Confidence is the new currency of PR. How can you instill confidence by hosting virtual events?

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

The SPEAK|pr podcast has been gaining traction, and it now has listeners in over 28 countries, 117 cities, or six continents. The confidence this brings is so important as that is what keeps the business going, because it shows the degree to which actions will achieve positive results in helping entrepreneurs and business owners find out ways to unlock value within their company or their organization by using public relations tools and technologies. The Progress Shed, of which EASTWEST PR is a sponsor of their webinar program, invited Michael Michalowicz, acclaimed author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and five other books. On the webinar, he says that, of his 450-something clients, when he asked them what they need most of all at the moment, they said they wanted confidence. It’s only if you believe in what you’re doing that other people will also feel that sense of confidence, and that’s why there are coaches out there like Michael who help companies develop that level of confidence. 

Why you should develop the "COVID" mindset

In the previous years, when it came to the education sector, talk has always been about degrees and postgraduate degree levels of grades and success, sometimes a little bit about fees. There’s been a huge competition amongst universities around the world for the attention of international students, so public relations in the past has been around the campus, the teaching faculty, and the jobs afterwards. In this new COVID era, the conversation has turned entirely to security of healthcare. Students, along with their parents, require assurance that it will be safe for them to travel internationally and stay in a foreign country. hen international students go back to commence their studies abroad, many of them will be taking online courses. And so, universities and establishments are now focused on what can be considered the "hygiene regime." And so, what can companies and organisations do to have a hygiene regime and to communicate that? Implementing this will help customers, employees, and partners are going to feel confident about getting back and involved with the business. This ties into a term EASTWEST PR has coined called the "COVID mindset," which is the belief that all PR must be Compassionate, Optimistic, Values-based, Informative, and Digital.

One of the byproducts of COVID for everybody has been the growth of screen time, which can cause anxiety knowing the ill-effects of staring at screens for a prolonged period of time. Dr. Shelley James, a world-renowned expert on light, put together a webinar for concerned parents on the impact of light on children. She talked about the flicker on screens, the way that LED lights transmit light, the impact of the oscillation of light, and the impact of blue light. She detailed five different ways that parents or adults can impact our environments and naturally, this also applies in workplaces. She mentioned how patients in care responded nearly three times more quickly to treatment when surrounded by good light sources. This is all related to technology because technology serves to be both an enabler and disabler of public relations campaigns as people and companies create online or virtual events. Thus, it is important to master technology, because when trying to create a sense of confidence, one must have mastery of the platforms being used.

The main considerations when hosting virtual events

One of the main considerations in going on a virtual meeting is the lighting in the room. Large standup display lights are good for bouncing light onto the subject, but they also can potentially create glare on the back wall. The second issue is around the sound, that’s why it’s important to do sound checks before the event itself and prepare backup equipment should anything malfunction. A spotty internet connection is also another problem, and so outside noise, such as construction in a nearby area or cars passing by, which unfortunately, no one can control. When people log join a call, there’s a ringing bell sound to signal a newcomer’s presence, and there’s also an option to allow people to come in muted. Another concern would be to make sure that everybody in the room, especially the speaker, has turned off their phone or made it silent to lessen the distractions.

Creating breakout rooms so people can go in and out of the main area is a feature that platforms like Zoom have for bringing people into the conversation. If you’re going to hold an event online, identify the type of program and the agenda of the meeting, as this will help you identify the right platform. Keep in mind the result you’re looking for and the feeling that you hope an attendee will walk away with. Another aspect is the level of interaction you hope to have between the call participants. There are sites like Mentimeter that are great for holding polls or asking questions for people to answer as you go along, or you could do it Zoom itself with its embedded polling software. It may be helpful to prepare material in advance, so that people don’t have to ask for it and they can actually prepare their own notes or comments on the slides to be presented beforehand.

Having pre-recorded material is another consideration. Saturday Night Live, for example, isn’t all live at all. In fact, in most TV shows, the hosts are live, but the segments are not. That’s because when the stakes are high, it’s very tough to record live. Talent doesn’t turn up, or it’s not prepared, or it doesn’t speak properly. In my days in broadcast at the BBC, we used to have the cart ready with pre-loaded material. This is something that, going forward, I shall look at doing much more. Another term for pre-recorded content is simulated live content. What can we do or what can you do if you’re going to host an event to reduce the risk of things going wrong, to reduce the need for multiple participants to be dialling in? 

Crowdcast as an alternative to Zoom

Crowdcast is a platform for sharing integrated media founded in 2014 by Sai Hossain. It allows for conversations, presentations, polls, discussions, and breakout rooms. It’s fully furnished and fully functioning online virtual event platform in the way Zoom at the minute is racing to catch up from being a conference call platform to becoming an event platform. Crowdcast in its DNA started as a virtual event for multicasting and having dialogue and engagement. Today, they host over 3,000 live events with 200,000 live event attendees every month. It has a subscription model for $20 a month for the first couple of hours, and then it can scale up to $50, $100, to $250 per month, which is not a great deal if you consider it also embeds a platform payment gateway like Patreon in it so that you can charge event attendees. It can create polls, people can log in and participate within their own social media platforms, and multicasting is possible across different platforms. It functions like a conference centre with all the functionality for hosting events versus a boardroom or hotel that is sometimes used for banquets and sometimes for conferences. So, Crowdcast io looks like an interesting alternative to Zoom if you’re trying to create a multi-party live streaming and engagement-style event conference.

Lead with confidence

In a crisis, people trust people. Therefore, business owners must acknowledge their role as leaders, because it removes the anxiety of the people that look up to the leader. Stand tall. Make eye contact. Be still and do not fidget. Speak slowly and clearly, be confident as you engage with your staff, partners, or customers. Allow some moments of silence for people to pause, so they can ponder on any thoughts or questions they might have for you. Andy Walter of The Progress Shed suggests that when making one key point, stand in one place, but when telling a story or a narrative, move across the stage and use it for different parts of the narrative. Also, remember to try and engage everybody. It’s wonderful when everyone is able to contribute to the discussion. Another thing to consider is creating positive visuals as well as taking criticism on the event and turning that into something positive, because if people are feeling negative and needing leadership, they may not be positive and constructive. A leader’s role then is to turn that and show them that the issues can be resolved, enabling everyone to be calm and focused, and delivering the message that you’re in control. 

Ultimately, at the top of the hour, people are looking for confidence and moreso in the people that lead them. Public relations can play a key role in communicating a business owner’s ability to take the lead and do that within a platform that gives them the control and presence of mind to do it, so set up and rehearse. Confidence comes with some experimentation as well as with some practice.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by Allie on Unsplash

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