Career Advice

How to Add Event Coverage to Your Freelance Repertoire

By Deanna Cioppa April 18th, 2018

Trust is a funny thing in the freelance business. It takes a long time to build trust with a client, but once you do, the skies open and opportunities rain down like, well, raindrops. And lately, I’ve seen brands start to trust more freelancers with event coverage.

These companies ask contributors to attend conferences and create relevant content, occasionally on tight deadlines. The projects can be lucrative for seasoned freelancers—carrying higher rates and providing valuable face-to-face time with clients. They’re also a huge undertaking. Brands must be confident in your ability to accurately capture important moments as they occur, draw conclusions based on brand knowledge, and choose the appropriate channel through which to distribute that content.

To earn that trust for future event coverage, you’ll need to bring expert interview skills and knowledge of the brand. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll have to navigate chaotic spaces on your own. If you’re interested in becoming an events coverage specialist, here are a few key steps you can take to attract the right clients.

Know your way around live streaming apps

Over the past few years, a host of new platforms and apps have made it easier to stream live video to the world: Facebook Live, Periscope, IBM Cloud Video (formerly Ustream), and YouTube Live, to name a few. With these new tools at their disposal, brands hopped on the virtual conference bandwagon, supplementing attendee lists with live simulcasts, presentations, and on-the-floor coverage for remote participants.

Many of these apps are free to use, so do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with them. (Facebook Live is a good place to start.) Once you have skills and experience with a few of the platforms, include them as part of your pitch. Think man-on-the-street reporting, hot takes, behind-the-scenes film, etc. Clients will value the creativity and appreciate having multimedia options.

Pitch two months out

Brands tend to rev up preview content six or eight weeks before the event date—not only to drive registrations but also to engage with current and returning registrants who can generate buzz. Don’t wait for your client to send out a pitch request. Stay ahead of their event calendar and pitch your ideas before the process starts.

Focus on divisible content

Prior to the event, your client has two objectives: awareness and conversion (event registration). To build awareness, pitch stories about the brand and link to existing thought leadership. To support registration, pitch tactical content like how-tos that connect to the event themes and include a clear CTA.

Ideally, some of your content can be repurposed to cover both objectives. For example, an e-book released six weeks ahead of the event can draw an audience into the top of the funnel through an email subscription. Then, it can be split into blog posts, infographics, social posts, and email copy to drive readers to a registration link.

Study social

You may not bill yourself as a social media guru (in fact, never bill yourself as any kind of guru), but clients are going to ask you to handle some level of live social support during the event. This will likely consist of providing event managers and marketing associates with quotes from panelists and attendees.

To prepare, you should follow other major events on social to see what they do right and wrong when it comes to factors like frequency, visuals, and tone. The more creative you can be with social on behalf of your client, the more value you’ll add as a contributor overall. Plus, chances are you’re going to be responsible for some post-event content, in which case you can never have too many quotations.

Befriend the AV & IT professionals

Your most valuable ally at an event is not the client, not the events manager, not the bartender, but the people behind the cameras and soundboards. Learn their names. Bring them coffee and doughnuts. Know where they’re going to be. Because when things go wrong—realize you’re supposed to be covering two different panels at the same time,—they’ll be your saviors.

They’ll be recording the entire event, or, at the very least, can split sessions with you, so you can take notes or live stream at one while they record video of another. They’ll have quick access to raw footage, and, if you play your cards right, they may even split it up into snippets so you don’t have to find a needle in an eight-hour haystack later on.

Back up everything

Speaking of later on, there is no sinking sensation quite as awful as sitting down to start the content your client asked for only to realize that your recorder was on low volume or you left your notes on the plane. Before you leave the conference, back up everything you have. Bring an external hard drive or flash drive, load all your recordings and videos on to it, and if you’re feeling extra responsible, take photos of your notes and upload them to a platform like Evernote.

Follow up ASAP

As soon as the event ends, the client is going to be busy for the foreseeable future trying to build relationships and close deals with attendees. The less you have to ask of them, the better. However, when you’re roaming around conducting interviews or trying to record panels, you may not be able to gather all the material you need right away.

To prevent any frantic follow-ups, make a note of any speaker you’d like to reach, add a sentence or two about what you want to ask them about, and send it to your point of contact immediately after the event, in one email. Better yet, try to get the information yourself, but always check with the client before you reach out to a speaker.

Plan post-event content in advance

You should have about 50 to 75 percent of your post-event content mapped out and approved by the client before the event even begins. This preparation will keep you from racking your brain if the interviewees don’t give you what you need or the conference ends up being relatively uninspiring conference (it happens). You can fill in the rest with your in-person experiences. At the end of the event, be sure to regroup with the client to make sure both parties are clear on deliverables and turnarounds.

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