Tips for planning a successful virtual press conference

Person leans over laptop with a Zoom meeting with six participants

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that almost everything can be done online—this includes the staple event of media relations: the press conference. As restrictions continue to lift, we still find virtual press conferences helping to eliminate travel, freeing up reporters’ calendars during the work day and connecting speakers from all over the world.

And just as you would prepare for an in-person press event, virtual press conferences require just as much planning—if not more. So, how do you organize one? Below are a few tips to ensure your virtual press conference is a hit.

Develop a run of show

The first step to a successful press conference, in-person or virtual, is to develop your run of show or game plan. A general rule of thumb is to think through the who, what, and when.

  • Who will participate from your organization?
  • What will each participant say?
  • When will each participant speak?

Determine the right platform

Our agency is a fan of the classic video conference platform, Zoom. This platform allows the host two types of events: meetings and webinars. This flexibility leaves you in control of the experience based on the size and needs of your audience. We typically find webinars helpful for press conferences, since this feature only allows the host and panelists to share their video, audio and screen while participants are in view-only mode.

After the onset of the pandemic, many platforms popped up to support virtual press conferences and events. A more comprehensive list of these platforms can be found here.

Practice, practice, practice

You know what they say, practice makes perfect. If you’re hosting a press conference or speaking as a panelist, the best way to ensure a successful conference is to run through your talking points as many times as you can—even better, practice as a group to perfect transitions, timing and get familiar with the technology.

Give yourself tech check time

Since technology can sometimes be unpredictable, giving yourself a grace period before the event is key to your success. Allocating 10-15 minutes for the host and panelists to join the press conference saves you from having attendees sit awkwardly in the waiting room. During this time, check all required equipment such as microphones, internet connection and cameras.

Keep their attention

Screen fatigue is real. To ensure you capture everyone’s attention (and keep it), think about sharing a deck, adding a visually-pleasing background or adding in a few videos to break up the conversation and add to the experience.

Leave time for questions

The point of a press conference is to give the media a chance to gather main points, quotes and ask questions for their story. If you’re presenting, try to keep it short and sweet by sharing the essential background information and factor in time at the end of the conversation for questions.

Record the conversation

Not every member of the media will be able to attend your virtual press conference, and one of the great parts of virtual events is the ability to record. Offering a recording of the conversation allows absent attendees to access your content and potentially cover your story.

Share supporting materials

Along with the press conference recording, think through supporting materials that will help shape a story. This could be a press release, fact sheet, frequently asked questions or images—anything that would make the reporter’s job easier. Pro tip: combine these materials into a Dropbox or Google Drive link for easy access.  

At the end of the day, you can never be too prepared for an event. Give yourself time to plan and think through each step in the process.

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Julia Surber

Julia loves promoting brands she believes in and flexes her media relations muscles on accounts like Virginia Distillery Company and Colonial Williamsburg. Prior to joining Hodges, she worked for Golden Word helping beverage and lifestyle clients achieve their PR goals.

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