Sunday, August 05, 2007

How to organize a blogging seminar or conference?

Referring to my post on getting connected with bloggers, encouraging questions to be asked. Micaela responded and asked:

"Our school is planning to hold the first ever blog seminar here in our city. Can you give us some tips and advice on how to organize such event step-by-step and what are the best topics to cover in a two days seminar? Hoping for your immediate post regarding this matter. Thank you in advance!"

Let me answer this question by sharing my volunteer work experience for the past three years in iBlog, organized by UP-ISP. They may not necessarily be in order and can happen concurrently.

1. Identify the organization that will spearhead the event and capable of allotting basic fund resources to make it happen.
This is the body that shall make the official correspondence for sponsorship solicitation, speaker invitations, and dealing with suppliers. It must have a basic fund to cover cost of secretariat manpower and can pay advances to expenses as necessary.

2. Set the date and venue
Identify a date where most participants can attend. If it is for the public at large, I'm more inclined in having a one-day rather two days event. However, if you have a guaranteed audience, such as students from various schools, then by all means proceed with the two days.

3. Draft the budget plan
You need to manage your cost such as food, venue, electricity, manpower, tokens for speakers and sponsors, promotion collaterals such as posters, streamers to promote prior and at the event, handouts / programme kits, name badges, projection system rental, sound system rental, and other items you want to be included.

4. Form the team and assign tasks
Identify team members who will help put this event and assign tasks that includes:
  • Creating/updating the website
  • Speakers invitation and coordination
  • Campaign for sponsors and set-up coordination
  • Billing and collection of sponsorship fees
  • Supplier sourcing
  • Campaign for participants
  • Participant registration and follow-up
  • Media invitation and coordination
  • Actual event set-up
  • Documentation and live blogging
5. Identify the target audience
Your primary target audience will drive the content that you need to include in the program.

6. Identify the topics
If it is for beginners, topics you can consider are:
  • Setting up a blog
    Ideally using popular tools such as Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, among others. The person must be able to explain the differences of these platforms and which is suited for specific needs.
  • Blogging do's and don'ts.
    To help new bloggers in conducting themselves online and make them aware of the risks they need to manage, should they be more adventurous with it.
  • Taking photos for blogs
    Share tips on how to take pictures for blogs, online storage, and protection from copyright infringement.
  • Blogging success stories
    This can be combination of newbie and established bloggers to share their experience. Success can come in any form such as revenue gained, recognition, or be able to create awareness on critical issues that influence its outcome.
  • Experience sharing on blog set-up
    Bloggers from different profession or status can share their personal experience in putting up one and their lessons learned too. You can feature a student blogger, mommy or daddy blogger, photo-blog, cooking blog, travel blog, news blog, retail blog, among others.
  • Audio and video blogging
    You can invite podcasters and vloggers to discuss how to set up a podcast and create a video blog.
  • Legal issues in blogging
    You can invite a blogger/lawyer to talk about legal risks in blogging such as libel, slander, copyright infringement, terrorism, among others.
If you will open your program to bloggers at large, you can also include advance topics such as:
  • Blog monetization
    Various ways that bloggers can earn from their blogs. You can invite a blogger to share their experience on this.
  • Becoming a Problogger
    Invite a problogger to share their experience on how they start and steps take to become a problogger.
  • Political and Advocacy Blogging
    Discuss blogs can be used to share political developments and be a tool for transparent elections. Get NGO groups who use blogs for this purpose. The same for advocacy groups on various causes.
7. Invite speakers
Identify speakers who can credibly talk about the topics above. As your ongoing campaign will also promote the speakers' blog, make sure to get resource persons who are willing to blog about your event at the moment they agree to speak.

If you are based in the province, prioritize getting local speakers to give them the exposure they need as well.

8. Develop a sponsorship package
Once your budget is clear, create a sponsorship package that will allow you to cover its cost. Make sure that the benefits for each category is distinctive. Prioritize in getting the major cost items (such as food) be funded and let the rest be flexible. For every sponsorship package, identify potential sponsors to be approached. Note that your target sponsors receive so many proposals everyday. Make sure your offer stands-out and be too hard to pass.

9. Campaign for sponsors
Identify a sponsorship campaign period and the date where you'll start inviting participants. This way, sponsors can decide on or before that date and be included in your announcements once they commit.

10. Supplier sourcing
Look for suppliers to cover your cost items. Do this at the early stage so you can get the best deal as possible.

11. Campaign for attendees
Provide details about the event through as many of your blogging friends as possible. Have a common blog or website where interested participants can sign up. If your event is based in the province, give details on hotels where they can stay and get special rates as well.

12. Send out a press release
Get your local publications to write and cover your event. Make sure to have a press release ready and be sent out.

13. Have meetings regularly
Team members should meet regularly so that problems can be resolve once spotted.

14. Get volunteers
It is amazing to note that the blogging community can also be supportive or helpful to each other. Do not hesitate to ask for volunteers to help you with the registration and photo coverage of the event.

15. Coordinate the ingress / exit
Send out memos to sponsors two weeks before the ingress date so that they can aptly prepare. Suppliers should have delivered the items ordered on or before the event date. Make sure to be ready to take care of this and have food ready as well for your sponsors and suppliers on the night before the event.

After the event, proper packing up of equipment used, trash disposal, kits, among others should be done properly.

16. Send speaker presentation guidelines and ask for presentations 3 days prior to the event.
Make sure they comply to the guidelines you have given such as number of slides, time limit and non-sponsor plugs (that includes doing raffle and freebies).

Some speakers would like to give freebies but make sure this is done in a way to add interaction, value, or fun to the talk. Rather than a hard-sell.

It is ok to mention companies as case studies. But when a speaker's talk already becomes a venue to promote and hard sell a company - to the point participants already mistaken them as a sponsor, that is a different story altogether.

There are speakers who don't get to submit their materials ahead of time. Only give leeway if you can trust that the speaker will not do a sponsor-like talk or can deliver a presentation relevant to the topic assigned.

17. Manage the event
On the event day, if things are planned and executed accordingly, you'll find yourself mingling with speakers, suppliers, team members, and participants on a relaxed mode.

18. Celebrate with the team
Have fun after the event to celebrate.

19. Post online coverage
Blog about the event, upload speaker handouts, and collate the media and blog coverage. Sponsors need this information as one way to measure the effectiveness of an event.

20. Post-event meeting
Discuss event turn-out, coverage, and any other items that need action such as sponsorship collection, tokens and supplier payout.

21. Plan for the future
Do you want to do it again? Identify a target date where you can meet, sit down, and discuss it soon.

(Although some event teams don't get to do the latter parts especially if they have been doing it for quite awhile.)

Do you have additional tips to add to the above? Let me know and will update this.