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It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing many companies and organizations to shift from holding in-person news conferences to conducting online virtual press conferences on platforms such as GoToWebinar, Webex, Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
And with that shift, which will likely continue for the near future, presenters for these virtual media events would be wise to remember that virtual events require just as much preparation – and perhaps more – than typical in-person ones.
Virtual events differ greatly from in-person events in a few key ways.
First, in a virtual media event, the audience’s attention span tends to be much shorter than if those people were sitting in a convention center or hotel ballroom. When watching a media event online from their home or remote office, the audience is more likely to sneak a look at email, get up to grab a coffee or snack or be distracted by pets, children, package delivery drivers or the neighbor’s leaf blower.
Second, in a virtual event, there is less energy “in the room” and the speakers will not get the same visual and audio feedback they would get speaking to a live crowd in-person. Most speakers feed off of the audience’s energy and alter their delivery based on the audience reaction.
Third, in a virtual news event, there is less of an opportunity for a post-presentation media scrum or the informal one-on-one follow-up interaction that often occurs at in-person media events.
All three of these factors can affect the impact and effectiveness of your virtual news event.
So, to minimize the negative effect of these factors and optimize the success of your next virtual news conference, we offer these seven tips for presenters:
1. Make your presentation lively. This often means keeping it shorter, interesting and compelling, adding in some interactive elements to keep the audience engaged, providing interesting visuals, and adding extra enthusiasm to your delivery and modulation to your tone.
2. Optimize your position. Make sure your video camera is at eye level or slightly higher and look at the camera as much as possible during your presentation. We recommend putting an orange sticker near your camera lens if you are using a laptop computer to remind you. Sit straight up or stand up and maintain good posture. Smile. Avoid flailing arm movements or nervously twisting a paper clip or clicking a pen – the video may amplify the distractions they can cause.
3. Pick the proper background. Unless you have a quality green screen and perfect lighting, forget using the virtual background option. It can be distracting and sometimes downright spooky. Pick a comfortable spot where the background is uncluttered so that your image is the most interesting thing on the screen. Otherwise, viewers will be will be paying more attention to your background than to you.
4. Light it up. Chose a location that has good lighting and minimal glare. If possible, make sure that there is good natural but diffused light on your face. If possible, sit at a desk or table with your face and computer screen facing window light. If there is not enough natural light, consider using a supplemental light – even an inexpensive selfie ring light kit can help immensely (for CNN’s The Best Ring Lights of 2020 review, click here.)
5. Dress the part. Even though dress codes have seemed to evaporate with work from home orders, skip the sweatshirt or t-shirt. Dress with the same dignity and show of respect that you would employ if you were addressing 200 people at an in-person press conference at a convention center.
6. Add a good microphone or microphone headset. To make sure the audio you are creating is of the highest possible quality, do not rely on your computer’s microphone. Use an external microphone or microphone headset, which you can order online for as little as $30 (for TechRepublic’s Six Best Microphones for Home Office & Remote Work review, click here).
7. Practice. Practice. Practice. Remember, you’re not just presenting, you’re performing. Avoid the urge to wing it. Practice multiple times, and get comfortable with your script and content, the lighting and microphone, the setting, the computer and internet connection. Invite a group of colleagues to sit in virtually on your rehearsal and get their feedback. Most of the popular video platforms will allow you to record the presentation, so record and critique your performance in advance. The more you practice, the more you will improve.
For other tips on conducting a virtual press conference, see: What is a virtual press conference & how can I successfully plan one? For help organizing your next virtual news event, email firstname.lastname@example.org