Monday, December 17, 2012

How to Improve Your Next News Conference

As I watched the police in Newtown host their latest news conference, I realized I had never blogged about how to more effectively deal with the Q&A. I haven't found a decent YouTube post of this morning's conference, but this prior one will make the point. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvgXf1y6kx8.

When you take questions at a news conference or following a speech, always, always repeat the question. This is important for three reasons:
  1. It lets everyone hear what the person asked. If someone standing in the front of the pack of reporters at the above-linked news conference asked a question, you can be sure that those in the back didn't hear a word of it. The first question on this YouTube news conference, which is subtitled online because the microphone didn't pick up the question, was answered, "No, that's not accurate. The weaponry that wasn't recovered by our investigative recovery in close proximity to the deceased." Ignore for now that the answer doesn't make sense. Without the subtitles, the answer would make even less sense because you wouldn't know the question.
  2. It gives you, the speaker, a chance to pause and collect your thoughts before you burst out with an answer. Restate the question, take a deep breath, and formulate your response mentally.
  3. Repeating the question ensures you understood what was being asked so you don't ramble on about something the questioner doesn't really care about.
After this morning's news conference, Lieutenant George Sinko said there was no use having more press briefings until there was more to report. That's good. There's no need to say the same things to the same people. He said they would be back about noon, suggesting more developments may be ready to release after this morning. He announced the meeting was over, but reporters kept shouting questions and he took one more after he said he was done. Not so good. The fat lady had sung. Get out of there.

Because the news conference was held outside, Sinko left the microphone and started across the grass or parking lot or wherever he was. It appeared a dozen or so reporters followed, still firing questions at him. Whenever possible, have an exit route and escape when you are finished. You don't want to be caught offguard and be tempted to say something you hadn't intended.

The next time you watch a news conference, see what the speaker does right and could have done better. We can learn from the best and the worst as well as the many that fall in between.

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