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Escalate It | Chapter Three

Holding a Press Conference


When there is a serious free-expression violation or evidence of an alarming trend, organisations need a high-profile media event to capture media attention quickly and effectively.

A press conference is a formal, prearranged meeting between members of the press and representatives of an organisation. Press conferences usually consist of someone delivering a short address and then answering questions from the media, as well as being available for follow-up interviews.

This is an effective way to get create a news event that gets the basic story across to all the media at once. However, since attending press conferences involves considerable effort on the part of the media, there must be something specific that the media will get from the conference that they could not get from a press release or phone interview.


A good press conference delivers at least one of the following:

  • Opportunities for the media to capture strong video footage and/or photographs
  • Various key spokespersons together in one place to make statements and answer questions
  • Unique opportunities for one-on-one interviews with key figures after the press conference
  • New analysis or news that will be valuable to media audiences


  • Always start on time, even if only a few people have arrived
  • Have only a few short presentations - no more than 10 minutes each—to allow journalists ample time to ask questions
  • The press conference shouldn’t last longer than 30 to 45 minutes in total (with both presentations and the question period)
  • Avoid jargon: make sure presenters speak in basic terms that the general public will understand
  • Offer a press kit with relevant information including speaker bios, media release, reports, and contacts


Print this checklist of reminders and to-do's to ensure everything runs smoothly before, during and after the event:


  • Reserve a venue
  • Make sure it is easily accessible, and take into account capacity, lighting, power, and sound (particularly if you anticipate television coverage)
  • Ensure there is free (or at least validated) parking at the venue
  • If you expect television coverage, make sure there is room to park large TV production trucks
  • Arrange a podium and/or stage for the speakers
  • In many countries the best times for media conferences tend to be late morning (10:00-11:00) or early afternoon (14:30-15:00); remember to work around media deadlines, to get your story disseminated quickly
  • Plan to have a media check-in table, where reporters will go upon arrival
  • Invite the media by sending out a press release detailing:
    • What it is
    • Where it will be held
    • Who will be speaking
    • What central issues will be covered
    • Who can be contacted for more information
    • Map to the venue

See also How to Write a Press Release.

  • Prepare materials for the conference, including:
    • List of participants
    • Signage
    • Speaker bios
    • Hard copy of keynote address (optional)


  • Contact the speakers and chairperson
  • Confirm their attendance
  • Go over talking points to make sure they are clear
  • Make sure there is no overlap with other speakers
  • Contact media to remind them of the press conference
  • Prepare press kits to send to media who do not attend (See also How to Make a Press Kit)
  • Visit the venue to make sure everything is in order
  • Plan and arrange the layout of the venue (ie. Where will everyone sit? Do you want to have a separate room for individual interviews? Where is the best place to have a check-in table?)


  • Send out a press release detailing the main issue the press conference covers
  • Visit the venue a few hours before the conference to make sure everything is in order
  • Make sure the venue is easy to find; put up signage if it’s in a building or you think people may get lost
  • Review the order and talking points with the speakers when they are all together


  • Be prepared to greet media at least 15 minutes before the start of the press conference
  • Have greeters direct media to a check-in table, where you:
    • Check press credentials
    • Register reporters’ names, addresses and media outlet
    • Distribute press kits
    • Provide reporters with a list of participants and bios, and optional hard copy of the keynote address
  • Have chairperson introduce speakers, explain proceedings, direct question period, and close event
  • After all of the speakers have finished their presentations, ask for questions from the media
  • Arrange any one-on-one or follow-up interviews
  • Record (photos, video, taping) the conference for your own use.


  • Send press kits to media who did not attend
  • Monitor media coverage of event (collect and document related reports)
  • Cover your own event - ie. send out a press release, report on it on your website, newsletter, etc.

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