follow the news. As with any third-party report, you have to be careful with how much you allow the spin from the reporter affect your perceptions. Between a nightly news broadcast (NBC), the radio (NPR), and some Internet feeds (Washington Post and others), I generally get a wide enough spectrum that all sides of the story come out.
The general consensus on the conventions seems to be that beyond a few surprises, the situation is pretty much as we expected. The Republicans had a hard time getting their own party organized around Donald Trump. The Democrats have a lot of people who are more exciting than Hillary Clinton, trying to drum up support for her without overshadowing her. So it was those surprises that got most of the attention.
Ted Cruz going up on stage and yet refusing to endorse Donald Trump certainly was unexpected. Not so much because it's surprising that Ted Cruz wouldn't support Trump, but that he was allowed to speak at all. Or even bothered to show up if that's how he felt...plenty of other prominent Republicans didn't bother to go to Cleveland.
In Philadelphia, the biggest surprise was the leaked emails that led to the resignation of the Democratic National Committee chair. I doubt many people were surprised that Debbie Wasserman Schultz had biased the primary process toward Hillary Clinton - Bernie Sanders has been saying as much for a good long time. But the fact that anyone is dumb enough to leave this sort of evidence in an email trail, particularly someone closely associated with Hillary Clinton after all her email troubles, doesn't say much for the DNC. And of course Trump followed up by saying something stupid, but I'm so used to that by now that it barely even registers.
The one thing I did make time for during these conventions was to listen to President Obama's speech. (Not live, but on the morning after. Avoided all the lead-in and extraneous commentary that way.) I have plenty of respect for the job he's done in his two terms in office, and he's just a great speaker that's fun to listen to. I hope he finds a way to stay active in public life after leaving office.
Just about two more months until this election is finally over. Can't come soon enough.