How to write an interesting scientific event blog post
If you’re on the business side of science, a conference, workshop or tradeshow is a time for meeting people, sharing ideas and hearing the latest about what’s happening in your field. Getting the most out the event should also mean writing a blog post – but how do you make it interesting as well as informative? Here’s a 12-step guide to writing a great blog post that will tick all the boxes (and keep your Marketing team happy!).
Why bother with a blog post?
If you’re involved in sales or marketing of scientific products or services, it’s quite likely that at some point you’ll have been asked to put together a blog post about an event you’ve been to.
This may often seem unnecessary when you’ve been using social media throughout the event, but unlike those channels, a blog post allows you to talk in-depth about what happened and convey your expertise of the subject. And of course, it will keep your website fresh with original, long-form content that can be used to drive people to your website and boost your SEO.
But you won’t need me to tell you that writing a blog post is often easier said than done. Unless you’re a trained writer, it’s likely that you’ll be staring at a blank page wondering where to start. And of course, there’s a deadline to meet!
If you’re in that situation, and find yourself tasked with writing up a blog post about an event you’ve been to, then not to worry. Follow the 12 steps below and you’ll be well on your way to having a great blog post that will show you and your company in the best possible light.
Writing a great post – 12 steps
#1: Get the right attitude
A blog post about a conference or tradeshow may seem in essence little different from a formal event report. But it is a big mistake to treat it like one, and doing so is where many people slip up. This is not the place for a blow-by-blow account of every workshop, poster session and coffee-break conversation.
Instead, imagine yourself in the position of a journalist. Think about your target audience, and ask yourself what they would have found interesting or useful had they been there. Write it for them, not for you or your colleagues.
The event-based blog post is an opportunity to say something interesting or useful – it’s not the place for a blow-by-blow account of every workshop, poster session and coffee-break conversation.
#2: Take notes
It might be a statement of the obvious, but if you go to an event not expecting to have to write it up afterwards, you’re on the back foot already. Make sure you’re clear about your objectives before you go, and if you’re asked to put something together, be on the alert for things you could include in your post. Taking notes as you go along will make the final write-up much easier.
#3: Don’t write the title (yet)
Once you’re back at your desk, don’t make the mistake of agonising over the title first. Titles can be tricky if you haven’t even decided what you’re going to say yet, so leave it for the moment until your thoughts are clearer – it’ll be easier that way!
#4: Write the five W’s
It is a fundamental principle of information-gathering (and especially journalism) that every story should contain the five W’s and one H – What, Where, Who, When, Why and How.
I find the ‘How’ doesn’t really work for blog posts so I miss it out, but the other five form an excellent foundation for the first part of a blog post, as follows:
- What – The name of the conference (and its abbreviation, if there is one) should obviously be included, but don’t forget to drop in a line about its history. How long has it been going for? Who founded it? Who runs it? What is, in effect, its heritage as an event? Also make sure you tell the reader what the subject matter of the event is, unless that’s obvious from its name. If it includes any niche terminology, a short explainer is often a good idea.
- Where – Nearly as important for setting the context is the ‘where’, and this can have links back to the ‘what’. For example, perhaps the event is always held in the same place because of industry connections, or has a defined sequence of changing locations. There’s no need to make it any more precise than the name of the city, unless it’s in a prestigious location or at the headquarters of the hosting organisation. Certainly don’t bother the reader with the exact postal address of some otherwise unremarkable hotel or convention hall.
- Who – This is where you can start to bring your personal experience of the event into the post. Who was there? How many people attended? Were they from industry, academia or both? Were any ‘big names’ present?
- When – The dates are essential of course, but it can be worth mentioning how frequent the event is. If it only happens every two years it will clearly carry more impact than if it takes places every few months.
- Why – Why is the event happening? What is the purpose of it? The conference organisers will usually have some sort of strapline, and if you can’t improve on that yourself then it’s acceptable to put it in quote marks and attribute it accordingly.
With the essentials covered, now it’s time to dig a bit deeper into your personal experience.
#5: Say why you’re there
Unless you’re just popping along to a conference or tradeshow to sound it out, you should say what you’re doing there – to hear the latest news about an important area, to present a workshop on your area of expertise, or to launch a new project or product.
If you can bring your job title or role into your description, that provides a way of saying who you are without sounding self-important.
#6: Say what happened
Next we come onto the substance of the event, which can be a bit intimidating to write about. But as a starting point, get down the titles of the talks/workshops you attended, and the names and affiliations of the presenters.
Then summarise what was covered in each event, in a few lines if you can. If nothing sticks in the mind about a particular presentation, then it’s a sign that there’s nothing worth saying. In that case, come back to it later before deciding to delete mention of it.
If you don’t remember much about a particular presentation, then it’s likely that there’s nothing worth saying – but wait until later before deleting mention of it from your blog post.
If you presented a poster, launched a product or met with customers, by now you’ll be itching to write half a page about how that went. But try and exercise restraint – as a general rule, don’t write any more about your own stuff than you would about someone else’s. This avoids coming across as more interested in yourself than everyone else, which is not the impression you want to give.
#7: Add in your opinions
Now’s it’s time to make all your observations personal, by adding in your opinion about what you heard or observed. Look back at your summary of things that happened, and jot down your thoughts about them. Which were interesting? Thought-provoking? Surprising? Controversial?
The reason for doing this is to avoid your post becoming a rehash of bland matter-of-fact statements based on the talk titles. Adding opinion overcomes this, and is in any case why people will (hopefully) be reading your blog post. When it comes to your own contributions to the event, by all means be enthusiastic, but don’t push it too much or you’ll sound insincere.
#8: Identify a theme
This point is not strictly necessary, but it goes a long way to turning your blog post from a run-of-the-mill piece to something more special.
Go back to the text you’ve written so far and see if you can identify one or more similarities or differences between the various pieces you’ve selected (and you’re not allowed to say “they were all featured at the same conference”!). For example:
- Are they all based around some fundamental idea? Or different ones?
- Are different approaches complementary? Or trying to achieve the same thing?
- Are they being driven by the same influences? Or different ones?
- Does one item cover a topic at a deeper level than another?
- Did they give the same outcomes? Or different ones?
What you’re aiming to do here is to find a way to bundle together similar items, counterpose those that are different, and sequence those that naturally flow into each other. This lends structure to your blog post, and will make it easy to write the punchy titles and subheads that good web content demands. They certainly don’t need to be in order of appearance, and if one or two talks don’t fit a pattern, that’s fine – and you can use that very point to introduce them.
If you manage to pull this off, then not only will you have an eminently readable structure to your post, but you’ll have made it interesting too, as well as demonstrating your mastery of the subject matter.
Identifying one or more themes to your blog post will make it interesting to read, and will help convey your mastery of the subject matter.
#9: Add some photos and captions
Good shots of people are always preferable to photos of heads taken from the back of an auditorium.
Whatever photo you chose, it’s worth taking some time over the caption text. Most importantly, if ‘significant’ people are shown in the photo (such as speakers or members of your company), make sure that their names are provided, and job roles if not already mentioned.
It’s also worth taking a message from the body text and adding that to the caption. People without the time to read the full text are quite likely to skim through the post looking at the images and captions, so it’s another opportunity to get your message across. Just avoid repeating the body text verbatim.
#10: Now write the title
You should find this is easier now than it was earlier. Try out half a dozen versions and see what works best. A few tips:
- Aim to include a word or two describing the subject matter, but avoid jargon or niche terms, unless you think that people will be searching for them.
- It usually makes sense to include the name of the conference, but if this would make the title unwieldy, try a generic description instead.
- Add one of the themes you identified in step #8 to help entice the reader in with the promise of something interesting.
#11: Make the finishing touches
This could be a longer list, but in the interests of time (see below) you should add the following to your blog post as a bare minimum:
- Subheads to make it easy to scan
- Hyperlinks to make it useful
- SEO terms to make it findable
- A call-to-action to ensure that readers stay on your site afterwards
And finally, give the whole piece a check-over editorially. The easiest way to offend someone is to spell their name incorrectly or use the wrong accented character!
#12: Get it published
A blog post about an event that happened 6 months ago is unlikely to be of much use to anyone apart from historians. So don’t waste time in getting it online – the best time to write up a blog post about an event is straight away, and the best time to publish it is when you get back to the office!
Blog posts about conferences and tradeshows are an easy way to showcase your expertise and encourage visitors to your website.
Like any piece of writing, you’ll be largely wasting your time if you don’t give the content and structure of your blog post careful thought. But if you manage to check-off the items on this list you’ll be well on your way to creating a piece that will be eminently shareable online, and perfect for promoting the expertise both of yourself and your organisation.