Your company is putting a lot of spend toward a live event — maybe one that’s a standalone, produced by your company. Or maybe you’re sponsoring a larger event. Either way, planning an event takes a lot of connecting the dots.
You’re working on the invite list, the programming, the booth installation and you’ve even budgeted to have a video crew there. But have you thought about how to maximize the great content-mining opportunities you will have?
Demonstrations or tutorials, customer testimonials, behind-the-scenes pieces, news posts and executive features are just a few of the content opportunities that present themselves at such an event.
Definitely make it a goal to get a mix of written, video and photo assets ranging from short-form to long, and from casual spontaneous smartphone pictures to high-quality ones of the space and products.
Use these content-capturing strategies for your next live event.
1. Create a content plan.
Companies typically miss out on a lot of content-generating opportunities because they get so encumbered in the event production logistics. No matter how busy you are in the lead-up to the event, take time to powwow with your content, social media and communications staff and/or with your agency.
Go over who is RSVPd to attend and what their schedules look like. Look at the larger event schedule.
Create a plan for video interviews, audio interviews for podcasts, interviews for text pieces and visual content capture. Come up with ideas for potential articles to be drafted around event programming, programming that could generate content and moments/events on the agenda that are most likely to provide good visuals.
Note, this plan should not begin when the event does — it should begin hours or even days earlier. Sometimes people can focus better when they aren’t in the thick of activities. Also, if you’re trying to get people to this event, you will want to promote it ahead of time with event-specific social content.
- Example 1: You want to do a behind-the-scenes piece on a food event. Find out whether the chefs have a prep day, and if you can possibly stop by while they’re prepping to get BTS photos and discuss what they’ll be making during the event.
- Example 2: You’re sponsoring a conference and want to record a video chat between your CEO and a key client. See about scheduling the taping the evening before, when the booth is totally set up but the hall is empty.
2. Assign people to different ‘beats’ or stories.
Think like the assignment editor of a news desk for this one. You have a certain number of people to cover the topics, event programming and personality-driven pieces you want covered. You have time constraints around capturing this coverage. You may also have other variables. (E.g., only one person has a video camera, but two major moments that you want to cover are happening at the same time.)
Assigning people to cover specific stories is extremely important, as is making sure you set the right teams to capture specific elements and giving your team deliverables and deadlines.
Just as it is with publications and freelancers, in the course of events, only let your most trusted content specialists go out for the day without specific content briefs.
If you tell most people “Go out and roam the show floor for four hours and bring me back the most interesting stuff you find,” they might come back with a list of exhibitors, or some notes on their favorite presentation or whatever flyers they were able to pick up. Little to none of this may be what you wanted. Be clear in your directions.
Follow these examples as a guide:
- Example 1: “We want a ‘new openings and expansions’ recap: Attend the presentations at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to hear the presentations on this from X company and Z company. Fill it out with additional information from other brands that are exhibiting.”
- Example 2: “We are sending you to an RSVP-only Q&A session at 4 p.m. Try to get a quote from the A+R of Rad Record Label on hottest summer movie soundtrack songs. This is for a possible brand playlist TK later this year; or else for a blog post on using music for your website.”
- Example 3: “Position yourself right by the demo kitchen while our chef is doing her recipe demos. Get photos of everyone in the audience — try to get names of people who look like media or influencers. Ask, if possible, how they heard about this event, do they know the chefs, what’s their favorite product of ours? We will use this content for a recap post and post-event press release, as well as sharing it with the talent for a post on her channels.”
Good events have the effect of pulling people’s attention in several different directions, while bad ones de-energize people and set them to wandering aimlessly. Either way, it’s not good to send your team out into the fray without a defined mission to propel them past the distractions and guide their focus.
3. Allocate extra budget to specialized freelancers.
Social media managers and videographers typically wind up with the most demanding schedules. Videographers because they need to be at every big moment and SMMs because they are expected to post constantly.
It’s also quite common for videographers and photographers to be hired just for an event. In the social media space, a lot of companies don’t feel comfortable hiring someone to run their social channels for just one or two days.
But if you can put a staffer in charge of the actual posting and hire a freelancer to capture photos and Stories and write captions, this can be a good solution for situations that require rapid content creation.
For my money, it’s better to hire a freelance social media content expert than try to get an employee from an entirely different department for social media support during the event.
Someone from customer service, sales or operations may be great greeting guests or doing product demos, but not so great at making their way onto the side of the main stage to capture video of your CEO giving his big speech.
If there’s only one chance to capture that big moment for social, you don’t want to give the responsibility to someone who, to call out a recent headline-making example, doesn’t know how to turn off Snapchat filters.
4. Create shot lists.
Shot lists are a crucial part of the overall content plan but get skipped surprisingly often. A shot list gives directions and specifics of the visual assets you want the photographer and videographer to capture. It may go so far as to specify different angles and styles.
- Triple stack bacon burger — cheese pull extreme close-up
- Triple stack bacon burger with fries and onion rings on the side
- Lifestyle shot influencers eating burgers
Shot lists can be as specific or as broad as you want, but in my experience, more specific is better. It is far preferable to have, for example, six different angles of your CEO and senior executives cutting the ribbon at an opening than only one shot that your photographer thought was sufficient… and then a week after the event, you discover that the CEO hates it.
5. Have an interview strategy.
In terms of story-mining with notable personalities, events can be the equivalent to striking the mother lode in gold mining. But the timing and what you can expect to get in terms of focused attention is very different than in a one-off arranged interview.
Set your interview strategy knowing that most people will only have a few minutes, and you’ll only get a few questions; but in some cases, they will also be speaking to larger groups or on stage, and you might get more content that way.
Arrange for your own executives, clients and notable stakeholders to talk to you outside of peak times for business networking. For them, doing interviews for the brand site probably falls low on the priority list in comparison to other things on the agenda.
In terms of the theme of the interview, try to find topics that are relevant to the event, but not too meta. This may seem counterintuitive, but questioning along the lines of “How is the event going for you?” “What will you be doing at this event?” will generate responses with very limited shelf life or potential interest. Learn more tips to interview anyone like an expert.
6. Reach out to other attendees in advance to gauge availability.
If you can get a list of attendees in advance, nab it. Decide who you might want to interview, who a friendly colleague or peer that you’ll try to have coffee with is, whether there are media you might want to pitch and who’s presenting that you might want to meet outside of their presentation.
While a lot of conferences and trade shows have software or an app to coordinate one-on-ones, the content team for a brand may be somewhat outside of the general speed-meeting purview.
Say you want to interview the CEO of a client company. His entire sales team might be there through the conference, but he’s only there three hours. Emailing his communications team and asking if you can get 15 minutes of his time is probably better than using the conference app.
Another hugely important but counter-intuitive tip: Know that there will people who absolutely will not conform to your best scheduling attempts. If they do schedule a time, they’ll miss it. Or they might be the type of person who gives you their mobile number and says “Let’s coordinate by text on the morning of.”
Or, they might invite you to come by Conference Room C3 at 5 p.m. for a cocktail party if you want to chat. You have to really go with the flow while on the story hunt at events. Be ready to turn on a dime and run, dragging the camera guy along with you. That’s how you’ll come away with all the material you wanted — and more.
7. Figure out where to set up gear and devices.
The typical event, whether it’s a small VIP thing for 30 execs and media or a conference with 10,000 attendees, is too loud, with too many people wandering around for you to get high-quality video and audio recording.
Identify a room you can use — ideally sound-proofed with no ins and outs. (But a back office or hotel business center will do in a pinch.) This is where you should do video interviews and probably audio for podcasts as well.
Larger events typically have a media room — terribly lit, but a good videographer will have tricks for softening that fluorescent effect.
8. Buy extra batteries, chargers and memory cards.
This cannot be overstressed in our smart device-connected age: Make absolutely certain you have the necessary charging accessories for every piece of equipment that will be heavily used to capture content.
For every phone, have at least one charger. Lots of camera batteries. Extra memory cards. Maybe even a couple extra small portable audio recording devices.
Know where the power outlets are to recharge laptops when needed. Running out of power or memory space is one of the most commonplace issues that content producers have — and it can be disastrous if it happens midway through the main event.
9. Consider planning a small offsite meetup… or multiple.
It is a golden rule of events that, no matter how cool and exclusive the event is, a subset of attendees prefer the after-party. Then there’s the other subset that is just too busy during the event to answer questions.
To grab these folks’ dedicated attention and get some spontaneous, intimate content, the best way is to host a small ancillary get-together near the venue — maybe even in your hotel, although typically a restaurant is the norm.
Depending on the nature of your content objectives, you may want to set up a camera team to do on-the-fly interviews, or assign a writer to spend 15 minutes sitting with three different attendees. If each of the people you want to meet with is going to generate a potential interview/spotlight, schedule the offsites as a series of one-one-one coffee/cocktail dates back to back.
Prep in advance for all the things you can control — and realize that there are some things you can’t. Be more flexible, gracious and organized than any other attendee. This is how you’ll wind up this event with material you can use for months…or years.