While some people are returning to in-person work situations, many are still telecommuting or working from home. That means teleconferencing software and programs, such as Zoom, are very much with us and very likely here to stay.
The restrictions that led to this reality have also created some hurdles to connecting “face-to-face” with media contacts that help PR teams get their stories out. Comms teams need to learn to adapt and shift to maximize the benefits of the virtual press conference.
Most virtual press conferences are conducted very similarly to traditional in-person “pressers.” The person with the message speaks, the media can see them, and then the members of the media can ask questions.
On one level, the same principles that work in an in-person press conference should be worked into a virtual press conference. However, some key differences must be addressed to get the most out of the virtual connection.
First, understand the platform, both its benefits and limitations ahead of time. For many people, this year’s introduction to virtual conferencing platforms was abrupt and forced, without much time to get to know the services and what they offered.
Add that to the way many of the services transformed in the early months of the pandemic to accommodate the massive influx of business people and students jumping on, and there was a lot to learn in a very short amount of time.
But those days are over.
The learning curve has lengthened, and the expectations have changed. These virtual platforms offer a lot, and people expect communications professionals to have a good working understanding of them.
Get caught messing up a basic operation, and the comms pro runs the risk of seeming uninformed and unprofessional.
Second, on virtual platforms, engagement should be both encouraged and cleanly moderated. Everyone cannot speak at once, or no one can hear. Unruly or rude guests can be muted or tossed, losing out on an opportunity to connect with the message or ask their questions.
That being said, nobody comes to a virtual conference excited to listen to the presenter read a lengthy dissertation. They want to interact, to engage with the topic and the person speaking on the topic. Spend too much time without volleying the conversation around a bit, and people will lose interest.
That issue has become so prevalent that there’s even a term for it: “Zoom Fatigue,” and that’s not the state anyone wants the media in when delivering an important brand message.
Finally, invest some time practicing before and after a presentation. Be familiar enough with both the topic and the platform that the technology enhances communication rather than distracting from it.
Practice delivering the message, answering questions, and managing pushback while also planning for any potential technical issues and communicating with the audience ahead of time to limit those potential setbacks.