A fellow technical writer asked me today for tips on how to blog at conferences. He is soon to attend the tekom conference in Bangalore, India. I replied via email, but then thought this is an interesting discussion to have with everybody else. There are a number of technical writers who create copious and awesome conference reports. I’m looking at you, Kai, Ellis, Val, Roger, Rhonda, …
Blogging at conferences is a lot of fun. I find it helps me keep my attention focused during the lectures, and the post is a very useful reference months later when I’m trying to remember what a particular session was about. It’s also great for the presenters to read the post and see how much I understood of what they were saying, and what I made of their overall thesis. Colleagues at work benefit from reading the posts too, especially those who wanted to but couldn’t attend the conference.
In case they’re useful, here are some examples of past conferences that I’ve blogged about:
In days of yore…
When I first started going to conferences, I wrote notes during each session by hand – yes, on paper! Then I transcribed them into a blog post and published it late that night. Phew, lengthy process.
Soon I started taking my laptop into the sessions with me. (When I buy a laptop these days, one of the “must haves” is a quiet keyboard.) I took notes in a text processor (I like NotePad++) then copied them into a blog post and published it late that night. Better, but still lengthy.
I take my laptop to the lectures, and type detailed notes during the session. I have a very simple “template” – more like a format in my head that helps me to get the post started and to give it some shape. If possible, I get a wireless connection from the conference organisers, and write the material directly into the blogging platform (WordPress). Then I publish the post immediately, as soon as the session finishes. If I don’t have an Internet connection then I take notes in NotePad++ and put them on the blog later. But that takes a lot of time that would be better spent socialising or sleeping.
I usually plan the sessions that I want to attend beforehand, and try to blog about them all. Sometimes a session is just too technical or detailed, and then I abandon the post. Very occasionally I find myself in a session that’s not very good or that I’m not enjoying for some reason, and I abandon those posts too.
When choosing sessions, I look for topics that are new to me, or for something that will supplement what I’m already doing at work. For the last conference my manager even told me which sessions he would like me to attend and blog about, so that the team could read about them!
While taking notes, I’m constantly filtering and organising the information. This is something our brains do anyway, I think. But I do find it easier to write notes about almost everything in the session, because it actually takes more time to filter the content than to note it all down. Also, I usually write the notes in sequential sequence as the speaker introduces the subject matter, but occasionally I re-arrange sections on the fly, into a sequence that I find more logical – at least for the blog post!
How do you do it?