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The video star and the press briefing

The other day, I wondered how my former colleagues in the magazine industry were being affected by the current crisis. I asked Neil Fullbrook of Cadence Innovation Marketing, who knows the business as well as anyone, to update us…

Last week, Drives & Controls 2020 (and co-located exhibitions) was the latest major event to slam the door in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and put off the show until 2021. The week before we had Hannover Messe which issued a postponement notice until July 2020 and there has been a tidal wave of other shows calling time on curtain up.

Anyone planning to launch a new product at Hannover could probably wait it out with an immediate soft-launch, followed by both-barrels in the summer. But, hanging about for a full nine months to deliver a new-born at Drives and Controls (now 2021) is likely to have a few marketing teams stunned and wondering what to do for the best. That’s a lot of R&D and planning to put on ice and potential for competitor products to steal the limelight.

Last week, this blog issued an innocent request to ask marketers what videoconferencing facilities they use in their day to day work. Ironically, its author, one of the founding fathers of the First Friday Club back in 1996, inadvertently solved a problem – a huddle of editors from the most influential titles in the land had to discuss the idea.

It became clear that 15-25 eager reporters gathering at their monthly face-to-face press briefing in Central London wasn’t viable for the time being, so a solution was suggested – take the monthly press briefings online using videoconferencing – a definite ‘first’ of our own in 24 years! The suggestion was met with eager anticipation and a touch of reservation too.

We’ve used various videoconference facilities over the years. Sometimes when a couple of the editors haven’t been well enough to travel in, they’ve dialled in using Skype, Webex, Zoom, to name a few, but the most flexible and reliable we’ve found is Microsoft Teams – and given that the majority of us work with Microsoft products already, it’s a familiar environment for us all to be working in. Only last week three editors were ‘dialled-in’ via Microsoft Teams to the First Friday Club press briefing given by igus, Gambica, Primary Engineer and Beckhoff Automation. It really was a simple affair, and no-one knew any different.

Just set up a meeting (invite up to 250 attendees), select it as a ‘Teams’ meeting, then click JOIN from your PC, iPad, phone to link in. The host can maintain control and pass control over to anyone in the meeting so that PowerPoint presentations, videoconferencing or screen share can be used, in fact, let’s go the whole hog and use all three – a clever inset video box on the bottom right hand corner allows presentations to be given by the human at the other end of the line, so it’s not all one dimensional.

The beauty of these online briefings is that the costs are relatively low, which can be passed on to the presenting company. The only downside is that where we would usually host two half-hour networking sessions and a three course lunch, this new era of online press briefings will mean we have to get creative – that’ll be the editors’ canapés reception we are hosting in the Summer!

I am sure videoconferencing will become part of the future of First Friday Club, for now anyway. So, let’s clink a virtual glass and carry on as normal in the coronavirus free internet world.

More on the First Friday Club here.