How To Host A Virtual Press Conference

Look no further than a White House press briefing to see what impact COVID-19 is having on how conferences are being held with social distancing measures in place.
The microphone for singing
Businesses, brands and broadcasters have turned to virtual conferencing throughout Covid-19

Masks are a must, and empty seats between reporters in the briefing room and video screen relaying questions from journalists who remain at home.

These may be the most visible signs of how the virus has affected press conferences, but by no means are they the only ones.

Propelled by a desire to keep reporters safe, many institutions have begun using video conferencing apps for press conferences so guests or journalists can attend “virtually” via the internet and ask questions without jeopardizing the safety of one another and the newsmakers who are present.

While apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Slack and others are frequently used, they lack many of the tools organizers and producers of press conferences, as well as reporters, need to do their jobs.

The same is true for other types of conferences that have gone virtual due to the pandemic, including virtual shareholder meetings, college lectures or corporate meetings.


Professional vs. consumer virtual conferencing tools

If your organization plans to put on a virtual press conference, using the right tool is essential to success.

TVU Networks offers a professional-grade video conferencing solution, which has been designed to make virtual press conferences far more effective for anyone with a message to communicate and the journalists who report on it.

Several features inherent to TVU Partyline give it a leg up on Zoom, Skype and other similar consumer video conferencing products.

TVU Partyline provides mix-minus, an audio feature that mutes speakers’ voices in their return audio. In other words, whoever is speaking at a given moment will be able to hear everyone else in the conference who is speaking, but not himself or herself. That’s important because without doing so, it’s easy for a speaker to get confused hearing his or her own voice.

People speaking in a virtual press conference, using Partyline
TVU Partyline makes it possible to hold a virtual conference with broadcast-quality video output

Further, TVU Partyline is designed to ensure great video quality. Anyone who has watched TV over the past few months and seen guests brought in via Skype has probably witnessed video degrading on occasion due to bandwidth problems.

There are several reasons why fluctuating bandwidth has this effect, but the most important is that tools like Skype give priority to preventing noticeable latency. TVU Partyline, however, takes advantage of TVU Networks’ patented Inverse StatMux Plus (IS+) technology to ensure outstanding video and audio quality without any perceptible latency.

The screenshot of TVU Partyline's background
TVU Partyline has a ‘Conference Mode’ which allows users to designate speakers and create a queue of people who would like to ask questions

Another benefit is the Conference Mode feature. Using this mode, a producer of a virtual press conference can manage members of the press, prioritize incoming questions, speak to individual reporters without audio going to the entire press corps, prompt reporters that they are next in line to ask their question and cue them when it’s their turn to ask a question.

At the same time, TVU Partyline enables the producer to issue instructions to everyone involved in the technical side of the production, an individual production person or even the person holding the press conference—all separate and distinct from the press corps.

People speaking to each other, using their smartphone and Partyline app
Attendees are able to join via mobile, tablet or pc using a simple URL link

Choosing the right virtual conferencing setup

Use TVU Partyline without TVU Producer if you:

  • Simply need to produce a virtual press conference;
  • Wish to order submitted questions;
  • Want to prompt and cue reporters that it’s their turn to ask a question;
  • Wish to talk independent of the press to your production crew and presenter;
  • Intend to broadcast the press conference live via a TV station. Doing so is accomplished by sending the TVU Partyline output stream to a TVU Receiver where it’s converted to SDI for output to a broadcast infrastructure.

Use TVU Partyline with TVU Producer if you wish to do all or some of the above and:

  • Record your virtual conference and/or ISO record all of the press members participating;
  • Distribute your virtual conference to social media;
  • Distribute your virtual conference to more than one social media platform at the same time;
  • Integrate the virtual conference into a larger production, such as a company’s virtual shareholder meeting in which you wish to integrate pre-recorded video segments.

At the moment, TVU Partyline does not have the ability to record video and audio by itself, nor can it distribute video to social media platforms. However, these capabilities are integral to TVU Producer and are easy to use along with TVU Partyline.


Virtual conferencing best practices

TVU Partyline makes it simple to invite members of the press, guests or anyone else to a virtual conference. Just copy and paste your unique conference ID number and email it to your attendees. Remember to clearly state in your invitation the time zone in which the conference will be held.

The screenshot of the unique party conference ID
Copy and paste your unique conference ID and share it with your attendees

Being a virtual press conference, it may be wise to advise the people you are inviting of the internet bandwidth they will need to get the most out of the event. Fortunately, it isn’t a lot when it comes to TVU Partyline—even with as little as 5Mbps of bandwidth on the download side and 2Mbps for upload.

In general, it’s good to give members of the press at least a week’s notice before holding a press conference. However, there are many exceptions. In the spirit of best serving the public, a police department or emergency management agency may wish to hold a press conference within hours of an event, while a company introducing a new product at a convention may be best served by getting on the radar screen of journalists early and inviting them a month or more in advance.

Many online resources can guide you on organizing a press conference, providing advice on when to invite the press, the best time to hold a press conference and how to manage an event. Some of these resources include advice from SkillsYouNeed, Money.HowStuffWorks, OurCommunity and The Balance Small Business.

Unlike a real-world press conference, the virtual equivalent requires a conference producer to handle all of the behind-the-scenes communications with attending members of press and with production staff, such as camera operators, via a separate TVU Partyline group in the same event. Besides ensuring the event runs smoothly, using a conference producer relieves presenters from dealing with event orchestration and allows them to concentrate on delivering their message.

In many instances, it’s also a good idea to video record the event. Not only can the hosting organization send reporters –both those who did and didn’t attend—a link to help them in their reporting, but the host can also use bits and pieces from the event for other purposes, such as a promotional video.

Screenshot of TVU Producer showing recorded files page
It’s possible to record your virtual conference via TVU Producer, allowing you to send or upload a recorded version to your attendees

How to increase guest participation

Perhaps the first step to increasing guest participation is reassuring members of the press that the technology involved is simple to use. In other words, it doesn’t get in the way of them doing their jobs.

On the day of the event, reporters should be instructed to begin logging on about 10 to 15 minutes before the press conference begins. This gives the event producer the chance to welcome them, take attendance, which may be helpful to the presenter, and instruct reporters on how to ask a question.

Journalists attending the event use the conference ID they received in their invitation to log in from their computers, smartphones or tablets.

When the presenter is finished, he or she can open the floor to questions. During the Q&A, reporters can raise a virtual hand from their TVU Partyline instance to alert the conference producer they wish to ask a question.

A guest speaker at a virtual press conference in front of microphones
Guest participation is made easy with TVU Partyline

The producer can build a queue of reporters with questions and facilitate the initial interaction between the reporter and the person giving the press conference. This orchestration might involve cueing a particular reporter that he or she is next, announcing the name of the reporter and media organization when it’s his or her turn and moving on to the next reporter to repeat the process.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the media to re-evaluate many long-established workflows as organizations have struggled to maintain their editorial standards despite having to work remotely. Over the past six months, video conferencing tools have emerged as vital resources in helping members of the media do their jobs. Tools like TVU Partyline and TVU Producer, which offer functions not available from consumer alternatives, deliver the professional results the media expect and your organization deserves.


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