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Claire Doole is a former BBC correspondent and international spokeswoman who is passionate about helping people communicate with confidence. Since 2006, she has successfully trained hundreds of professionals in the art of presenting and public speaking, talking to the media, managing communications in a crisis, and writing for the web. In addition, she has coached C-level executives and public figures to give powerful TEDx and TED style talks in Europe and the Middle East. A Swiss and UK national, Claire trains and coaches in French and English.

Claire is also a highly experienced moderator having facilitated panel discussions with government ministers, NGO activists, humanitarians and human rights specialists at major events.

www.doolecommunications.com

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Hybrid events

By Claire Doole, Doole Communications

The pandemic is not over, but at least in Europe there is a return to something resembling normality (for the moment at least). At the virtual and hybrid conferences that I moderate, many speakers are talking about the small window of opportunity that exists to reset the world for the better of humanity.

But in my small world of moderating at events nothing much has changed – unfortunately!

I had hoped that some of the best practices from the virtual world – shorter event times, shorter presentations/speeches, greater variety of format and creativity – would become the new normal.

We know that we have to work harder to break through the screen of indifference when an event or meeting is virtual. The hybrid format – focusing on a virtual and in-person audience is challenging technically and editorially. I know some clients who have decided to abandon hybrid in favour of virtual or in-person.

However, editorially I am still seeing the same errors at some, not all, the events that I moderate. Here are some of them:

Hybrid 1 copy

By Claire Doole, Doole Communications

Here in Geneva it is “la rentrée” – meaning back to school or back to work after the summer break.

For some it will be the first time they are back in the office after many months, while for others they may still be working from home.

This means that hybrid meetings are de rigueur (order of the day) with some people meeting in person and others joining remotely.

Hybrid meetings should combine the best of both worlds, but the challenge is to make them inclusive and seamless.

Below are some tips and techniques for setting up and facilitating a hybrid meeting, based on my experience as conference moderator and conversations with organisers and technical suppliers.

Getting the equipment right

The higher the stakes, the higher the production values. A hybrid team meeting does not require the same level of equipment and resources as a townhall or stakeholder meeting. You may for example want to book a professional studio for a more important meeting, rather than set up a studio in your office. However, whatever the status of the meeting, you need to ensure that the online and in-person audience – the “Zoomies” and the “Roomies” can see and hear each other.

Audio equipment – The “Zoomies” join on their laptops or mobile devices that have inbuilt microphones, speakers and cameras, allowing the “Roomies” to see and hear them. Where it gets complex is ensuring the “Zoomies” hear the “Roomies”. “Roomies” need either dedicated microphones for each participant or another option is ceiling microphones which can pick up sound over a certain amount of space. I am no specialist on this, but I highly recommend you contact companies that install videoconferencing systems to ensure proper set up. I know of one organisation that held a hybrid meeting where the echo from the “Roomies” audio made the whole experience a waste of time and resources.

Visual equipment – You need a screen so that the “Roomies” can see the “Zoomies”.

In the room you also need a camera or camera(s), depending on the production values, focused on the entire room as well as the person who is speaking. These cameras are often automated and can zoom in and out on individuals speaking. This image is then relayed back to the online participants through a Zoom link (if that is the software you are using). More complex meetings require more cameras and a technical director who switches between cameras in the room.

Six characters in search of an author 2

By Claire Doole, Doole Communications

Have you seen the play, “Six Characters in search of an Author” by the Italian dramatist, Luigi Pirandello? Actors rehearsing for a play are interrupted by six unfinished characters in search of an author to finalise their story. It was first performed in 1921 and is part of the absurdist genre – breaking down the barriers between fantasy and reality.

Unfortunately, a century later, it is the absurd reality that many moderators can find themselves in when confronted with a cast of speakers selected by the organizers of an event. We struggle to work out why they have been chosen, and what they bring to the subject under discussion. We are then left to build connections between the speakers to create a narrative flow that makes sense to the audience.

Believe me, this can take hours of head scratching and sometimes the connections are just not there, particularly if an organiser has selected someone for non-editorial reasons such as an important donor, someone they want to do busines or engage with in the future or because we must have a representative from all five corners of the globe.

Start with the what and not the who

Organisers often tell me they want a BBC-style discussion. If that is the case, they need to follow the principles of BBC news and current affairs programmes. You start with identifying the news of the moment – for event organizers – this translates as what is top of mind and relevant for the audience.

A lot of events today are focusing on building back better after the pandemic, asking if the world can be more sustainable. The BBC would take an opposing view structure bringing someone from the government to explain how they set new environmental targets to achieve net-zero emissions, and then an environmental activist who says the targets are inadequate. The BBC might also put into the mix an academic who can give context.

Multiview Speakers

By Claire Doole, Doole Communications

Organising a virtual press briefing is to coin the Thai-English phrase – “same same but different.”

The basics are the same. You need to have news, which is impactful, timely and ideally topical. It may seem obvious, but too often press briefings are organised solely to “educate” the media about an issue. I can’t tell you how many I have left as a BBC Foreign Correspondent without a story to broadcast!

But there are many differences; while virtual briefings have many advantages notably cost, convenience, geographic reach and you could argue carbon footprint, as with all digital events they need to better prepared and moderated.

For the past year I have been moderating virtual media briefings for the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations on COVID 19 – last week was my 6th – and also advising companies and organisations on how to run and speak at them.

Preparing a virtual press briefing

Based on my experience on both sides of the fence as a moderator/media consultant/trainer and former journalist, here are four key questions you should ask yourself:

Claire good Stell and Luxembourg Minister and IFRC SG copy

By Claire Doole, Doole Communications

What is the biggest challenge when organising a virtual event? Technical glitches are high up on the list when I ask this question in my workshop on organising engaging virtual events.

A year on since the pandemic first hit, we are still challenged and aggravated by poor video and sound quality, speakers that fail to connect and lack of time management. At one event I moderated, so many outside lines went down I ended up talking at length to the one guest I fortunately had in the studio. If he hadn’t been with me, we would have just had to go on a break and come back once we reconnected with our speakers.

So, how do you organise a technically glitch free event?

Pre-recordings

I recently moderated the Global Vaccine Immunization and Research Forum (GVIRF) – an event spanning three days over two continents – where all the speakers were pre-recorded. They or proxies were brought back live to answer audience and moderator questions.

If you do pre-record, speakers must keep to time. If you are pre-recording a panel discussion or interview, it must be done “as live” so that it is kept to time. If you go over, you will have to cut something else later in the programme.

Broadcasters give themselves flexibility, editing short and longer versions.