How to cover a meeting

Meeting stories are often the dullest of the dull. The piece begins with a wide shot of people sitting in a room. Some of them speak, but remain badly lit and often off-mic. There are murky cut-aways of people listening. It’s deadly to watch. And yet, important developments occur at meetings, developments that affect your viewers’ daily lives.

As a television journalist, you may be seeking ways of telling these stories differently. Try the following strategies to make your viewers want to watch. And check out NewsLab’s meeting story examples, produced to illustrate different approaches.

Bring it to Life

If the fact of the meeting itself is important, make the meeting the focus of your story.

Find a central character to help you tell what happened. Share the experience of the meeting with the viewer through the eyes of that central character.

Shoot plenty of close-ups and reaction shots to bring the event to life.

In writing, use specific detail: how long did the meeting last? What was the atmosphere in the room? Was it hot, cold, crowded, sparsely attended?

Explore the whys as well as the whats. Why did people come? What was their stake in the subject? How will it affect them?

Narrow the Field

Find a focus. Ask, “What is this meeting really about?”

Select, don’t compress. Just because a meeting has a long agenda doesn’t mean that everything on it belongs in your story.

Plan ahead. Find out what is on the agenda and get video shot in advance, or pull existing tape. Create graphics ahead of time that outline the choices to be made.

Show viewers something that adds to their experience and helps them understand what is at stake.

Preview and Review

Instead of building a “meeting story,” create a preview piece about what will be discussed.

Focus more on people who will be directly affected by the results of the meeting than on the officials involved.

Report the results, briefly, once the meeting is over. You might even re-use some of the video from the preview piece. Get reaction from people affected.

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