5 TIPS TO CREATING A FREE CONFERENCE BLOG

While covering a three-day conference, with plenty of presentations and panelist sessions, my news articles were bound to be based on the opening and closing conference speeches from the guests of honour. So  to occupy my time between those speeches and photographing the presenters/speakers, I took the opportunity to create a free conference blog.

https://futureofpastoralismturkana2018.wordpress.com/

The blog was meant to let the discussions “travel” far beyond the walls conference hall; through the sharing of just one link – “all the conference’s information under one site” so to speak.

It was a fun thing to do, and here are some tips on how to develop a free conference blog

  1. Select a free hosting site

WordPress is my preferred site. It is easy to use and has plenty of free templates to customise to suit one’s needs. They are plenty of free blog hosting sites; blogger, Tumblr and so on, choose what you are comfortable using.

  1. Easy to remember url address

With the conference organising team, pick an easy to remember of the name of the blog; closely related to the name of the conference and year. During the conference continuously, remind the participants to visit the blog and popularise it by sharing the link with other interested parties and on their social media pages.

  1. Keep it simple

The design should be simple that saves time and keeps the focus on the content. Keep the tab naming simple as well – presentations, program, contacts etc.

  1. Brief introduction page

The home page’s content should have the conference objective, theme and what people should expect at the end of the conference. The idea is to capture people’s curiosity to visit the presentations’ page for more information. Do not forget to include the logos of the organisations involved.

  1. Update continuously

Work closely with the organisers and the rapporteur team to get the presentations beforehand. As soon as a presenter is done, upload their presentation and bios. Every morning, be sure to upload the communique.

Three ways new jobs affect your reading choices 

Whenever you change jobs expect your reading choices to change along with it. 

Reading has not always been my second nature, but when your mother buys Ladybird books (from Penguin Publishers) then forces you to read aloud every evening and unmoved by a young sulking face (and sometimes teary eyes); then before long, it becomes a habit. Now reading is part of my soul and no day ends without having read a sentence, paragraph, page or chapters. 

After the Ladybird phase, I went through Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Catherine Keene’s Nancy Drew, Franklin W. Dixon’s Hardy Boys, R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps, Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams before moving to best sellers like John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon and historical romance in university. All read to escape the dreary academic studies. 

Joining a business paper newsroom, fiction took a back seat and non-fiction become my preference. My favourite was behavioural economics. I wanted to understand why people act they do – it seems chaotic. Yet with the books, I was able to see beyond the disorder to patterns that explains human behaviour. 

Currently as a civil servant, my reading choices have changed again with breaks of African literature. 

Through all these changes, I have come to realise that the underlying reasons for the hopscotch subject interests are all the same. 

The obvious – Seeking answers

Sorry, guys. Google does not hold all the answers. Books will always have all the in-depth answers. From reading books, like Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, I get to understand how the pestilent bureaucracy of government and politics fail a country’s economic growth.

Self-improvement and advancement 

The requirement to be a multifaceted communication expert – write, edit and photography – I find myself having to read books on these subjects. I’m always looking to improve the secondary skills, thrust upon me by work. 

Building a clairvoyant side 

As humans we always worry about tomorrow, so our fear of regret about today’s actions drive us to as much as possible make decisions that will have the desired future outcome. By reading to seek answers and for self-improvement gives me the future-predicting powers; what I would think is making informed decisions. 

 

Learning to love change through a new camera

When it comes to a camera, does size matter?

For the last five months, I have been using Nikon 5300 instead of the Canon 6D (My cruel mistress canon – Five tips to taking okay photos). Why switch to a Nikon? Well according to many photographers and online reviews – Nikon is the best for photography work. A skill I thought I should give all to perfect.

When my colleagues saw my new camera, they made fun on how small it was compared to the Canon 6D and their models of Nikon. It was all in good fun. Even as we laughed, I asked them when it comes to a camera, does size matter? Isn’t the whole point to take great photos?

This is not a review of the new camera but advocacy for “embracing change”. Sometimes change is thrust upon you or you can be brave and want the change. If you want to change for yourself, here are some tips to get you through it;

At first, failure is a must

After being been used to primarily adjusting the ISO to take sharp photos with a fixture aperture, now I have had to learn the aperture and shutter speed settings as well. I get a lot of dark, overexposed and fuzzy photos before getting the settings right. It can be disheartening especially when I miss to capture a great moment in the field or at a conference. However, I have come to learn that failure is part of the process.

Focus on the main reason for the change

For fear of just being an okay photographer and videographer, I saw it best to perfect one thus chose photography and left videographer on the new-skills-to-learn list. Remembering the reason why I changed cameras helps me get over the self-doubts and frustrations during photography assignments.

Soak in the new experience

The downs will be more than ups; as humans we innately inclined to dwell on the downs. It is the down experience (real or imagined) that one gets to learn more. With every fuzzy and dark photo, I get to know what I have done wrong thus would not repeat next time. And this goes for a good photo taken too, I get to learn which settings work for different situations.

Discover first then adjust to suit you

All I look for is a good sharp photo of my subject(s) or whether it is conveying the story I want it to tell. I’m fond of the manual setting because I can adjust both shutter speed and aperture. Discovering what works for you is part of the change; so have fun with it.

Success will be sweet in the end

At the beginning of any change, fear of failure can paralyse you to not leave what is comfortable.  Focus on the positive. Whenever I take a good photo, I make mentally congratulate myself for the job well done. Always celebrate the wins no matter how small.

Coming fast or slow, change is sneaky and parking the power of a steamroller. The only way to survive is to adjust to it as best as you can.

 

 

Living and working in a dissimilar culture

Every new place your go or visit, that is not home then you will encounter a different culture. It can be a small change like going to your aunt’s house where you discover; discussing the book one is reading is an important dinner conversation. Next time, you visit then you had better be reading something.

Or it could be drastic, like getting a job in a different country or county. Living and working so far from home, I figured some few things out to “fit”;

Learn to say “hello” and “thank you” in their mother tongue– this is an ice breaker as people will be surprise. They might be to shock when you first say it the first time and might get a weak response. This gives you an opportunity to say it again with even a bigger smile.

Listen more, talk less – open your ears and only speak when spoke to directly – I know it sounds archaic. However, it helps in assessing the situation and gives you time to weigh your words before speaking.

Take a crash course history – there is a reason a culture is the way it is and to gain insight; learn the past and be open. Culture is built on the backbone of history; past experiences mold a people’s norms. By taking the time to learn, you get to understand them more. Conflict and frustrations that are culture-related will not be so bad.

Not everyone will welcome you (at the beginning, that is) – you will feel awkward, like that kid that joins a new school in the middle of the last term when everyone knows each other; friendships and cliques already formed. You will feel your every move watched and words measured. If you are genuine in any society, you should have no problem earning their trust eventually.

Sometimes you will feel like an outsider when they group together, but that should not concern you. They are have just become comfortable to be themselves around you.

When you do get the job far from home, do not stress – eventually it will find a place in your heart.

5 tips on working the pen and camera together

Juggling note taking and taking photos can be overwhelming. However, the demand to be a well- round communication specialist (a good writer and photographer) is now the industry trend.

In most organizations and government, communication officers (most of them former journalists) find themselves doing both these tasks when they were so used to begin with a photographer tagging along on their assignments.

When you are on your own, a challenge. What if taking a photo will mean missing to take down a good point from the speaker or when taking down a point you get to miss a great photo opportunity?

Usually the pressure of trying to be perfect when on your own is one step to failing at both; I say

  1. Plan the story idea

Once you know what the assignment is about, plan the photos around the story idea. If it is a signing, take a shot of the participants signing the document. As for a baraza, take a photo of the speaker with part of the crowd as he greets them. Thereafter, you are free to take notes but once in a while take a shot or two from where you are sitting.

  1. Take photos during the chit chat

As is with most cases, meetings no matter how serious, participants will always take a minute or two to speak on matter of personal interests. During this moment, they will be laughing and smiling and you are likely to get a great photo. This is free you to take notes as the speeches go on.

  1. Get the speech

Getting the speech beforehand will allow you to take the photos as they read it. In this instance, get a shot of the reader (often the newsmaker) looking up from the speech. As for the other subjects, as they listen. After the speech, you can now take the notes for the off-the-cuff comments where usually you can find the story angle.

  1. Focus on the newsmaker

Beforehand, know who when they speak will make the “news”. You can gamble and only take photos of him sitting at the high table or speaking then take just the notes of the other speakers. However, trying to get photos of the different speakers. You may need them later especially when one makes a good point.

  1. Location of the assignment

Knowing the location can help you plan out your photos; if it’s a bazaar, a photo of the speaker with part of the crowd. At a boardroom, get them outside and take a group photo that way you get everyone’s faces.  This will free you to take notes when it matters.

Take your time, always got with your gut and do not be hard on yourself when do not get it right the first time or the second. Practice!

(Painting by Giambattista Tiepolo – Alexander and Campaspe in the Studio of Apelles 1725-27)

 

My cruel mistress, Canon – five tips to taking okay photos

Putting down the pen or recorder to picking up a camera sometimes feels like the act of jumping from the earth to the sun. For some time now, I have been handling a professional Canon 6D camera. The days of point-and-shoot cameras are long behind me but this camera! I discover something new every other day.

I read on photography – even took a photography class in university, but it is such a practical skill; on being the field can you learn. You can understand what aperture or shutter speed is. All the theory sometimes does not prepare you for a room where no matter how many places you stand, you can only take a photo from one angle. It is a dark room with tinted windows and to get natural light is to open the door. However, I managed to get some good photos – selecting one in every ten taken.

Then a week later, when I think I have figured out the room I find a heap of chairs at the back covered with a purple cloth “soaking up” all the available light thus you perfect spot is gone.

As much it can be a plier to a tooth affair, I love the challenge. Moving around the room, looking for a new spot – shooting and checking on the screen to see whether I got a good shot. Then I discovered C1 and C2 – yet to read up on what they are.

Sometimes I get favourable conditions sometimes I get a dark room that makes me what to hire a photographer. My visual artistic eye is one that I have had to develop, thus my five tips to taking okay photos;

  1. Carry out research – google images to get an idea of on how to frame your shots
  2. Play with settings – adjust with ISO, aperture and shutter speed, you will eventually get your good shot
  3. From the above, check then check again – with each setting adjust, check the photo on the screen
  4. Practise the shoot – use a model before getting down to the actual taking of the photo especially when it comes to group photos
  5. Killing “shyness” – you will feel many eyeballs on you as you move around taking pictures but soon you will forget the eyes

(Painting by Johannes Vermeer – Woman Holding a Balance 1662-63)

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