How to manage comms for a digital event: a case study by Truesix

2020 was the second year that Truesix was in charge of coordinating international media relations for the 5G Techritory conference. Adjusting to the global pandemic, this year’s forum was planned in a “phygital” format with some of the speakers being physically present and others joining from afar. 

As the conference approached, it became clear that it wouldn’t be safe to organize any on-site socializing, so 5G Techritory became a 95% digital event with a fraction of local speakers and technical teams working on location. 

Us – the Truesix team – worked from a private room in the venue on November 11 and 12, observing all the safety measures, like working at a safe distance from others, disinfecting hands and masking in all public spaces. 

This year’s event was a first for everyone – maybe even for the powerful team of technicians who were setting it up. Three stages, an expo, 202 speakers, and 109 sessions – and all this taking place digitally! 

That’s why we are so pleasantly surprised about how well it turned out, with more than 2000 participants, heaps of topics discussed, and very few technical glitches.  

Here’s what it looked like behind the scenes:

The conferencing platform was a big part of the fun, as it was built as a social network by Mitto.me, with chatting and commenting features and points attributed for participation and activity. The most active participants even received prizes at the end of the conference. Switching between sessions was easier than ever, and every session was recorded, making it possible to rewatch it later. 

Wondering how it felt being a virtual attendee of 5G Techritory 2020? This might give you some idea:

But now take your press badge and enter the 5GT virtual press room. We’ll make you feel at home and show you how media comms are done – Truesix style.

A virtual press room

This year more than 30 international journalists joined 5G Techritory, from media like Wired, ZDNet, Forbes, Tech.eu and many others. 

Even if the amount or registered international media reps was similar to last year, comparing our experience of 5GT 2019 and 5GT 2020 would be like comparing apples and oranges. 

Last year, we organized a media tour, picked up some journalists at the airport, spoke to each of them face to face, partied together in the old town of Riga and even dragged some of them to the morning press briefing on the second day. 

This year we came to the venue of the conference wearing masks, armed only with digital tools and an idea of what a virtual press room should “look” like. 

Having successfully managed this large-scale event’s media comms remotely, we are ready to share the tactics we used to keep up the media buzz around the event:

1. Emails

On each of the conference days, we sent out several emails to our registered media list. These were reminders to log in the morning, interview proposals, as well as emails summarizing some of the most important sessions, or suggesting upcoming ones.

We realized that such multiple reminders are essential in the situation where journalists aren’t physically present. Naturally, our event got only a fraction of their attention, unlike what it would be like in a traditional conference. To stay on their radar, we needed to use reminders and to keep them engaged, we had to compile useful resources for them.

Tip: Prepare all the email texts beforehand, to spend minimum time on them on the actual event days. Leave blank spaces where you’ll need to fill in some missing info.

2. Media handout

To get the maximum exposure for your event, you have to make it incredibly easy for the journalists to cover it. The best way to do this is to compile all the data, press releases, photos and contextual info in one place – media handout. 

Our media handout included background information on 5G Techritory and the 5G and telecoms scene in the region. It also listed the most notable speakers along with their full titles, and useful resources, like publicity images.

3. Arranging interviews via various channels

Upon receiving interview requests from journalists, we had several tactics for getting in touch with the speakers. While in a “real-life” event we would simply go fetch the speakers after their presentations or during coffee breaks, this year we used email, Whatsapp and phone calls to get in touch with the presenters. 

In addition, we made use of the conferencing platform’s chat option. If the speaker or the participant appeared to be online, we didn’t hesitate to contact them via chat and inquire about their interview availability. 

Streaming an event across the world presented some unexpected challenges like arranging interviews across multiple timezones. For example, when a Spanish journalist wanted to interview Mr. Takehiro Nakamura, SVP and General Manager at NTT DOCOMO, Inc from Japan, they had an 8 hours difference between them.

4. Breaking news

In the morning of the second day, LMT announced the unveiling of a 5G military test site in Adazi, Latvia – the first of its kind in Europe. Having a breaking news announced during the event undoubtedly helped us keep the buzz going in our “press room”. 

We quickly disseminated a press release about this news, offering to interview some of the leaders who made this achievement happen. This resulted in coverage by many prominent media, including Wired.it, The Fast Mode, and Telecompaper.

5. Fun ways to engage journalists

This is something that we are keeping as a tip for our future selves. In case we have to organize media comms for another phygital or digital conference, we’ll think of more fun ways to interact with the media reps. 

For example, why not organize a digital press conference, panel discussion, a showcase, or even a media happy hour via Zoom?

Digital multitasking at its best

How to follow all the remarkable speeches while constantly updating the event’s social media channels, arranging remote interviews, and responding to special requests from event organizers? 

We quickly realized that this wasn’t humanly possible. So, we decided to take turns listening to speeches and noting down the most important insights for the rest of the team.

Kudos to our colleague Krista who helped us out despite being on maternity leave. Krista listened to the speeches from her home and wrote down notable quotes that we could use in our social media posts. 

We found thorough preparation to be extremely useful. For example, our teammates Aiva and Viesturs had prepared a social media plan for each day, including already written texts that just needed to be updated before posting. 

Tip: Make a list of people and organizations to tag on Twitter, so that minimum time would be spent on searching for the respective profiles and hashtags on the day of the conference.

Three essential skills of a remote media coordinator

It’s one thing to coordinate an event’s press when you see the journalists in the flesh and can discuss interviews or article topics with them over a cup of coffee. It’s an entirely different experience to keep media relations flowing in a remote setting.

How to network and make new journalist-friends when there’s no one in sight?

How to stand out from the crowd if there is no crowd? This is how the lobby of the conference’s venue looked most of the time:

And where are the coffee break snacks? On, phew – there they are. At least some remnants of a “normal” conference.

These questions were circling our minds as we were trying to adapt to a new way of working. After the event, as we were enjoying a glass of victory champagne, we came to the conclusion that the three top skills for doing media relations for a digital event are….drumroll, please…

Flexibility – you have to be ready for whatever request, challenge, or question comes your way. In this situation where everything is new to everyone, flexibility is a survival skill. 

Planning – the better you prepare (at least for those parts that you can predict), the more you can achieve on the day of the event. And – with less stress!

Creativity – you’ve got to get creative in situations where the old approaches are no longer relevant. For example, to captivate the remote audience and make the event more fun, each panel of the conference was portrayed by cartoonists. We used these fun images in our social media posts, and they attracted lots of attention. Here’s one of the drawings:

A month after the event, we can say that it wasn’t easier or harder to coordinate media relations for a digital event. In fact, it’s incomparable and an entirely new experience. And we’re lucky to have gone through this remote conference experience – regardless of whether it’s the only one we’ll ever have or if it’s the first of many.

As the New Year approaches, may we all be presented with positive challenges and new, pleasant experiences in 2021! See you next year, dear friends!

Leave a Reply