Insights

Key Takeaways from Hosting Successful Virtual Press Conferences

Last week, our teams in Indonesia and Vietnam hosted our first virtual press briefings – and both were every bit as impactful as real-life briefings we managed prior to Covid-19.

Each event was attended by nearly 30 Tier 1 journalists and bloggers, and the resulting news articles were every bit as good as stories generated from in-person events.  

And the best part? Nobody had to spend their time stuck in traffic to attend the events.

When it comes to hosting a virtual press conference, there are several important factors to consider. Here, our colleagues Laurene Hug in Vietnam and Brigida Alexandra in Indonesia share their insights and lessons learned from our first virtual PR campaign. 

Tell a great story 

While having a great story to tell is always important, it’s even more crucial for a virtual briefing because you don’t have a captive audience in a virtual event.  Guests or journalists watching from home have nothing stopping them from multitasking if you can’t hold their attention. Even those who are interested can give in to distraction.  And it’s far easier for the media to slip away from a virtual event than a live event.  So developing a campaign narrative that is relevant, newsworthy, and entertaining is priority No. 1 – more so than ever.

Know your Tech

Choosing the right live video platform can make or break your event. For most press conferences, guests and journalists are invited individually, and the event is closed to the general public. In these cases, it’s best to use a platform with closed chat. Vero successfully used Microsoft Teams for our recent conferences, while other options include the full versions of apps such as Google Hangouts and Slack. 

For events that are open to the public, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram Live can attract drop-in viewers, so you can choose the one where you have the largest following. It’s useful to consider which apps allow you to send an invite link for those without the app to attend.

Strong internet is also key, both for you as a host and your guests, so we recommend using a direct wired connection to ensure stability. Guests should be advised to avoid using public wi-fi to ensure speed and avoid disruptions.

The next thing to consider is your camera and other electronic equipment. For a casual event, a laptop webcam might suffice. But if you’re going to present a formal event with a backdrop, you’ll want a DSLR or mirrorless camera on a tripod with a separate microphone linked to your laptop. Some modern cameras can stream directly, but most will require a USB capture card, so you’ll want to buy that and test it well in advance. You may need to hire a technical team to provide and set up the gear, but it’s worth it for the HD live broadcast, crisp audio, and stable footage for as professional a look as possible.  

Launch an Invite Campaign & Keep Audiences Informed

The invitation you send to journalists and guests should be attention-grabbing, easy to understand, and visually appealing. Email builders like Mailchimp and Hubspot let you design the look of your email from scratch or using a template, which is guaranteed to get more attention than plain text.

Invitations should feature a clear call to action requesting guests to RSVP, which you should follow up with a confirmation email. Include in the email a step-by-step guide on how to connect to the stream, to prevent disruption due to delays and connectivity issues. You can also send out reminders the day before and an hour before the live event starts, as it’s easy to lose track of time while working from home. 

Hire a Skilled MC

The role of an MC in a virtual press conference is even more important than at a live event. The MC must keep attendees entertained and engaged in the stream and ease the transitions between segments. It can be difficult to welcome and introduce yourself to audiences when you are not there in person, so having an MC who is experienced with online events and knows how to create an engaging atmosphere and set the right tone will go a long way.

Plan for the Q & A

We find that Q&A in a virtual event actually works better than in person, where media representatives sometimes hesitate to ask questions in front of a large audience. With virtual events, journalists can easily direct their questions to the MC in real-time.  A good strategy is to let attendees leave their questions in the chat window, so the MC can then select relevant questions and ask the spokesperson one at a time. This is also a great way to stay in control of the timeline and create a natural conclusion to the virtual event.

Include a Grace Period

Sometimes conferences run longer than expected, whether due to an extended Q & A session or the usual kinks to work out for those unfamiliar with the livestreaming process. Advise attendees of the possibility for a slightly longer running time than expected, so that if the conference does run over they’ll make time to stick around to the end.

Leverage Creative Graphics & Music

Graphics and music can really elevate the quality of the stream. Unobtrusive music can help fill the silence as attendees connect to the stream at the beginning and towards the end of the event. Additionally, creatively branded graphics can be shown on the screen before the event begins as a reminder and cue to stay tuned. This can simply be rolled out by screen sharing a presentation with your branded graphics or through utilizing professional plugins that enable overlaying graphics such as Boxcast or Singular Live.

Circulate Supporting Information

Just because the event isn’t in person doesn’t mean you shouldn’t issue a press release. Share it via email in pdf format. You can also develop an accessible round-up of the press conference after the fact to assist reporters. This could be a summary of the Q & A, the presentation, or any additional points that were touched on during the event that were not included in the press release. 

It’s also a best practice to have a recording of the entire event, which will be an option on any professional-caliber conferencing app, including those recommended earlier. You can share the recording afterward for those who couldn’t attend, though you may not want to mention this in advance since it could decrease live attendance. 

While most of us are conducting press conferences online out of necessity rather than choice, a virtual conference can actually have a higher turnout due to the lack of a travel requirement. As such, we expect to see a lot of them in the months to come, and they may continue to be a common option in the post-pandemic world. We hope that these general tips are enough to get you started designing a conference that will feel like a smooth transition, and as always you can count on us at Vero to help you handle the details.

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