Sunday, April 14, 2013

Press conferences for Technical Companies

Press conferences. I hate them. Especially if they are organised by PR companies who haven't a clue what the client is selling. And if you are making special LED lights for video cameras or Thunderbolt hard drives, it can be hard to get the attention of the press. That's partly because the "trade press" in this sector is either dead or dying (just surviving on advertorials). Phil Rutter was at this week's National Association of Broadcasters meeting in Las Vegas and wrote a piece about how not to do a press conference. I wish others would listen to his advice....

Press conferences at IBC - not my favourite....
Absolute Advantage Ltd.

Some thoughts on the subject of Press Conferences
I don't normally comment on what happens at a big show like NAB until well after the show has closed - it allows time for sober reflection. But this year has been a bit different, and I think my experience to date deserves airing. As many of you will know, I'm attending NAB with a "News Media" hat on - covering (somewhat thinly) the show for the BKSTS News site (great advertising rates by the way). This has resulted in lots of invitations to Press Conferences, and although I have not attended that many, there's a distinct trend starting to show.

So, let's call this - how not to do a Press Conference.

Firstly, there's the question of size. Big companies will see the need to have big Press Conferences, that's obvious. And smaller companies will settle for getting a few hacks into a meeting room on the back of the stand (or maybe not even bother with the meeting room). But regardless of size, you need to think about scale. If you have a huge meeting room, capable of taking at least 1000 journalists, please don't work on the assumption that they will all be able to see you and what's going on. It's probably a good idea to have some cameras taking a closer view of your presenters (especially if you make cameras), but it would be an even better idea if those closer views could be put up on a big screen - maybe not the one you're using for illegible PowerPoint slides, but perhaps one alongside it. After all, this is a big Press Conference.

Then there's the problem of the speakers. If they are going to work to a script, it's probably best that they either have some sort of prompter, or memorise it, or even have it printed on sheets of paper in front of them. And they need to have rehearsed - so they give at least a passing resemblance of knowing what they are talking about. Oh, and even if the CEO does fancy himself as Steve Jobs, don't let him pretend to be the man.

Next there's the problem of sound - if you're going to have some sort of PA system, it's probably best to test it ahead of time. If you insist on holding your Press Conference in a night club, don't expect a loudspeaker system that consists mainly of bass bins to reproduce speech too well. And while it's great for your CEO to have a lapel mic so that he can wave his hands about freely, try to make sure it isn't fixed to him in such a way that his face is pointing away from it most of the time.

Getting your customers to say good things about you is a great idea - just make sure they're not going to be doing the same thing for your competitor 3 hours later. And if you're going to include "specially shot" material in your presentation, make sure it really is special - having to apologise for your laptop running slowly really isn't good enough.

Having circumnavigated all the pitfalls of venue, technology and the CEO's dress sense, there's then the relatively minor issue of content - after all "content is king". First thing to remember is that just because you say something often enough, that doesn't mean it's true or accurate. Solutions are chemicals in liquid form (apologies to all chemists out there), and no one has a "complete solution". You're tremendously excited about your new XYZ10, but that doesn't mean that the entire planet will be. And if you do have something genuinely ground breaking, don't assume that all your audience will understand what it does if you simply say "at last it solves the problem of infinite space!"

Finally, if you only have a little to say - only say a little. Don't be tempted the fill out your allotted time by saying the same thing 20 different ways - it gets to be boring.

All that said, I must thank all the manufacturers who kindly extended their hospitality to me at their various gatherings, and to those who gave time to address my specific questions - it is appreciated.

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