What to expect at a Eurovision Press Conference

Brandon McCann covers all the press conferences in Lisbon this year for Team ESCDaily. As a result, he knows better than anybody how the mini-cosmos that is the press conference hall functions. In this editorial, he provides special insight.

“Press conference involves multiple cameras live-streaming the content daily, along with a small elevated stage and a large LED tv screen to showcase close-ups of the artists (when speaking) and the questioner along with the audience. It’s like a world within itself within the world of Eurovision.

Here’s a few things you need to know to really understand the press conference room in Eurovision:

No real system to who goes on-stage

There are multiple press conferences for each conference and the broadcaster may allow different people to represent. The only rule is: the artist(s) must go. Head of delegations usually go, but not always (as was the case with Ireland this year). Backing singers tend to go. RTP will accommodate for all the delegation’s needs in terms of quantity of seats and any plans to perform acoustic numbers.

That, by the way, happens more than you would think. Press conferences more often than not turn into mini-concerts.

Photography is carnage

Be prepared for things to get rough as depending on which country is on. Getting photos at the photo pool can be very difficult. There can be the standard shoving and crowded lines blocking an eye-line to the artist(s) so the policy is that the early bird gets the worm.

After the photo opportunity, the host of the press conference asks the initial questions. This is usually a quite friendly chitchat, without any serious journalistic merit to it. Afterwards, the attendees get to ask questions. You put your hand up and hope to be accepted. If so, you must stand up, tell the artist your name, news media and your question in English. Sometimes foreign media will ask their question in the artist’s native language and then translate to English for which the artist will reply in English.

Four different types of attendees

People attending can be broken into four categories:

  • Constants – here every interview, attempting to ask questions every time.
  • Stragglers – press that wanders in and out, seeking out the countries with a potential story.
  • Local media – local media who are selected by the delegation. They usually attend only their own country’s press conference.
  • Fans – looking for selfies, autographs or just to communicate with artist(s).

The two hosts inter-change between each press conference. If you are a constant and you asked a question in the previous conference (with the same host), you are not likely to get chosen to ask a question, unless there are limited people willing to provide questions. Stragglers and local media have much more opportunity to get chosen due to the hosts wanting to bring new blood into the Q&A. Therefore choose conferences sparingly, if you want your question asked. Fans similar to constant aren’t chosen as much due to their questions being personal and non-journalistic which can be quite cringe-worthy when attending a professional event as a journalist.

After a fixed amount of time, the host calls off the press conference. Most often the artist(s) will go straight off back-stage due to timing schedule of the upcoming press conference.

Questions are either filler, interesting or controversial

The questions asked are perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of working in the press conference area. They consist of mainly filler; questions asked in previous interviews or questions with no true relevance to the country’s performance or Eurovision in-general (e.g. What’s your favourite tea?).

More generic yet relevant questions cover the topic of the country’s most recent rehearsal. “Are you satisfied with the result? Can we expect any changes?” The press conference is usually right after a country has been to the viewing room. Therefore it is the first chance to score a scoop about big staging changes.

Controversial questions would usually be answered by the head of delegation. If it’s in regards to alleged corruption or the singer(s) if it’s in regards to a personal matter e.g. Mans Zelmerlow’s possible homophobia.

Interesting questions are rare and require a lot of research but it is rewarding to everyone when they arrive. Maciej Mazanski from Poland was the only one to ask Netta Barzilai about her looper. By that, he gave one rare example.

Come see for yourself

Regardless of which role you would take, I recommend more people to attend the press conference area. Watch it with your own eyes, not through a phone, embrace the cultures and passions on-stage and you’ll ultimately benefit greately from your Eurovision experience.”