Whether you’re visiting an event on your own or with a colleague, it’s important to remember the three ‘p’s’: prepare, plan, and purpose. By conducting all three of these, you’ll ensure smooth coverage of the event, making your pre-event publication almost write itself.
Step 1 of the process
Prepare - Before the event, learn what you can about what’s going to happen. A public meeting might have an agenda. A conference program will list the speakers. A more informal program will have an organiser who can provide an overview and some background. But sometimes you need to go beyond the handouts and the organisers. Research and contact event organisers or speakers who can let you know about interesting turns the event might take, so that you are ready for when they arise.
Step 2 of the process
Find out the location and start/end times and dates of the event, and book your travel accordingly. If you’re staying overnight, don’t forget to view check in/check out times, and remember don’t splash out too much when it comes to price! The golden rule: keep all receipts for travel, accommodation, food, etc., as for expense purposes (see Becky for details).
Step 3 of the process
Make sure you’ve packed all the equipment you need: laptop, notepad, pens, chargers, that sort of thing. Always take a notepad spare just in case there are technical issues with your laptop (they’re also a lot easier and quieter to carry around).
Step 4 of the process
Allow yourself plenty of time to arrive - it’s always better to arrive early than be late. Once you’re there, grab a drink, set up your equipment accordingly, and familiarise yourself with the agenda. Take any free handouts or guides provided as that could be your golden ticket for times and location of guest speakers, or any last minute changes that might have occurred in between your research and the event start day.
Step 5 of the process
With the event in full swing, make sure you take notes on everything you think will aid in your post-event publication. A helpful note-taking technique for events is to use initials or other abbreviations for people, but look the program over and be sure speakers don’t have the same initials.
If you’re livetweeting or liveblogging, your tweets or blog can become your notes, for the most part. But keep your notebook handy (or perhaps a Word doc on your laptop or tablet) for actual notes: facts you want to check before publishing, items to pursue in interviews during a break or after the event, possible follow-up ideas, etc.
Another handy tip is to use built-in recording apps that most modern mobile phones have, or if you own a dictaphone, these too can be handy for relaying information back. You may also want to use your phone to take photos from the event, as these can always be used on social media or for an article featured image.
Step 6 of the process
Make sure you have all the notes you need, and don’t be scared to ask if you misunderstood something or didn’t gather a certain bit of information. Remember, by covering this event fully, you’re making your life easier when it comes to publishing that following article.