Laura Dew is a writer on Financial Planner Magazine. She graduated from the University of Reading with a degree in English Language and German then did her NCTJ Diploma at News Associates in Wimbledon. Before Financial Planner, she worked for the Londoner’s Diary on the Evening Standard. She can be found tweeting at @LauraDew24 and @FPM_Online.
Tips for covering conferences
One of the things you are likely to do during your time as a journalist is covering conferences. These can be short press conferences to long three or four day conferences in locations such as Paris and Portugal. I’ve just got back from a large three-day conference held over three days and have come up with some tips on how to make the best use of your time.
It’s said that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail, and this is definitely true for conferences. Before you go, get a copy of the programme and check with your editor which items they want you to cover and how many words they want for each. Then do your research; find out about the speakers and what their speech will be about. If possible, write a short draft with information you already know with which you can amend as you go along.
2) Getting there
Get a welcome pack when you get there and familiarise yourself with the area. There’s nothing worse than turning up at the seminar late. Make sure you know what time your speeches start and where they are.
There will usually be a press room for journalists to write their stories so find where that is and if there is Wi-Fi available. There will also be a room where the firm organising the conference work so introduce yourself; they will be able to give you quotes and information about speakers.
If you’re using a dictaphone, position that close to the speaker but always take shorthand notes of important announcements as well. I use Twitter lots for work and this is great for giving your followers real-time updates of what is going on – the conference might even be using its own hashtag so find out if this is so to get even greater coverage and more followers. Afterwards, introduce yourself to the speaker and ask further details about their speech and bits you found interesting. This is a great way to get quotes and make contacts.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things you need to cover, especially if there aren’t many breaks between speakers so keep your notes orderly. Find the press room or quiet corner and file your copy while it’s still fresh in your mind. Speaking to the speakers directly is the best way to find out exclusive information and the organisers might even issue their own press releases, sometimes embargoed, of important announcements.
Conferences are not all about the stories; they are also excellent mediums for networking. Try and speak to everyone on your table/row, they could be useful sources for quotes or stories and swap business cards. If they don’t have a business card then note their names and company; you can always search their details online later. After the conference, send them an email or call saying how nice it was to meet them and ask if they enjoyed the conference? They’ll be flattered you remembered and often keen to help you out.