Blogger in Residence, Aidan Bennett, provides some tips on writing about events.
Event coverage is my favourite form of writing, or at times, copy writing, because it’s all laid out for you. When you cover events you usually simply have to rock up on time, take short hand notes, enjoy the free coffee and muffins and get to writing your piece while your notations still make sense. The best events are the ones you’re invited to, whether it be by email, a paper invitation or by being approached in person. When you’re invited you’re expected, so people are more likely to engage attendees as they arrive. This gives you a chance to introduce yourself and the capacity in which you’re attending if you weren’t invited expressly to write a piece covering the event. When you’re met and engaged by someone upon arriving at a venue, and after you explain your reason for attending, you’re often readily offered any materials you require, which greatly helps in writing most pieces and negates the need to take many notes. Locally I’ve found that representatives of most publications are welcomed with open arms into most events; were you to be writing an exposé piece, even without the wolf in sheep’s clothing gambit, you could still most probably stroll right in.
The getting past and welcomed by the gatekeeper routine may be needed occasionally, and it’s harder for students, or those who don’t practice impression management. Most local university publications are known and their representatives welcome at the kinds of events I attend, the kind Canberra loves, business luncheons, government events, charity dinners and the like. Though if you turn up nervously shaking, smelling of sweat, in clothes which proclaim to the world you’re a student, you’ll most likely still get in, but you won’t enjoy as easy access to necessary peoples and materials. You’ll also miss out on a lot of networking opportunities through not appearing authoritative, or of some standing, on the up and up.
Once you’re in, you’ve gotten yourself a coffee and a muffin, you’ve made the obligatory small talk, more so if you don’t arrive near on fifteen minutes to thirty late, when the proceedings usually actually begin, you have a choice to make. In your pocket is something magical, a device which much like drone technologies can draw scorn and have you reprimanded as intrusive, a smartphone. Pulling out your phone is a calculated decision, on which much hinges. Pull it out in the wrong context and you might as well have pulled something else out of your pocket, use your device surreptitiously and again, you might as well have pulled something else out surreptitiously. A good rule of thumb, if you haven’t already asked permission, is whether or not there is a politician present and addressing an audience, no one ever chastises people for recording politicians. People may, or the speaker themselves might, if anyone else were recorded without warning, anyone from a CEO to a mailman. Once again, for the sake of it, if you don’t have express permission, as always, keep it in your pants.
Now, depending on which circuits of events you frequent, you’ll meet different people and be afforded different opportunities to learn of and gain invites to other events of interest. At the State level, in general events, government events and industry events, you’ll often, if you meet criteria peculiar to each individual you engage, be allowed further access into ready-made networks and a series of never ending events. At the federal and national levels of government and events, you’ll find some resistance, particularly depending on which publication or platform you write for. Were you to be writing for a large publication or a large newspaper, then you’ll get the access, and most of what I’m telling you here will be common knowledge, if you’re a student reporter or the like it’s going to be an uphill battle.
At either level, for want of a better term, of event you’ll find the most taxing thing in writing your piece is attending the event in the first place, making the small talk, swapping business cards and exchanging tired and tested stories and remarks. Once you get home and start to type out something it’s the easiest thing on earth compared to some other forms of writing; you just parrot it all back in chronological order, simple. Use some tact, clean up the grammar in people’s speech, don’t make mention of low numbers of attendees, praise the work of the organisations involved and you’re done. The danger is when you introduce outside observations or your own opinions, if you’re doing that in such a small city then all the power to you—it’s a good idea which draws in many readers, but it’s not my style, so I’m not going to help you.
Aidan Bennett is a local writer who runs, along with Krishan Caldwell, The Canberra Entrepreneur, an online platform profiling entrepreneurship and innovation in the ACT region. Aidan also works for the CBR Innovation Network, as a Marketing and Administration Coordinator. Both Krishan and Aidan are also Co-founders of a company, Start-Up Bloq Pty Ltd, which aims to get Australian schoolchildren involved in entrepreneurship and innovation. Aidan also works as a freelance copywriter. Recent notable achievements include interviewing the ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr MLA, about entrepreneurship and innovation in the ACT region.