Aug 11, 2012

Presenting at a Corporate Press Conference

Recently I was part of a press conference. This post captures my thoughts on how one should prepare and speak at a corporate press conference. If you are going to speak at a press conference this post will be of special interest to you.

I will begin with four main lessons.

1. Your audience (the print and electronic media) is short of time. They want you to quickly wrap up your presentation. So keep your content very short and simple. Total presentation time should not be more than 15 minutes.

2. The stakes are very high at a press conference. No company can afford to be caught on the wrong foot. That is why, you need to prepare well for all possible questions. The media will ask you questions and you need to answer them promptly.

3. Plan your content well. Press conference is organised so that media will talk about you. So that TV channels say what you want them to say and newspapers write what you want them to write. Hence you need to know what is it that you want the press to write and what you want TV channels to say.

4. The media will say what you want them to say if they understand you and believe you. Credibility is most crucial in a press conference. There are enough people who doubt you. You need to shut them up. Support your claims with proper data.

Time is always a constraint at a press conference. My experience with Indian media is that they are always busy and want you to complete your speech fast. Every company has a printed press kit which contains the press release. Press release talks about what the conference is all about. Since they have the press release they don't really need to sit through your one hour presentation. You want to use this opportunity to share your decades of achievement but your audience does not care so much. They have come for the news. Give them the news and give them quick. Give it to them in a manner which excites them. Then only will it get covered the following day.

Since time is a constraint you can say more in less time by using a video. Convert your presentation into a short audio-visual film. All you need to do is to add a good voice over and your presentation will now finish early. Add some music, photos and decent effects and you have your audience's attention. Take professional help because the situation demands it.

Preparing for questions is extremely important in a press conference. Media will always ask you questions and most of the times the questions can be tricky. You know why your company is doing the press conference and sitting with your team you can list down most of the questions which you can be asked. Decide who will answer these questions and what will be the answers. As you gain experience,  your preparation time will keep coming down.

Planning the content is perhaps the trickiest job. You have only 15 minutes and you need to complete your story. If you are playing your 5 minute long corporate film, the you are left with 10 minutes only. So where do you start? Start with the end in mind. What do you want the newspapers to write tomorrow? Write down that statement on a piece of paper. That is the main take-away for your audience. For this to be the take-away what will you tell them. Try to tell them only three main things. Now figure out how to say these three things. Also make sure you repeat the main take-away a few times. This will ensure it gets registered with the audience well.

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