How to Speak at a Press Conference

Ask yourself what information you would want if you were a reporter.
Ask yourself what information you would want if you were a reporter. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Press conferences, also called news conferences, are an ideal opportunity to get your news and messages out to multiple media sources at the same time. Reporters who deem your press conference worth attending are likely to publish or air it quickly, so your message will be disseminated to the public in timely fashion. Advance preparation and knowing what to expect are the keys to coming across as confident and authoritative on your subject.

Things You'll Need

  • Your notes
  • Press release copies for the press
  • Background materials for the press
  • Microphone
  • Podium (optional)

Prepare in advance so you know your goals for the press conference. Make notes on what you want to say, and come up with answers you will give to questions you are likely to be asked. Be sure to have any statistics written down so you give accurate information even if you are nervous.

Test your microphone in advance to be sure it is working when you begin. Start the press conference on time or no more than 10 minutes late, if possible. This shows a respect for the reporters' time and will keep them from becoming irritable before you even begin.

Speak slowly and in a strong voice. Keep your statements brief, clear and to the point. Prepare short, quotable statements in advance and integrate them into your speech.

Add humor in a few places unless humor is totally inappropriate for the subject matter. Humor lightens the overall mood and eases nerves.

Glance at your notes only occasionally; do not read from them. You will be more convincing if you seem to be speaking from knowledge.

Use simple language and avoid jargon that reporters and the public may not understand. If you must use industry terminology, spell it out and explain its meaning.

Refer to visual aids, such as maps or graphs, if they will help the audience better understand the points you are making. Be sure these visual aids will look good and be legible on video if you are being televised.

Conclude your remarks after 10 minutes at most. If you are not the only speaker, your remarks together should take no longer than 15 minutes.

Tell the media, or allow your moderator to tell the media, that you have concluded your statements and will now answer questions. Ask reporters to please state their name and the newspaper, magazine, radio or TV station they represent before asking their question.

Reinforce your important messages when giving your answers. Use a technique called bridging to segue into statements you want to make. For example, start your answer with, "That's a question we are often asked, and the point I want to make about that is ... "

Stay calm and polite even if the atmosphere becomes tense or hostile. If you are asked difficult questions you aren't prepared to answer, say, "We aren't prepared to comment on that at this time."

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't allow yourself to show anger or frustration over reporters' attitudes or questions. They will sense your emotions and probe further as well as report on your demeanor.

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