How To Hold A Press Conference Via Google+

A Tibetan advocacy group recently held the world's first video press conference via Google+ Hangouts. While the goal might have been to get attention from techies and journalists, it also gave us a glimpse into the future of video conferencing.


A Tibetan advocacy group held what appeared to be the world's first Google+-powered video press conference this past Friday. The London-based International Tibet Network used Google Plus/Google+ (has the branding truly been figured out yet?) for a coordinated event featuring speakers in India, the United States, and the United Kingdom, held via Google+ Hangouts. Select journalists were allowed to join the press conference online and video was quickly rebroadcast via both Twitter and YouTube.

Although the nominal subject of the press conference was the People's Republic of China's decision to seal the borders of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the video press conference seems to have been held primarily to raise public awareness through the sheer novelty of a Google+ media event.

Google+ Hangouts allows up to 10 users to videoconference, text, chat, and share YouTube videos simultaneously. While the technology is fascinating, especially for press conferences, there are two major caveats: Hangouts does not work on mobile devices at this time, while the limit of a Hangouts group to 10 users puts a cramp in the possibility of holding regular press conferences in Google Plus. Hangouts does give users the option of conducting closed/private video chats, if you want to use it for videoconferencing without the media angle.

Participants in the press conference included Tenzin Jigme of the International Tibet Network, Tendor Dorjee of Students for a Free Tibet, Dhardon Sharling of the Tibetan Womens Association, and Alison Reynolds of the International Tibet Network. Google has had famously messy relations with China and Chinese hackers are also suspected in a recent attack on Gmail.

This one-off Google+ press conference could be a harbinger of things to come for both tech and political observers. Unlike Google+, Facebook only supports one-on-one video chats, which means that online videoconferencing—and the sweet, sweet ad and marketing money that comes with it—is going to mainly fall under Google's purview for now. Moreover, online social media has played a crucial role in the recent/ongoing Arab revolutions, protests in Greece, the 2009 Iran election protests, and dissident movements around the world.

Adding multi-user video teleconferencing to the mix is a simple way for dissidents in their native countries to communicate with expatriates and allies abroad. Though Hangouts is still in its infancy, this may well occur in the next inevitable geopolitical calamity.

In the meantime, yes, it's confirmed: You can hold a video press conference from Google+. And from what we've seen, it will likely go quite smoothly.

[Image: Flickr user Josh Koonce]

For more stories like this, follow @fastcompany on Twitter. Email Neal Ungerleider, the author of this article, here.

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  • Andrea Cook

    It is great to see a success story of an innovative approach to journalism and PR. With the recent, or current explosion of new media, I predict there will be many new opportunities for creative approaches to the new frontier of media. 

    - Andrea Cook
    The Midas Center

  • AlisonReynolds

    Hi Neal, many thanks for this article - I just want to emphasize that the press conference was not primarily held to raise public awareness through the sheer novelty of a Google+ media event. We decided to hold a press conference some weeks ago and did various tests using Skype premium but it was too unstable; we weren't sure how to proceed when a colleague from the Tibet Action Institute hit on the idea of trying Google+ Hangout. Once we had chosen our medium, we did recognize - and promote - its novelty value! As you say, it went pretty smoothly and we would definitely use it again. Alison Reynolds, International Tibet Network.

  • Gary S. Hart

    This is excellent Neal and thanks for writing the article. I see Google+Hangouts as a powerful tool. Do you happen to know what app they recorded the conference with or can you recommend one?

  • Steve McIlree

    Please explain in a bit more detail how a press conference with 10 participants works.

  • nealu

    In all seriousness, a press conference with only 10 participants held via G+ can have video ported to YouTube for mass pursual within 15 minutes of conclusion. It also works well for press conferences catering towards, say, industry publications or niche publications at the present.

    But more importantly, the idea of even holding a live press conference via, say, Facebook or Myspace is something that would have been unthinkable even a year ago. Google has made it obvious that they see the convergence of video teleconferencing and conventional social networking to be a linchpin of G+ (why else would they be pushing Hangouts so much?), and this is an extremely interesting side effect.

    The big question now is when video press conferences with 20-100 participants will become possible and how the inevitable bandwidth issues will be mitigated.