How to Track Conferences Virtually
The web conference circuit is increasingly crowded and covers a wide range of topics. Unless you’re Robert Scoble, you probably don’t get to attend all of the events that you’d like. Even with the events you do attend, you likely won’t see all of the sessions you’d planned to (cough, SXSW!). Fortunately, there are a number of web services and sites which give you access to much of the content of a conference, whether you attend or not.
I went to SXSW in Austin this month, but once again I struggled to attend as many panels and sessions as I’d wanted to. So I decided to use the Web to find out what I missed, content wise, at SXSW. Here’s what I found.
One of the best conference coverage services is Lanyrd, which describes itself as a “social conference directory.” Lanyrd features a conference coverage aggregator, which pulls together notes, posts, slideshows, audio and more for events like SXSW. The SXSW 2011 page for Lanyrd has, at time of writing, 81 slide decks, 28 write-ups, 17 videos, and more. It’s by no means a comprehensive list of content for SXSW, but it’s certainly a good place to start looking.
Presentations, Notes & Write-ups
To track presentations, Slideshare is a great place to go. Most (if not all) of the slideshows linked by Lanyrd came from Slideshare.
One of the most compelling features of this year’s SXSW sessions was the live cartooning done by digital agency Ogilvy. On its Ogilvy Notes web site, all of the “visual notes” from SXSWi have been collected at one place. It’d be wonderful if visual notes became commonplace at conferences, as they’re a handy way to get a quick summary of a panel or keynote.
Here’s a visual note from a session I went to at SXSW, Jeffrey Zeldman’s Awesome Design Panel:
For write-ups of sessions, you can’t go past a good ol’ Google search. I searched for “Zeldman panel SXSW 2011″ and found this great summary by Guardian staffer Paul MacInnes, on a special Tumblr blog. Indeed the Guardian had stellar coverage from SXSW, with a posse of Tumblr blogs tracking the event. See also ReadWriteWeb’s coverage from SXSW.
Audio & Video
Conferences these days often record panels and (if we’re lucky) put up the audio on their websites, either during the event or after. Many of the SXSW sessions were recorded and are available as audio on the official SXSW website. For example, here is the full audio from Zeldman’s session. The audio player unfortunately doesn’t have a download option.
A suggestion for large conference organizers: create podcasts for each stream, so that people can subscribe to them. I’d love to subscribe to a ‘media’ podcast from SXSW, so I can hear media-focused panels at my leisure on my iPod.
Video from SXSW is scattered all around the Web. There are specialist video programs, like WebBeat.tv – who interviewed me during the event. SXSW has a YouTube channel, but there’s not much coverage on it. Fortunately for me, there is some video of one panel that I wanted to see but couldn’t: Rebooting Iceland: Crowdsourcing Innovation in Uncertain Times. But generally, you’ll have to search the Web and hope that someone took video of the session you’re after.
Social Media Coverage
Finally, of course, there is social media coverage from conferences. Twitter and Facebook are great tools to use during the event, but even after the event you can review conferences using services like Storify. ReadWriteWeb’s Community Manager Seamus Condron did a virtual scrapbook of SXSW, using Storify. It pulled together coverage from Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and other social services.
Overall, tracking conference coverage from afar or after the event isn’t a one-stop shop experience. Lanyrd is the closest it comes to having one online destination, but you’ll likely want to get your Google search on to compliment that.
Let us know in the comments if you have found other ways to get at the meat of conferences, virtually.