Since the beginning of the pandemic, governments have taken extreme measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in China. These measures limit crowds, travel, and events in enclosed spaces — all vital for brand activities like customer events and press conferences.
This, along with the digital shift in response to the pandemic, has made virtual events an unexpected respite for businesses of all kinds.
In this blog, we discuss the benefits of hosting a virtual vs. in-person press conference in China and how to go about it successfully.
The Benefits of Virtual Press Conferences for B2B and Tech Companies
A Virtual Press Conference Has Lower Costs than In-person Events
In-person conferences can be elaborate events that carry high costs. Travel, accommodations, catering, venue rental, marketing collaterals, and much more are some of the elements you’d have to plan the budget for if hosting an in-person conference.
However, the requirements for hosting a virtual press conference are significantly less. Beyond the logistics of planning an online event, all participants need to attend is a stable internet connection.
Virtual Events Require Less Preparation
In-person events require you to deal with countless vendors, which increases the cost and the prep work.
Instead, logistics for virtual events revolve around technology and planning. When hosting a virtual press conference, all you need is a platform provider and your communications team. No transportation, vendors, or protocol teams on standby.
There are no physical limitations to virtual events.
Another significant difference between in-person and virtual press conferences is that you can invite virtually anyone. More media, partners, customers, and prospects can attend without substantially increasing costs. The only limit for attendance will be what your chosen hosting platform allows.
Communications Are Faster and More Efficient
If you’ve followed any of Apple’s online launches, you’ll know how quickly information goes viral even before the event is over.
Digital channels have made it easier than ever before to share real-time updates and a virtual press conference is the perfect means to leverage this speed — the less time journalists and reporters spend traveling and dealing with logistics, the more quickly your story can run.
Additionally, a virtual press conference cuts the background noise. It allows B2B brands to focus more on the message and the value of the information — and less on the creative and physical experiences.
7 Tips for Organizing a Virtual Press Conference in China
Have a Detailed Game Plan
Detailed planning is essential when organizing any event, especially if you are hosting a virtual press conference for the first time in China.
These are the elements you’ll want as you prepare for your virtual press conference:
Clear objectives for the event. What are you trying to achieve?
A carefully crafted message. What are you trying to communicate?
A detailed timeline for planning and setup. When do you need to complete each milestone up to the event?
Tasks assigned to your team. Who is responsible for what?
A detailed play-by-play rundown of the press conference.
Plus, it’s always a good idea to include a backup plan in case there are any changes or technical issues.
Pick the Best Time to Host the Virtual Event
Time zones are one of the most important aspects to consider for a virtual press conference. If you have your CEO or executive attending from another country, be aware of the time difference, and make sure that the press conference data and time make sense for Chinese journalists and your speakers.
Make sure your event doesn’t clash with public holidays or government agenda, or other major media events hosted by your competitors or industry tradeshows so the media’s schedules are more likely to be open and the attention remains on you.
Choose a Robust Platform
Whether you plan to host a livestream event or an invitation-only press conference, choosing a robust hosting platform is critical to ensure streaming quality and guest experiences.
For a large-scale online press conference, consider hosting it directly on your WeChat Channel, which is linked to your WeChat Official Account, so that all your followers can see your live stream status and tune in.
If you are planning a new product launch, it might be worth considering finding credible media partners to broadcast on their channels. This will expand your reach and let more people watch your livestream from their favorite news platforms.
For invitation-only press conferences or small-scale media events, Tencent Meeting is the most popular meeting platform preferred by the Chinese media. It also supports a livestream function to allow other users to attend the virtual press conference with a private link and password.
Although Zoom blocks user from hosting meeting from China, other global platforms such as Microsoft Teams, GoToWebinar and Skype are still supported in China.
Based on our experience hosting virtual press conferences for our clients, Tencent Meeting is the most robust platform in China and is also accessible to users outside of China. But it’s worth testing a few options and selecting the one that fits your event needs and performance requirements.
Build Up Excitement for Your Virtual Press Conference
Pre-event warm-up is critical for the success of the press conferences. In addition to sending out media invitations with the event agenda (usually 3-4 weeks before the event), consider creating a video teaser to introduce the conference theme and designing event count-down posters to be promoted on your company’s WeChat and other social media channels.
Plan your pre-event warm-up activities will allow you to build up excitement towards the big day and generate buzz among the wider audience to make the most out of the virtual event.
Plan Your Staff
Just because a press conference takes place online doesn’t mean that you need less manpower to ensure a successful event.
The size of the organizing team will depend on the number of participants and set-up. Still, you will likely need someone to be responsible for technical support, a host and several speakers, a moderator to manage the virtual chatroom, and an assistant to monitor activity and ensure everything goes smoothly.
Additionally, you’ll likely need a translator if you have non-Chinese speakers at the event.
Test and Rehearse
Even virtual press conferences need thorough testing and rehearsals. In fact, it’s even more critical since you can quickly lose attendants if any technical or connection issues occur during the event.
For online events, in particular, testing and rehearsing 1-2 days before the event is essential. You want everyone participating, including speakers, assistants, and facilitators, to know exactly what to do before going live with your audience and the event's duration.
If you have guests joining from different countries, we also recommend testing the connections, audio, and video quality with several people from other locations.
A rehearsal is also an excellent chance to brief your speakers and executives on any Do’s and Don’ts in dealing with Chinese media so they are well-prepared.
Finally, test the platform connection again on the day of the virtual event and have your IT stand by to fix any technical issues before the event.
Prepare for the Unexpected
If we’ve learned anything by now, anything can go wrong unexpectedly even with the most comprehensive prep work. Your team, including IT, should be prepared to deal with unexpected issues or switch to plan B — which you absolutely need to have defined.
Below are some common scenarios you could face and how to navigate them.
Poor connections from the guest side. A common situation is when there’s a poor connection from the guest side during the Q&A session. In this case, enable a chatbox for them to write instead of speaking. This way you’ll avoid asking them to repeat themselves. You can also ask them to send the questions after the events and have your PR team handle the follow-up.
Journalists leave without notice. Similarly, you could find that journalists leave quietly and without notice. In this case, have your PR team follow up with anyone who left early or take notes and contact them after the event with any information they may have missed.
Journalists no-shows. Finally, if you notice journalists who skip the event, follow up with them about why they didn’t show up and send them the press materials and playback after the event.
Virtual Press Conferences Represent a New Window into your China PR
As we move into year three of the pandemic and beyond, it’s clear that virtual or hybrid events will continue to be the predominant format and brands will embrace them.
A virtual press conference also creates low-cost opportunities for foreign businesses to engage with Chinese journalists, saving them the time and costs of international traveling.
Although we don’t believe in-person media events will disappear as they offer valuable in-person connections and immersive brand experiences, there is no question that virtual press conferences are here to stay.,
We predict that in the future, online and offline press conferences will co-exist and complement each other to support the brand’s PR activities in China.