How to write an excellent event recap
How to write an excellent event recap
You've put on and held an event. Congrats! Now what? A post-event wrap up and report is a useful way for your community and attendees to follow up on key ideas and takeaways that could impact how they communicate, collaborate, and make decisions going forward.
A post-event wrap up is most useful within days of the event, and it's best if you can publish your piece within 48 hours of the event's conclusion. A wrap up report should be published no more than two weeks after the event. The news is a bit stale after that, so do your best to aim for 48 hours after the event. A week or less is OK too, but not optimal. Schedule time on your calendar for writing, as it's easy for this task to be deprioritized in the face of other needed work. Set aside time for writing or you'll likely find you don't get the writing done.
Pro tip: Schedule time no more than 24 hours after the event to write and publish your report. The fresher the news, the more readers you'll have.
Take good notes
Writing up a great event report means gathering data while at the event. Take the time to write down a few notes about things that particularly impressed you during the conference or meetup. Don't rely on your memory to keep track of the things that stood out to you, and write down as many takeaways from the event as possible. You will not use all of your notes, but the more detail you can later provide, the better.
Pro tip: Most post-event wrap up reports include the following items, so take notes accordingly. You may not use all of these details, but it is good to have them.
- Event overview, which you can likely harvest from the blog post announcing the event, the event "about" page on their website or from sites like Lanyrd, Meetup.com, etc. You don't have to use the organizers' description, but it is often a good starting point.
- Location of event, including thanks to whoever provided the space in the case of a meetup. E.g. "Red Hat graciously hosted the Boston Python Users Group meeting last Wednesday."
- Number of attendees at the event. Some like to note the number of attendees from certain groups depending on the goals of the particular community hosting the event, e.g. "The organizers were excited to see 25% of our attendees were newcomers." or "We had more than 50 women join us at the conference, a 15% increase over last year." or "I was particularly proud of the efforts to reach out to the student community in Prague, with more than 40 students attending. Half of the students had not yet entered university."
- Thanks to the event sponsors. While you do not need to call out the names of all sponsors, it is best practice to give a shout out to your employer specifically if they were a sponsor. In the case of one or two sponsors, it is best practice to name them and link to their home page in your thanks. In the case of an event with many sponsors, a thank you to them with a link to the event's sponsors page will suffice. If a sponsor did something truly memorable and appreciated, a specific thanks to that sponsor is always welcome.
Pro tip: Thanking event sponsors, particularly one's own employer, can be difficult to do without looking disingenuous. The most important thing to remember is to disclose your relationship with your employer in the blog post to avoid accusations that you're shilling. Consider the difference between these two thanks, both of which say basically the same thing, but will likely be received by your audience very differently:
I'm very pleased that my employer, Red Hat, treated everyone at the Foo Bar Meeting to coffee and treats. We're glad we could share a meal with all of you and provide a small bit of thanks for all of your contributions to FLOSS.
Is much better than:
Red Hat provided coffee and treats to everyone at the Foo Bar Meeting, which was totally awesome of them. Red Hat rules!
Of course, you want to ensure that you have permission to take photos at the event. Confirm with the organizers if there's a photography policy and abide by it. Some FLOSS folks request that all photos taken during their events be published under a Creative Commons license, others forbid photos at their events entirely, and others request that attendees make use of photographs taken by the conference photographer.
Whatever the organizers request of you, honor those requests. Abiding by the conference photo policy makes it much easier to ask for an exception later should you need to do so. E.g., "I notice this photo is copyright [event name]. May I use it in my forthcoming blog post provided I give proper attribution?"
Being a good FLOSS citizen also means obtaining permission from the subjects of your photos to capture their image. Some conferences provide pins or other garb to attendees who do not wish to be photographed—keep an eye out for these indicators. If you don't see one, politely ask to take a photo of your fellow attendees and let them know you may use it on your blog or publish it on Flickr, etc. If they decline, respect their request. It is also best practice to let folks take a look of the photo you have taken to make sure they are happy with their appearance in it, but this step is not required. It definitely helps build good rapport with your fellow community members, so why not do it?
In general, group photos that do not show faces in the audience are well received even in those communities that are "camera shy." Get a good sense for your audience and photograph accordingly.
Pro tip: Capture or use the highest possible quality imagery. Suboptimal photos from your cell phone camera are better than no photos at all, but not by much. If you don't have a high quality camera, check the conference's photo pool for imagery that may be better or ask a colleague to snap a pic or two on your behalf. Ensure whatever content you use is licensed so that you may use it or that you obtain permission from the copyright holder to make use of it.
Session audio and video
If session(s) from the event are recorded, it is always good practice to at least link to those talk recordings. For a meetup or other event where only one talk was recorded, embed the recording in your post. For events where multiple sessions took place, choose your top one to three and embed those recordings. Make sure that you introduce the recordings with sufficient text—which can be quite terse, but must be present—so that your readers understand why they ought to take the time to watch the content.
Pro tip: Some videos feature automatic closed captioning for the hearing impaired and still others provide text transcripts of the audio/video recording. When versions of the content exist that provide these extra vectors of entry for your audience, ensure that you embed them or link to them.
Know how to tag your post and photos
Most event organizers these days are pretty good about letting folks know what tag(s) to use when sharing photos, tweets, Facebook messages, and blog posts. Make sure to note the tag(s) used and add to your photos and post.
Pro tip: If the hashtag for the event isn't prominently mentioned in the event guide or at the start of the meetup, don't hesitate to ask the question at the start of the festivities. You're not the only one wondering what tag(s) to use. If it's too difficult to ask this question up front, see if the event already has a photo pool or Tweet stream. Replicate the tags in use for the conference tweet stream or photo pool.
Pro tip: Consider using some sort of social bookmarking service to gather news and feedback from the event. It's possible that the event organizers have already set something up, so ask them if they have done so. If not, offering to set up the resource for them is a kind and wonderful thing to do when you're at an event run by community volunteers.
Gather extra materials
Perhaps you saw an outstanding network diagram in a particular presenter's talk or you noticed that a speaker did not plan to publish her slides. It's best to ask the speaker at the event for these resources, then follow up on your request by email. If you were not able to make the request in person, make sure to send your request by email quickly so you can include the materials in your post and get the post published in a timely fashion.
You will also likely find that other folks have written about the event and may have done write ups on sessions you missed. They also may have an alternate perspective on an aspect of the event you particularly enjoyed. Include links to other write ups and reports in the blog post—even a simple list of links is fine—and consider updating your post if you run across a particularly excellent write up of the event after you've published your report. Updating the blog post comments with additional details is a fine way to proceed, but folks are often less likely to read the comments section.
Pro tip: Before publishing your report, take a moment to search identi.ca and Twitter using the event hashtag. This quick search will likely produce other write ups that you may wish to link to in your own post. The conference news aggregator or press page is also an excellent source of such material.
Writing your post-event report
If you're having trouble getting started, prepare an outline of your post. Start with the basics as mentioned in the "Take good notes" section in your introductory paragraph, then expand from there. If you just hate writing—and that's OK, many do—get as many points out onto a page as possible, then ask for help from a friend or colleague to organize your thoughts and content. A blank page is a tough place to start, so don't expect what you compose to be immediately perfect.
Pro tip: If you are having trouble writing and outlines are not the best way to organize your thoughts, try these approaches:
- Just write. Don't worry if it's not perfect or even coherent at first. Structure, proper grammar, correct spelling, etc. can be taken care of later.
- Write down the 10-second pitch for the event and then write to address the high points that support that summary.
- Talk about your experience at the event with a friend or colleague and ask them to jot down notes during your conversation. Let their notes become your outline. Alternatively, you may wish to use transcription software for this purpose.
Joe Ottinger, my colleague at Red Hat who also works on the Open Source and Standards Team, has penned some more tips on writing on his blog.
Publishing your post-event report
This document largely assumes that you'll be publishing your event wrap up post on your personal blog, but there are many outlets for such reports. The conference organizers may need help with wrap up reports due to post-event fatigue, so offering to help them with your post-event write up can be a welcome way for your post to get even wider exposure and to do a good deed for the community. The fine folks at Opensource.com also publish post-event reports, so check out their guidelines for submitting content. You may also find that your wrap up report will be useful to other trade press outlets or blogs, so licensing your content so that folks can reuse it increases the value of your creation. You may even find that said trade press outlet or blog would like to simply republish your post, which is a great thing to do if you're open to it.
Pro tip: Once you have written your post, make sure to share it using whatever social networking services you prefer to use. E.g., identi.ca, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Make sure to also include the event tags when broadcasting via social media. If you're not a social media user, the event organizers may want to help you share the write up more widely via their social media channels.
Sample post-event wrap up reports
Here are a few examples of well written post-event wrap up reports, provided as a source of inspiration if you're having trouble getting started or just want to get a sense of what a good post-event report contains.
- Recap: OpenStack Meetup April 26 features photos early in the post and includes video, a thanks to sponsors, and shoutouts to key community folks in attendance.
- Developer conference 2012 part III: Workshops, hackfests, and more features a photo of the audience very early in the post without showing too many open seats and includes links to talk slides and videos as well as lots of detail on what the presentation topics were.
- Schedule time to write and publish the report within 48 hours of the event. Block time on your calendar so it happens.
- Along with your text about what you found most useful about the event, include photos and video or audio recordings, preferably embedded in the post. Linking to these resources is also OK.
- Include important stats in your post that are relevant to the community attending the event, e.g. number of attendees, number of student attendees, number of committers, etc.
- Make sure to thank the event organizers and sponsors in an appropriate fashion.
- Once your post is published, make sure to share it via whatever social media channels you like to use. If you do not use social media, let the event organizers know about your post in case they'd like to use it in the post-event report outs or to add it to their event news page.
Reposted with permission from Hawthorn Landings.