Comms in the public sector during Coronavirus and lockdown

Everyone can agree that, whether you have been working or not in the past five months, it has been a very difficult and challenging time for everyone, not just in the comms industry.

On Wednesday 29 July, CIPR East Anglia hosted a webinar called ‘Comms: Inside and Out’. Our guest speakers were Mel Atkinson, External Corporate Communications Manager with Norfolk County Council, and Elizabeth Skeels, Internal Communications Manager with Essex Police – they spoke candidly about their experiences communicating in the public sector during COVID-19.

I organised this event with Mel and Elizabeth, with the help of my fellow CIPR committee colleague Michelle Nelson and it was very highly recieved by those attending, with feedback from attendees highlighting how insightful and helpful Mel and Elizabeth’s presentations had been.

This was my first time organising and hosting a professional zoom learning event. What I learnt from organising this event was threefold:

1. Preparation is key

I needed to ensure this event went well for my own peace of mind, which may have put a lot of pressure on me, but I still wanted to get it right.

I wanted to ensure there was no background noise from the attendees, and that Mel and Elizabeth could share their screens with no issues. I also had to make sure that we had a bit of a script so we didn’t forget to tell the audience who the CIPR is and other bits of housekeeping.

I put Mel and Elizabeth in touch so they could work collaboratively so their presentations complimented each other’s. They emailed and spoke to each other at least once before the date of the event, plus we had a run through of their presentations a couple of nights before just to check everything worked well.

Another good thing to remember is to ask your speakers to send their presentations to you before the event, just incase they can’t share it at the event for whatever reason.

I found having a script really useful, I also had a checklist of what we needed to prep before the event. Posts for social media, content for the newsletter etc.

2. However, you can’t prep for everything

After testing the presentation and checking for technical issues, on the night we had some technical issues with my WIFI connection which we couldn’t have tested for. Luckily, that was the only issue and everything else went smoothly, but sometimes you can’t account for things, you just have to be prepared and make a joke of it if you have technical issues, everyone is working from home and understands you can’t get it right all the time.

3. Be human in the way you talk on the presentations

Following on from making jokes about having technical issues, just enjoy the webinar or meeting. Chat to everyone attending like you usually would. Be open and honest about your experience/job, whatever you are talking about on your event.

Mel and Elizabeth are great speakers! They talked about their experiences of managing external and internal comms in the public sector during the pandemic. The feedback we recieved was on how relevant, open and honest Mel and Elizabeth were about their experiences.

They both discussed the challenges they faced, the learning points, their key takeaways and what they will do differently going forward. Their presentations resonated with our attendees whether they worked in public sector or not.

That is the secret to a successful presentation…to be human.

Those were my learning points from organising my first online event for CIPR East Anglia.

You can read Elizabeth’s takeaways on internal communications here.

You can read Mel’s blog on external communications here.

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