Stephen Smart, a former journalist, former press secretary for Christy Clark, press secretary during the BC Liberals leadership race for Todd Stone, and current PR consultant, has been on both ends of press conferences that haven’t gone smoothly. Sometimes things would go wrong, through no fault of his own.
During his time as a journalist he learned about how technology can affect a press conference.
“I was a reporter at CKNW, and I was at the Burnaby RCMP detachment covering some sort of horrible story. It was solemn you know it was one of those things where the last thing you want to do as a reporter is make any sort of a scene,” Smart said. “I look up about maybe 20 minutes press conference and I noticed at the podium is smoking and was horrified to discover that no the podium wasn’t smoking my tape deck was smoking.”
Working on Todd Stone’s campaign, Smart dealt with a human element that can’t be planned for while holding a press conference in Kelowna. The event was held before a leadership debate and Smart had set up the room to make Stone look like a premier.
“The news conference was crashed by these two protesters who unbeknownst to Todd Stone in his time at the transportation ministry had this feud with the ministry over a highway expropriation of their property,” Smart said. “I did not even want him to know about it but I figured I needed to tell him.”
“I very calmly told Todd about it he started to get worried, I said ‘no, no, no. Don’t worry. They’re gone, it’s alright, you’re going to get asked about it.’” Smart said. “I’ve got him in a good place and we’re about to walk into the news conference and one of the former MLA’s who was supporting Todd in this leadership bid comes running out of the room we’re going to have the press conference in this panic wanting to make sure that that that Todd knew about this, and I was like, oh, okay. He meant really well, but yeah.”
Overall Smart has three tips for holding a successful press conference.
- Plan, plan, plan
“Everything from like what’s in the backdrop,” Smart said. “Is it going to rain, do you have a tent on standby?”
- Expect the unexpected
“What are your entrance routes, exit routes. What you know what if you know some massive story breaks two minutes before and all of the media leave ‘cause they have to go cover it.”
- Expect things to go wrong, and roll with it
“Recognize that at the end of the day unless you’re doing a news conference about curing cancer you’re not sharing cancer and most things aren’t actually that big a deal.”