Press conferences are an integral part of any business plan and marketing strategy. These are tools that a company can use in order to get free exposure through the press, to manage their reputation and more. For those serious about projecting a professional and capable front, learning the art of the press conference is an absolute must.
Getting coverage from the press is a fantastic objective for any business. That is because simply put, when a magazine or website writes about your business, it essentially means that you are getting completely free exposure to their entire subscriber base. If a magazine with a circulation of 300,000 writes about you in a positive manner, that’s hugely beneficial! Using a press conference is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
A press conference means that you are calling the press in order to share news of some sort. This news can take many different forms, but very often it is going to mean one of the following:
The company can then invite members of the press to the conference in order to cover the story and that way, they can hopefully have their message communicated to the audience they want via those publications.
To better understand how press conferences operate and why they are so important, let’s look back at some press conferences (both recent and a little older) from some of the biggest tech companies on the planet today.
The historic June 27th 2012 Google I/O conference was a great hit for Google where they unveiled a number of their key projects and technologies. We saw the introduction of Android 4.1 'Jellybean', we saw the Nexus 7 and Nexus Q and perhaps most excitingly we saw the AR peripheral Google Glass. The presentation for the Nexus 7 was a successful announcement for a tablet by any standards and it came across as a great device. This by-the-numbers presentation demonstrated that you don't need a lot of bells and whistles if you have a good project to demonstrate. Even if the project itself is quite straightforward.
More exciting though was the demo of the Google Glasses which saw a bunch of skydivers leap out of a plane while transmitting their POV directly from the glasses to a Google Hangout. The video was a rather bombastic and no doubt expensive demonstration of something not anticipated to hit shelves until 2014. Google Glass never amounted to anything much and is today considered a failure, but this perfectly illustrates the power of a conference: it managed to build hype and also make the company look good.
It did a great job of demonstrating the kind of thing that the glasses can do, and more importantly it did what Google wanted it to do – which was to get people talking. Think about this at your own conferences, how can you go against what is expected and deliver a presentation that will really be remembered? What kind of gimmick could you bring up on stage to show what your device or service could do? What kind of celebrity? What kind of skit?
Think as well about the format of Google I/O. This happens every year and at the much more recent 2017 conference, the company showed off things like Google Lens, Android Studio 3.0, Instant Apps and more. Could you throw an annual or at least regular conference like this?
Around 2012, you may have heard that Apple were replacing Google Maps on iOS with their own in-house maps. The presentation for this was a brilliant example of Apple still 'having it' after the departure of Jobs and they did a fantastic job of building up the excitement with demonstration on demonstration of what the maps can do. The only error that they perhaps made though was not saving the best revelation for last. No doubt the most exciting and impressive aspect of the maps is the 3D flyover effect, which allows you to pan around buildings in 3D with the textures all rendered in real time. It's amazing stuff, but oddly they decided to show the relatively uninteresting turn by turn navigation for last. Something which most people have seen before on many other devices and which would have been great at the start of the talk, but was a bit of a wet squib at the end. Something to consider when devising your own presentations: what is the best order for your revelations? Conversely, you don’t want to ‘save’ all your exciting points for the very end of the presentation or you risk long ‘dry spells’. Make sure you hit lots of beats and that your presentation has a rhythm to it.
Likewise: how will your presentation be seen in the context of a previous presentation? Steve Jobs was so famous for his ‘one more thing’ conferences and Apple had to live up to the heavy expectations that set.
Another consideration is making sure that everything is going to work as it should. At Apple’s more recent iPhone X reveal, a famous mishap caused the facial recognition technology to fail during the presentation. The presenter picked up the phone and announced how much better it was than using finger print verification – only to then be rejected! The reason was that people had been picking up the phone all day, which had caused the phone to more securely lock itself. Check these things!
What the company did well at the same conference though was to tribute their old CEO in the ‘Steve Jobs theatre’. Here, they are leveraging good will and reverence associated with their brand.
When Nintendo first announced their (then) next console they didn't quite get everything right and the gaming industry generally reported muddled messages – a fact that Nintendo felt through their investors. The problem was that they didn't make it at all clear what the Wii U was or what it was capable of, and opted to only show the new control pad. Was this a new handheld gaming device? An add on controller for the existing Wii console? And what were its features or specs? Subsequent revelations and presentations failed to really build excitement either as the specs remained mysterious and were reported by some sources to be lower than even some current gen consoles at the time.
Nintendo has time and again proven that it knows what it's doing when it comes to games. And in a time when we can stream games straight from the web we are fast approaching a point where specs don't really matter and the way that hardware needs to differentiate itself is by being different. However, Nintendo clearly failed to get this point across or to generate the right kind of speculation; a lesson for you to learn before making your own presentations.
Be clear. Be concise. And understand the USP of the product you’re offering. Of course, Nintendo was far more successful with the launch of its latest console: the Nintendo Switch!
If you have a business, or just an idea for a business, then you should also have an elevator pitch. This is the quick summary of your business that you could conceivably give in the time it takes an elevator to reach the top floor – the idea being that if you found yourself sharing one with Richard Branson, you could deliver such a great and convincing speech in that time that he’d want to invest in you by the time you got to the top.
Of course the elevator pitch isn’t just for elevators though. You’ll use it when you write the greetings page on your website (you have an even shorter amount of time to attract and hold attention when someone lands on your site), you’ll use it when communicating with your staff and of course, you’ll use it at your conferences. Start with the elevator pitch and then elaborate.
Every business needs a clear and simple mission statement, and a logical plan of how to get there. Without that you’ll fail to resonate with the people and businesses you meet and you’ll find yourself directionless.
The question though, is how you go about creating that elevator pitch. Here we will look at how you can summarise your whole business in a few minutes and really get to the core of what it is you’re doing.
If you want to inspire people to invest in you, to work alongside you, or to pay for your services, then you need to communicate your passion and your vision quickly. This means knowing why it is that you do what you do, and what you believe. So, Apple isn’t a company that ‘makes phones’, it’s a company that ‘believes in delivering a high-quality, beautiful and smooth user experience’. Likewise, Microsoft doesn’t make computers, it creates powerful productivity tools to allow businesses to get their work done efficiently and without restrictions.
Next you need to think about how it is that you do what you do. What’s your current day-to-day work? How does this move you closer towards fulfilling that mission statement? For most companies that will mean producing products or providing a service, while also developing and researching new avenues. You can then also talk about the facts – how many staff does your business have, where are you based, how much is your turnover? This will help to provide the details that fill in the gaps, and make your abstract mission statement seem a little more real and concrete. If you’re going to get someone to invest in your business, then you need these details too to paint a picture and to make your business more real.
Finally, you need to end on what your business intends to do next and how you’re going to continue growing and moving forward. If your plan is simply to ‘sell more’ then you probably aren’t being ambitious enough. How can you use your success with one product or service to launch a new part of
your business? How can you turn your customers into loyal returning fans? How can you make a splash that will put your business in the headlines?
These are the kinds of plans that you should have anyway in order to direct your business forward, but they are also the kinds of plans that will show potential investors and partners just why your business is a good bet going forward and something worth investing in. Show them that you’re going places and that you have a bit of ambition, and you’ll attract a lot more attention.
Now you just have to narrow all that down into a single short talk that can be delivered in under a minute. This could look a little like this…
‘Our business believes in making the future a more fun place for everyone and creating products that are a joy to use. To this end we’re focussed on creating more intuitive and enjoyable user interfaces, and over 100,000 devices ship each month with our software pre-installed. In the future we intend to begin manufacturing our own hardware to provide a more cohesive experience for users.’
If you are a business professional, then chances are that at some point you are going to have to do some public speaking.
This is often called for in the office for instance when you are giving reports, and even more so if you are a manager in which case you might have to report to your staff and probably try to motivate them from time to time.
At the same time though if you are launching a product or running any kind of corporate event or conference, then you might have to address an even larger audience including the press and a rabble of competitors who all want to see everything go wrong for you. Of course, this can all be rather distressing if you don't have lot of experience with public speaking or are generally nervous of it, but there are several methods you can use to help ensure things go smoothly. Here we will look at a few of them.
Cue cards rather than written notes are highly useful for allowing you to trigger your memory without having to take your eyes off of your audience. Eye contact is incredibly important when addressing an audience, and if you don't have it then people won't be engaged and they might think that you're nervous. Using cue cards with just a suggestion allow you to maintain the overall structure of your speech but at the same time mean you aren't staring at a piece of paper.
Another benefit of the cue card is that it enables you to keep your speech flexible and to change it as you go. This is important as it allows you to adapt in the heat of the moment – meaning that you can respond to the way the audience react, and meaning that you can't get completely lost (because there's no set path to stray from). Of course, you should have lots of ideas and the general structure hashed out in your mind, but if you're just robotically repeating a script then it won't sound natural and people won't want to listen.
Talking slowly is the single most important tip for anyone giving a talk in front of a large audience. When you do you will find that you not only come across as calmer, but that you come across as more intelligent, your voice sounds deeper and your audience take more of it in.
You should also make sure to use your space well in several ways. This means for instance moving around the stage to draw the eye, and it means thinking about where in the function rooms is best for you to give your presentation in the first place. Did you know that we rate people as more charismatic who use gesticulation and who move around the space? Of course, some locations won't have lots of options, but if you can choose from multiple positions, then make sure you're somewhere where you will stand out, where sound will travel and where the lighting is flattering.
Your aim at a press conference is to get free coverage and to be portrayed in the way that you wish for your business to be seen. But remember: that is not the aim of your attendant reporters. Their aim is to provide a good story for their readers.
You can also make the event more newsworthy by doing other things. I once attended a pre-brief for a new smartphone which took place on top of London Bridge. The hope was that I and others would Tweet and post about the day itself, gaining even more exposure for the products.
Finally, get the attendees on-side by providing them with somewhere comfortable to sit, lots of food and drink and the opportunity to ask questions. Just be ready to deal with some tricky ones!