It doesn’t matter if it’s a major conference, a monthly meeting or a social event, there are a growing number of ways to provide live updates that will allow those who can’t be there to get live reports from the event. The solutions shown here are either free or low cost ways to share the excitement of your live event. And, in some cases, you can even provide two-way communications between the live and distant participants.
Twitter has developed a widget that works much like embedding a YouTube video or Scribd document onto a blog or web page. You choose the options you want in the widget builder and Twitter gives you the embed code to paste on your site. The widget can be configured to present a single user’s timeline, all the tweets associated with a list or with a hashtag. In the example you see below, I’m created a widget for the #RootsTech2013 hashtag. Right now there are only a few tweets, but come back to this post once chatter about the conference starts picking up and you’ll find there’s a lot more to see.
Because it’s a widget and WordPress only supports widgets in “widgetized” areas – usually the sidebar or footer – I’m also using the Widgets on Pages plugin which lets me display the widget here in the post.
The beauty of this solution is Twitter itself. Tweets can be sent from just about any kind of portable device – including many “not so smart” phones set up to text to Twitter. Smarter phones can send photos as well as text updates. And, all of those updates can get published with minimal bandwidth meaning they are more likely to get published in situations where Internet connectivity leaves much to be desired.
Live Blog with WordPress
The folks at WordPress.com have come up with another fabulous plugin for self-published WordPress sites which will turn a WordPress post into a live blog offering updates from multiple authors as they are submitted. I saw this in action at The Verge during the Kindle event last week and it was very impressive.
Once the plugin is installed, you just create a new post with a title and some introductory text, select the checkbox defining this post as a live blog, then publish the post. Now, go to your blog’s home page and you will see that post with a data entry box just waiting for you to add more information.
A live blog just waiting for one of the event’s reporters to add an update.
Event “reporters” will need to have author accounts on the blog and be logged into their account. They will then see this view from the site’s front end with the New Entry box just waiting for them to add an update then click the Publish Update button. Their update will appear immediately below the editing box with their name and a datestamp showing when it was published.
As you can see on The Verge example, Readers do not see the New Entry box or the Publish and Delete buttons. The page will update each time new entry is published so the reader doesn’t need to constantly refresh the screen either.
I was able to post updates using Safari on my iPad, but the image drag and drop only worked – for me anyway – on my desktop.
Sample image dragged onto the edit form from my desktop.
This option would be good if you have several people dedicated to reporting from your event. Although the reporters don’t need WordPress experience to submit their updates, someone with WordPress knowledge will need to help manage things like photos. It isn’t as mobile friendly as the Twitter option so the updates won’t be as spontaneous either. On the flip side, since you control who can author updates, you can also set limits on what to post. In situations where controlling the message is important, this could be a better option.
The Storify platform allows the publisher to pull content from across a number of social sites as well as web sites to build a centralized “story”. These are not live updates, but more like the nightly news report. With Storify, the publisher collects and curates items from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, Google+ and even RSS feeds. You choose which items are to be included in the story, their order and you can add your own comments as well.
Sample published story using Storify.
Storify stories can be viewed in the Storify platform or they can be embedded into a blog post. Although it would be tough to curate a “daily update” from a large event like a conference, it could be a very nice option to report on a keynote address or individual sessions. The nice thing about Storify is each story can get “set up” ahead of time. In a conference situation, this could mean that links to materials presented during the session could be added to the story file long before the presentation even begins. Although these publications wouldn’t provide the spontaneous reporting of Twitter, you control which items are included without having to write each update yourself. It could be used to provide a curated report of the sessions or events using the best updates/photos/whatever from across the social media spectrum.
Each of these options offers a way to provide updates to people who can’t attend an event. They all serve to keep those people engaged with your organization and included as part of the event – even from a distance. All are quite affordable and easy to use. The toughest part is developing a plan to incorporate them into your organization’s outreach efforts. Start small – reporting on meetings for example – to get a feel for the platforms. Once you’re comfortable using one or all of these platforms, you’ll be ready to tackle larger events.
The technology is here and many of your members are already using it. Isn’t it time your organization did too?