Taking remote working to extremes

Liam Heath (GBR). K1M 200m. Photo Balint Vekassy.

Like many marketers, my wife has been unable to explain what I do to others. We have a break-through. My husband tweets for a living she can now comment. It needs no explanation. Most of us grasp the fundamentals of Twitter.

There is a twist. Her husband gets up in the middle of the night to tweet about matters taking place on a different continent. Last year, I did around 10,000 tweets. You can become very proficient with practice.

This is the wacky work that I do for the International Canoe Federation (ICF). For the backstory about how I arrived at this point; you can read here My Olympic Story post.

I live in Canada, while the Canoe Slalom and Canoe Sprint World Cup series take place in venues across Europe between May and September. It is not cost effective for me to fly forward and back.

So to take remote working to an extreme, for ten long weekends a year I get up before 2 am and tweet. I am using the @PlanetCanoe Twitter account. I disable the location, so tweets do not show my real location. I comment on the weather, how the wind is picking up in lanes 1 & 2, or affecting the poles in the mid-point of the slalom course. I comment on the loudness of the supporters. I comment when a competitor makes a technical error or on their reaction as they cross the line.

I know many of the athletes personally and have paddled at almost all the venues. I have extensive athlete results and biographies to hand. Part of the value to those that follow the feeds is to share what event they are watching, which specific part of the event and point them to extra information such as results, schedule or news.

Viktoria Wolffhardt (AUS). C1W. Photo Balint Vekassy

The sensational photographs from Balint Vekassy upload to Dropbox, which syncs immediately with my phone, meaning I have the most exceptional photos on hand to add to a tweet. There are a host of messages going between the team behind the scenes during the race. The platforms also mean I can get a quote almost immediately from athletes too. They are very social.

The first international canoeing event I covered was the 2002 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in Bourg St Maurice, France. I was in sitting on the floor of my sister’s damp basement in Tunbridge Wells, UK, using a dial-up internet connection. At that time, we had no live stream video. The live results were almost real-time but very rudimentary. We didn’t have the mechanism then to share photos or quotes instantaneously. I could request them by email and then wait and wait and wait.

I evolved from faxing or emailing press releases, to a blog for the London 2012 Olympics, before experimenting with commentary on Twitter to see if it would catch on. It did.

Our communications channels continue to evolve every year. I am not concerned if Twitter disappeared as I know that something even better and fun will fill the void. As an ICF media, we have experimented with YouTube live stream and Meta-Video. To provide our avid followers with insights; I have now shifted to providing live commentary on both Twitter and the YouTube stream Live Chat simultaneously. The YouTube live stream is actually about 20-seconds behind so that means by the time it shows on screen I have already written both the Live Chat message and tweet. I am surrounded in the dark by a bank of devices showing live feed, results, YouTube Live Chat pane, Twitter, Meta-video and historical results. We created a consistent convention to communicate the race results for #ICFslalom, #ICFsprint, #ICFparacanoe & #ICFwildwater. The 140-character limits works 95% of the time.

When I am working live at the event, the media room comes alive as the final results are posted. My work by that point is done. I have already posted the results, a photo of the winner, and tagged the medallists on the podium with congratulations. Meanwhile, other journalists are still uploading and editing.

Klauss/Peche (FRA). C2M. Photo Balint Vekassy

Our base of followers is growing, and we received 5-star thumbs up from some of our most influential supporters on the quality of coverage we provided through the World Championships in Racice, the Czech Republic in August and a month later in Pau, France. This was the consequence of great teamwork with Balint Vekassy, Matt Leighton, Ross Solly (ICF) and respective support teams.

“Can we meet for a coffee? I can’t find you.” That’s always the funniest message, followed by “I thought you were here.” I guess that’s the point.

So have I let the cat out of the bag? Not really, many of the athletes know they only see me once a year at the World Championships or Olympics. And, if the live commentary still provides value to the followers, then does it matter that I am over 6,000 kilometres away?

Hungary. K4W. Photo Balint Vekassy

Read our earlier post What we learned from 10,000 tweets in 12-months and Our canoeing sandbox environment.

You can find me @gregiej.

Photo credits Balint Vekassy, http://www.canoephotography.com