His parting shot was ‘don’t worry, you’ll find out what it’s about when you get there.’ Famous last words.
Since I was the only journalist who turned up and there was no introductory presentation, it didn’t quite work out like that. Anne and I sat there eyeing each other in silence across a large table in an anonymous meeting room … both equally embarrassed.
To avoid such disasters, here are a few guidelines for those planning a press conference …
- Choose a central location which is easy to reach with parking for camera crews
- The room should have space for enough seats plus TV crews, and audio-visual equipment, a microphone system and a lecturn
- Choose a quiet room – building works, noisy air conditioning and strip lighting and clocks can be really annoying
- Think about lighting – do not position your panel in front of windows as they will be backlit by the TV cameras, and remember camera operators may need to use their own lights
- Have microphones so the questions and answers are clear, and repeat the questions in case the audience haven’t heard them
- Bring a backdrop with your logo for the stage and have name tabs so everyone knows who the panel is
- Provide a quiet room for one-to-one interviews afterwards
- Make sure someone greets those arriving and provide press packs with background information
- Think about deadlines – mid morning and early afternoon work well for TV and radio
- One person should chair the press conference with ideally two others to answer questions
- The chairperson should introduce everyone, including their titles, explaining the reason for the press conference, lay the ground rules and make an opening statement setting out your position
- Ground rules include: questions to go through chair, limit the duration of the press conference (can always extend if it’s going well), journalists must identify themselves, there will be opportunity for one-to-one interviews afterwards, and if relevant, filming opportunities
Watch out for Successful Press Conferences Part 2: Who’s in control?