Sunday, November 19, 2006

My first conference blog!

The National Association of Realtors, my employer, held its annual conference in New Orleans last week. Always one of the country's most substantial conventions, it was the Big Easy's largest since Katrina, with 26,000 attendees. We had had a blog at our last convention, but it was basically a recap of the news that we posted in our online magazine. This time, I wanted to create a blog that had a voice of its own, captured different kinds of information than the news vehicles , accepted comments -- in short, acted like a "real" blog. Inspired by a post by Todd O'Neill on the CM Pros e-mail list that linked to What to Post to a Conference Blog, I developed guidelines for our blog (below). The blog is so successful that, a week after the conference's end, it is still getting comments!

NARdi Gras Live
Experience the information, the atmosphere, and the spirit of the 2006 REALTORS Conference and Expo

Blog’s purpose and goals
  • Capture trends shared at the Conference
  • Report on the most interesting and/or popular products, sessions, speakers, and events

Assignment/post types
  • Session reporting – see Contribution details section for more about how this would differ from Show Daily/RMO session reporting
  • “REALTOR on the street”
  • “You are here” personal observations of volunteer works, Expo, between-session hallways, special events (Presidents Bush & Clinton, Harry Connick, Bourbon Street), other events (inaugural, Good Neighbor Awards), New Orleans tours?
  • Include photos – have one person control the camera each day and take photos where appropriate (“REALTOR on the street,” etc.)
  • Include short (under 2-minute) snippets of Hatfield’s videos of the Habitat builds
  • Possibly conversations with session speakers, as continuations of conversations begun at their sessions. (The session about blogging will have its own dedicated blog for people to use to learn about the art of blogging, and we will definitely link to that one.)


Contribution details
Each REALTOR.org editor will contribute 1-2 items per day. One of their posts will be a report about an education session relating to one of the content areas of the site they manage. The posts should
  • cover the ambiance in the room
  • convey the audience’s interactivity with the topic and the speakers
  • if applicable, mention what else was going on at the time, and how might that have shaped this session’s audience turnout and expectations
  • discuss what information was new to you, as well as what seemed new to the audience

We’ll divide coverage of the major events at the conference:
  • Galas (president’s inauguration, international night out, Good Neighbor awards, et al.)
  • Star attractions – David Lereah, Bush/Clinton, Harry Connick Jr., REALTORS on Bourbon Street

In addition, I’d like a mix of other types of posts over the course of the conference, covering
  • Activity level and atmosphere of between-session areas, registration area, hotels and local restaurants
  • A glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, in the NAR staff area, press room, blog room
  • The local New Orleans tours that conference attendees can take
  • Volunteer efforts

A note about voice
The blog will have a diverse audience – REALTORS, committee members, Association Executives, NAR staff – so be careful of the use of “you”

Process and Oversight
  • I will have daily meetings with Pamela to review the day's posts and make sure the blog is in line with editorial expectations
  • I will spend most of my time approving blog posts and comments from the blogger's room, for several reasons:
  • so that bloggers who come in will have the opportunity to be involved
  • to foster cross-linking among the conference's bloggers
  • to show that our blogging is an open process

Blog requirements
  • It will look like the President's Blog with the same size logo at the top, and will work largely like the NAR in the News Blog
  • We will accept comments and will moderate them.
  • We won’t allow trackbacks.
  • We'll have a blogroll where we can link to other blogs.
  • We'll set it up to display the category for each post on the post itself, as well as in the blog's navigation. We'll probably have 5-10 categories.
  • We will organize the archives by day, since the blog will only be alive for about 10 days (it will still exist online, but not contributed to after that).
  • It will be set up to allow multiple contributors, each with their own login. I will be the sole administrator (although the REALTOR.org editors and Lorelei will have my login information, in case they need to step in for any reason)

Questions
  • Can we include audio snippets of the sessions while the conference is still going on? If so, how would we go about doing that?
  • How could we/should we use the blog to inform conference attendees about any updates?
  • How should we cover committee meetings?

Sources of inspiration
http://agahran.typepad.com/sej2006/
http://blogs.asaecenter.org/BostonBlog/


More about voice and tone:

http://many.corante.com/archives/2004/02/08/conference_blogging.php

This is a very interesting post talking about the modes of conference blogging. I'd like ours to be a mix of the following:
  • Impressionistic Transcription -- paraphrase with flair. Usually makes the speakers sound better than they are. Adds a little context that makes particular sense if you have been following related memes in blogspace. Great for the writer because the informality excuses waning attention and need to quote accurately. Archetype: Cory Doctorow (example)
  • Running Commentary -- paraphrase with opinion. While blogging in real time, interspersing the opinions or views of the blogger. Perhaps the most value added activity of one person. Takes real skill to capture the essence of a session and add your own. Archetypes: Mitch Ratcliffe or Doc (example)
  • Poignant Reflection -- pure commentary. How most people blog conferences. Listen, reflect and post. What drives the post is usually a key quote or a contrary opinion. Archetype: Jerry Michalski (example)

2 comments:

Todd O'Neill said...

Came across this while looking at my site stats at doingmedia.net.
What a case study for how to do it right! Much more detailed and thoughtful than I might have come up with.
I'm forwarding this on the folks at work. There are many instances (hurricanes, big announcements, etc.) where a blog would be very helpful. Are the other NAR blogs available to the public? Looking for good examples.
Great job!

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