How to React When Things Go Wrong at a Press Conference
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. That's great advice to keep in mind if you are in charge of organizing and running a press event. Here are some things that might go wrong and how you can prepare for them.
If you hold enough press conferences, sooner or later something will go wrong and you will be forced to react.
But what you do next isn't nearly as important as what you did before the press conference began. Why? Because the best time to address press conference problems is before the event takes place.
With that in mind, here are a few common press conference disasters you'll want to be prepared to handle.
When just two reporters show up.
A poorly attended press conference can be the result of a lot of things. But if you've done a good job sending out press releases, it's probably an indication that the subject of your press conference really isn't newsworthy. Take your lumps this time, but next time make sure you have something that's more capable of drawing a crowd.
When your spokesperson calls in sick.
It's possible that the person you designate to be your spokesperson won't be capable of performing that role on the day of the event. That's why it's important to have one or two backups who are prepared to step in at a moment's notice. In a worst case scenario, try to find a last minute substitute instead of postponing the press conference.
When your A/V resources fail.
You had a beautiful Powerpoint presentation prepared for reporters, but five minutes before the press conference your projector broke. Now what? Audio-visual enhancements are great, but you should also provide hard copies of your presentation to attendees. It's a great fail-safe against hardware breakdowns and provides a nice event takeaway for reporters.
When circumstances suddenly change.
Let's say you've called a press conference to announce a major partnership with a former competitor. Before the press conference takes place, your new partner suddenly pulls out of the deal. Should you still go through with the press conference? Maybe, but it depends on whether or not you've planned for contingencies and considered the kinds of circumstances that might cause you to cancel the event altogether.
When your spokesperson is caught off-guard.
Notice how we said "when", not "if" your spokesperson is caught off-guard? Eventually, a reporter is going to ask a question that your spokesperson either can't or won't answer. Her response will be dictated by how well she has been prepped for the Q&A section of the event. In general, honesty is usually the best policy. "I'll get back to you," or "I can't answer that question," are acceptable responses for most reporters.
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Have any press conference horror stories you'd care to share with our readers? What happened and how did you recover? We welcome your comments, questions, and advice regarding things that can go wrong at a press conference and how to prepare for the worst when organizing a press event.