Improving Long Tech Events #7: Storytelling & Documentation
Storytelling and documentation of long tech events presents an opportunity for HUGE improvement, in my opinion as an events wrangler.
Because of that opportunity, storytelling and documentation was put at #7 on the list of prioritized improvements for long tech events.
There are hackathons totally focused on storytelling, such as Popathon, POV Hackathon, Build the News Hackathon, and Story Matter Hackathon. And it would be awesome to have participants from storytelling hackathons be participants for events I help wrangle or in which I participate. But what I’m covering in today’s post is the topic of facilitating improved and comprehensive storytelling and documentation at long tech events.
What Is “Storytelling” For A Tech Event
What storytelling and documentation means to me is capturing as much of the event’s excitement, people-stories, background, highlights (and lowlights), impact, innovation, projects with future-work potential, and quirky or media-worthy moments as possible within the budget and personnel resources available for the event. These “stories” can be published in online or offline format and shared publicly, within a group, or in a one-on-one manner. Below is a list of primary ways to capture the story of an event.
- Social media coverage
- Audio interviews or session recordings
- VR / AR / MR coverage
- Mainstream media coverage
- Links to coverage of events == media stories, particularly pithy posts and tweets, participants’ summaries or musings about the event
- Materials and resources presented or discussed at event
What Are Benefits Of Storytelling & Documentation
As a person who both enjoys organizing events and loves to attend sessions at participant-driven events, I have multiple reasons for pushing others to do more comprehensive and effective storytelling and documentation. To my way of thinking, if long tech events do a bang-up job on this issue, we’ll have more future tech events and the events will have greater impact. I’ll also be able to learn lots about what happened at the event even though I couldn’t experience everything firsthand. Below are what I consider important benefits of effective storytelling and documentation for an event.
- Provides a comprehensive event review and summary documentation for the event’s sponsors, partners, speakers, participants and organizers
- Event sponsors and partners need documentation to feel they received value for their support
- Documentation of a successful event helps create desire and expectation for continued support of future events by past supporters
- Assists in recruiting new sponsors and partners for future events
- Helps organizers capture event history and plan better future events
- Participants of event want to see pictures and read about the event
- Especially appreciated by, and informative to, remote participants
- Explains event to potential participants of future events
- Persuades potential participants for next year’s event to sign up early so they don’t miss out on a great event
- Helps build tech culture of region and strengthens the area’s tech community
- Provides portfolio for events wranglers
Why Better Storytelling Doesn’t Happen
When you read through the above list of storytelling and documentation benefits, it seems highly worthwhile to make sure it happens. So why isn’t effective and comprehensive storytelling the norm for long tech events? The reasons will be slightly different for each event, but here are potential causes:
- Time and money are the two primary roadblocks to getting high quality documentation and storytelling for most long tech events. For-profit conferences have relatively low profit margins, so they’re likely to have the minimum documentation needed to satisfy the marketing department of the company putting on the event. Participant-driven events probably don’t even think of including storytelling on their budget, and most sponsor-recruiters won’t want to spend their time and effort recruiting sponsors to cover the cost of hired or incentivized storytellers.
- In the case of a participant-driven event, storytelling is also low on the participants’ list of priorities. Or, more likely, it is nowhere to be found on the list. Even if they intend to do event storytelling, chances are they are undisciplined non-journalists overwhelmed by life’s many commitments. So their intentions may just be paving the way to you-know-where. For more formal or traditional conferences, storytelling is even less likely to be expected or done by the “attendees” and organizers will likely not have provisions for attendee-generated content to be posted on or linked to from the event website.
- Not many participants are “storytellers” and even fewer are “event documentarians.”
- Long tech events can cause brain overload and physical fatigue. This tends to reduce the amount of storytelling people will do during the event. By the time they get home and recover from the event, they’ve got 59 other priorities and things to do, so it’s easy to skip retrospective storytelling.
Ways For Tech Events To Get Better Storytelling & Documentation
In spite of hurdles described above, I hope event organizers and participants work to significantly improve storytelling and documentation. In addition to action items you already do to facilitate storytelling, consider which of the suggestions below might be appropriate additions to your event planning.
- Ensure a skilled and committed marketing person is on core team for organizing event
- Recruit social media mavens to post event material on high profile and relevant services or networks before, during and after the event
- Develop list of tech contacts at all regional media, then work with them to publicize your event
- Encourage and arrange for posting event photos, videos and “stories,” including hashtags and links; publish relevant details before event
- Personally get commitment from multiple people to take comprehensive video and photo coverage of the event; follow up after event to get the photos and videos
- Issue general request that event participants sign up for taking and submitting lots of pictures and video
- Work with college and high school communications and media teachers to organize storytelling opportunities for their students
- Recruit local independent amateur or professional videographers and video productions companies to capture and edit video from event, including a two-minute “promo and highlights” event summary, 30-second highlight shorts, interviews during the event with speakers, participants and organizers (and event supporters, if they are at the event), long chronological video composite of event, etc.
- Build or arrange for automated photo or video-taking equipment, such as time-lapse photo capture and traveling robot
- Invite speakers or session leaders to the event for doing storytelling talks
- Develop compelling incentives for people to do storytelling and documentation
- Have a storytelling and documentation challenge or competition with monetary or in-kind donation benefits (with appropriate full disclosure and no regurgitation of sponsor-generated content)
- Encourage storytellers to set up affiliate programs for which they can build event-relevant links into their websites; consider having an evening workshop on this topic
- Take photos and video of large group gatherings, especially event kickoff session and full-crowd sessions in largest presentation areas
- Ensure photo and video coverage is done for sessions or agenda items that appear to have high participant interest
- Get storytelling coverage of social meetups and hallway happenings at the event
- Capture swag and food photos
- Submit posts or articles to relevant websites that cover the topic of the event
- Develop standard intro and exit sequences for “official” event videos, including event logos, other visuals, and appropriate sound tracks
This is by no means a complete list of ways to greatly improve storytelling and documentation at long tech events. To improve this list, please send your proven methods and untested ideas to bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com. The list will be updated as the suggestions flood in!
Just for fun, also send me a link to the best stories you’ve written, captured or seen about an event.
Posts in this “Improving Long Tech Events” series:
“Making Long Tech Events Better”
“Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities”
“Improving Long Tech Events: #1 Priority”
“Improving Long Tech Events: #2 Priority”
“Improving Long Tech Events: #3 Priority”
“Improving Long Tech Events: #4 Priority”
“Improving Long Tech Events: #5 Priority”
“#6 Priority: Follow-Up For Greater Impact”
“Priority #7: Storytelling & Documentation”
“Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities #8 – #13“