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  • Writer's pictureJon Bowden

7 'Must Knows' When Filming A Conference

Auckland Videographer Jon Bowden filming an event
An early set-up and technical run-though is essential prior to any live event. Jon Bowden, Auckland DoP pictured here ahead of Barrack Obama's speech

Most events these days have on board a camera crew working their magic. Their footage can be used in so many ways during and after the event. From social media campaigns, website videos, promotional content for future events, or simply for reference material for those unable to attend, a video recording of your special event is a must-have for today’s organisations.

I’ve filmed and edited many conferences during my career. From small, internal training sessions through to major public launch events, there are a few golden rules to follow.

Here are some of my top tips to ensure you get the most out of shooting and sharing your next conference.

1. Plan out your Footage

When briefing your camera crew ahead of the event, explain the the purpose of the video and how it’s going to be edited together. For example, you might need a record of the entire conference, or you may need a short and punchy highlights reel. For the latter, make notes during the day of when those highlights take place. This can save a lot of time in the edit, post conference.

Consider customising your Highlights Reel: one version to attract future sponsors or exhibitors; one to attract future delegates; and one for media. Obviously, each of these will have related content for each respective audience.

2. Vox Pops Break-out Zone

Set aside a quiet space for interviews between sessions. Make sure the backdrop is clutter-free (no big logos or slogans, unless they’re your own!).

Organize a schedule of your interviewees, making sure you get a good mix of speakers, delegates and sponsors. Questions such as, “What do you hope to find answers to today?”; “Which session have you enjoyed the most and why?” and “What’s the one thing you’ve learnt / will do differently post conference?” are some good starter questions. As a side note, make sure you get consent forms signed by contributing talent.

3. Get the Balance Right

There can be competing priorities between creating the best live event and creating the best video. For example, you may prefer to keep audience lighting low to create a dramatic experience, while professional stage lighting can make a significant impact. For the videographer, these contrasts are important to know ahead of the sessions, so they can plan accordingly. In reality, most organisers aim for a compromise.

If you think your video content will be seen and shared by a much larger online audience than the physical audience on the day, concentrate on making sure optimal conditions for filming.

And any experienced camera operator will be discrete when filming, and know not to interrupt the flow of the day (unlike some wedding photographers I’ve seen in action!), but it might pay to remind them.

4. Camera set-up

If budgets allow, I’d recommend a minimum of two cameras to capture a conference. One should be a wide screen angle, fixed on the main stage and speaker. The second camera can be used for close-up of the speaker and the audience reactions.

You may even consider adding a shoulder-mounted camera or Gimbal, to give an edgy, exciting feel to the footage. For on-the-fly content, you might add a GoPro to the mix. This footage gives a great authentic and live feel for any event, with a sense of the unexpected about to happen.

Having said that, I’m often the sole shooter on many events, and the finished product still looks great with some clever cut-away shots (B-roll footage) and editing.

But having the right gear, more than one camera allows for a varied and interesting final edit. Footage of speakers can be edited together with audience reactions, and ultimately gives a more slick and professional finished product.

5. Sound – No Compromises

Ahead of the event, ask your camera crew to liaise with your venue’s AV team, so they can ascertain what type of audio feed is available, such as an XLR cable.

If your location does not have an AV team, make it priority to get the sound sorted. Lapel mics and lectern mics will need to be in place, and your crew need to source a way of receiving this feed, either directly or from a soundboard. One absolute must is to allow plenty of time before the event starts to check all technical aspects are working smoothly, including lighting and sound.

6. Attention to Detail

Make sure your Editor has high resolution copies of any Powerpoint presentations or Videos shown on the day. These can work well as an intercut in your video.

For captions, ensure you have the correct spelling of any featured talent.

7. Leveraging the Event

Think about what interviews and testimonials you can get. This rich content can be used in follow up campaigns to delegates, social media programmes, and for promoting the event the next time around.

I’m often asked to record short “About Us” videos of exhibitors at events, which they then use on their websites as a promotional video.

If you've got an upcoming conference, training session, internal event that you're thinking of videoing, please get in touch and I'll be happy to help.

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