Many of us are quickly coming to realize that amid the current concerns around coronavirus COVID-19 transmission, those meetings, presentations, speeches and even conferences on our schedule will likely be canceled if they have not been already. In some cases, a phone or conference call can replace many face-to-face meetings, but from a public relations and marketing perspective, it falls short of the desired impact you want to have. Luckily, live video streaming technology has advanced to the point that you have many opportunities to salvage canceled presentations, speeches and even conferences with live online video.
Whether you look to Facebook Live or YouTube Live for publicly available events or webinars/webcasts for client briefings and presentations, here are a few tips from our experience to both maintain your company’s momentum and exemplify your resilience.
Take That Town Hall or Community Event to Facebook Live
While emails, conference calls and Twitter chats are all potential options, when you still need that face time with a group of people without the option to meet face-to-face, consider Facebook Live. It allows you to share live video and engage in real-time with your followers on social media. That means the ability to answer questions and have open feedback without things devolving into a thousand emails or individual social messages.
Our team has used Facebook Live to highlight client reports with live Q&A and integrated graphics or even conduct 30-minute panel discussions where all the questions come from online viewers. We’ve even produced live walkthrough tours with professional audio. And our client, Catholic High School for Boys, recently used the technology to broadcast their morning mass amid the school’s closure following the Coronavirus crisis.
Facebook Live provides a recording of the final event that remains on your page for anyone who missed the event, also allowing you to share it with others by email afterward.
Transform Canceled Conferences Into Virtual Events
Even small conferences get complicated with space reservations, speaker coordination and program development – and that doesn’t even account for all of the travel. While the travel planning is a bust, you can save much of that work by taking the conference online. There are many options here, depending on the time you have to prepare, your appetite for ingenuity and the technical ability of the people on your team.
One excellent option is to use webinar platforms that allow you to coordinate registration for individual presentations, calendar reminders, links, reminders and follow-up notes. Depending on your service, you could even hold multiple presentations simultaneously just like you were planning, meaning you can simply recycle the existing schedule. Just spin up a microsite to organize all the registrations or add the links for individual webcasts to your existing online schedules.
Presenters – who may still be scattered around the state, country or world – can join each event remotely with the assistance of a coordinator, turn on their webcam and present their slides in real time. They can even take questions. In the past, our team has coordinated webinar presentations that included up to six presenters from four different countries, each with a live video feed and shared presentation deck. And now with platforms such as Zoom, you can even conduct breakout sessions within the wider meeting, coming back together whenever the organizer decides.
It may seem like a lot of moving parts, but these platforms offer the opportunity to highlight key thought leaders in dynamic ways. And like Facebook Live, another great benefit of this strategy is that you’ll still get recordings of all the presentations to share later. As for networking associated with live conferences, you can always set up separate chat rooms to share at the end of presentations where attendees can continue the conversation on their own.
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Get the Presentation Right
An important thing to remember when it comes to online video is that presentation still matters. Speakers don’t have the same adrenaline rush they get from presenting in front of a group of people, but they still need to bring that same energy to their live video webcast, even if they’re doing it from their home office. Consider developing some guidelines to help them with things like lighting, audio and framing for their online appearance if they haven’t done this before. Presentation slides still need to be dynamic as well.
If you have time, set up media training and/or rehearsals with everyone to make sure they’re comfortable in front of the camera too. We’ve seen some of the greatest in-person speakers struggle when they suddenly find themselves addressing an inanimate camera versus a crowd of excited people. With some practice and your help, they can often adapt to the new virtual presentation environment quickly.
Quality Matters in Live Video
While you can’t practice complete control over remote webcam video feeds from presenters scattered around the world, you can make sure your principal speakers look and sound great. Consider laptop webcams entry-level for webinar presentations. And while everyone loves to rave about smartphone video quality (and you can do a virtual video webinar from a smartphone on many platforms) it still only looks or sounds good with the right lighting, a dedicated microphone and someone who knows what they’re doing.
At minimum, develop some live video standards in a user-friendly document and then distribute it to everyone you’re going to put on camera. Network television bookers distribute these whenever they do Skype interviews with guests, but our team has consistently been able to exceed their expectations by replacing webcams and laptop microphones with professional cameras, microphones, studio lighting and high-quality Skype video feeds. That same technical know-how applies to other live online video streaming events like Facebook Live, YouTube or webinars/webcasts as well.
If you want to wow your online presentation or virtual conference, consider tracking down someone who’s done it before and knows what they’re doing. Not all public relations and digital marketing practitioners today have experience incorporating professional video, audio and production elements into live online events, including the incorporation of multiple cameras. Be sure to track down those who have the experience because that kind of quality could absolutely impress your audiences, particularly when they were almost sure the entire thing was going to be called off completely.