Explore new topics and companies.
Bustling show floors and flashy booths have a way of steering traffic in a predictable pattern. Without the bells and whistles, the playing field is a little more level. Use this opportunity to go outside of your typical routine and uncover something fresh.
7. Take good notes.
Stick to your usual note-taking habits (including writing things down as though you won’t be able to re-watch anything, which is a luxury physical events usually don’t offer anyway).
8. Get creative with visuals.
Everyone looks forward to sneak-peek pictures of new products, videos of cool demos, and snapshots of powerful connections on stage. Think about how you can still present visuals without in-person photography and videography. Can you take screenshots? Does the company, speaker, or event have a multimedia gallery online? Readers will be looking for substance.
9. Watch for trends and surprises.
People and companies push the stories that they want to tell. As a journalist, you’re often reading between the lines of the story you’re presented with to find an even better one. Searching for patterns and twists can be difficult when you’re in a space where people are not directly interacting together, but you can still watch for something out of the ordinary.
10. Give feedback to the event organizer.
If you’re a few weeks or months out from the event, be proactive and let them know what you would like to see (e.g., emailed news alerts, a media resources page, etc.). Event organizers want to provide value to all of their audiences, including the media, so they’ll listen. Post-show, give them pointers on what could have been done better. After all, this is a learning experience for everyone.
Virtual events will most likely continue to grow in frequency and scope as the meeting landscape shifts, but these best practices will help you navigate whatever becomes the event world's "new normal."
About the AuthorMore Content by Erienne Muldoon