Attending trade shows can be expensive. So? Get creative!
Attending trade shows and providing advertising and PR services is a business of mine. My partners and I used to be at about 30 to 40 shows a year, working with the show management and individual exhibitors on generating visibility and recognition as well as producing video for multiple display units spread throughout the convention facility.
Making sure local media were invited to major show events and allowed access to important speakers and panel members are always a key role of our responsibilities.
If hired by an exhibitor, one of the orchestrated elements of our PR-contracted involvement at each show is walking the floor looking for “Press” badges. They are almost always a different color than attendees, vendors or exhibitors. We will constantly watch the pressroom for media reps happening by to pick up show info or individual press kits as sponsors, exhibitors or vendors might leave them. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that these professionals are seeking information and contacts. They want to know what’s happening and when. While not necessarily “easy pickins,” they are actually hungry for material and usually quite cooperative and friendly.
I often wonder if PR reps in attendance with an exhibiting company realize the incredible opportunity that virtually passes them by. Dozens and dozens of key industry reporters are in attendance at every show and they are there for one reason: get stories and unique information about exhibitor booths that may have special or distinctive products that specialty or even mass audiences will find interesting and valuable. Each exhibit booth contains the CEO and Marketing Director obediently watching the crowds, smiling and nodding as thousands pass by. In among those thousands of passers-by are dozens wearing those colorful, special badges clearly labeled “Press.”
It’s not just the hand-shaking and chit-chat on the floor that makes chances increase that you’ll get attention. It’s knowing where the special events are, especially the ones you didn’t choose to attend. Now they get to have special meaning. Does the word, “work” suddenly come to mind?
Could your missed opportunities be happening while one of your competitors brought in a competent, experienced PR team to leverage the show’s media list, capitalize on local media and orchestrate news coverage? Could be, do you think? While attending trade shows can get expensive, getting good, solid media attention in the right pubs can easily justify costs. This seems pretty logical and even unsophisticated in terms of basic PR/Media relations.
Yet few company honchos think about it, no less leverage the extraordinary PR opportunities in existence at most trade shows.
Trade show PR can be a strategic science if approached with pre-planning and assumptions of opportunity in mind. Yes, it takes a little aggressive outreach and some creativity, but the PR rewards can be exceptional. Put the front-end effort out, look for every media opportunity at your outstretched hand and the payoff in having several stories come your way is like money in the bank.
For every news release and scheduled interview at the upcoming show where you have a booth, there are probably ten or more unplanned but waiting opportunities if you just get off your butt and make it happen.
by Neil Kuvin
Getting Trade media to pay attention to you and your product at a show where there are hundreds of exhibit booths and dozens of competitors is daunting, to say the least.
If you’re not a newcomer to exhibiting at trade shows, the lessons to be learned should already have been learned and now your “pay attention to me” stuff just needs modifying and magnifying.
Getting media attention is a major effort. It can wear you out if you’re not prepared, in advance, to re-visit steps and put most of your efforts into pre-show groundwork. Boy Scout oath. You know the drill.
In the meantime, here are ten suggestions for attracting and utilizing media to get awareness and results from your media-attracting efforts at trade shows.
- Is your product/service announcement really, truly newsworthy? What’s so special about you that makes this show important for you and the media to pay attention and seek you out? The announcement needs to be special and valuable.
- Is your “Press Room” on your Website up to date and well stocked?
- Create a special site or separate page on your website that’s mobile-device-friendly. Especially pay attention that media can download information quickly. Make certain everything you put on that site or page is everything they ever wanted to know about you and why you think this particular show is important to your pursuing your objectives. Spend a barrel of ink (digital that is) on seeing to it that the URL is everywhere on your materials, along with your cell number and email address.
- Have a separate business card designed that features the show name, your exhibit booth number, your cell number and even the hotel where you’re staying as your temporary address.
- Make arrangements with the trade shows to sponsor an event, making certain your company logo will be plastered everywhere, including their pre-show materials. Have the show provide you with an updated list of attending media and bombard them with advance info and an invitation to the event.
- A week or ten days ahead of the show, send out one of several news releases you’ll be composing to let the media know just what you intend to announce at the show. Even if it’s just that your chairman will be in the booth. But you’ll certainly have something of importance to announce. You better. Your competitors will if you don’t. Make sure this release, and any others you generate before or during the show are on both your corporate website’s “Press Room” section and the special one you created just for the show.
- Make arrangements in advance with the show organizers to have dozens of your media kits stacked at the show’s media center. Obviously, your specially designed business card will be prominently displayed in the kit.
- For your special product unveiling, or other major newsworthy event at the show, go ahead and call a news conference one morning during the show when there doesn’t appear to be essential or significant competitive seminars or workshops that would otherwise be drawing the press away. You also need to be careful to wisely schedule your news conference so as not to interfere with an important event on the show schedule. Follow-up your invitation to the news conference with at least one phone call reminder and the specific request, “Can I count on you being there?”
- Consider holding a special “Press Night Out” by special invitation that could include a dinner, a visit to a theatre or museum, to an NBA or MLB game. Yeah – expensive for sure. But always appreciated and usually well-attended. Don’t sell those attending anything. Just have them enjoy your hospitality and generosity. Will they shy away because of journalistic ethics? Some might. Most will attend. It’s a trade show. You can cherry-pick names on the main media list to get yourself within budget projections.
- While at the show, troll the hallways and check for media badges in seminars and workshops. They’re almost always a different color than everyone else’s.
With proper preparation, your nabbing of lots of media attention can be not only productive, but fun. Hey, they’re trade shows. And likely in a nifty city with lots of special places to see and great restaurants to enjoy. So do it. Enjoy, and be successful.
by Neil Kuvin
Trade Shows are sure different these days.
Break-out sessions, solo keynote addresses, even separate expert panels are being replaced by discussion groups of three or four people, not necessarily seasoned experts in your industry.
So what’s this all about? Seems the “Rock-Star” presenter is being replaced by a “safe” panel, in many instances representing sides of an issue that don’t put someone on stage who may lead to controversy or heaven-forbid, disappointment.
Having been a marketing and PR participant in hundreds of trade shows and public conventions during the past twenty years, I have been present in maybe a thousand or more moderated panel discussions, many of which have been pretty milk-toast in format and presentation. Unique challenges for participants and moderators alike become unclimbed and very disappointing mountains for show producers.
Whether a dog fight (been to zero of those), cock fight (ditto attendance for me) or an informative, yet bold panel discussion, they all need a referee. That’s called a moderator. That leader and pot-stirrer has to probe, question, challenge and poke everyone on the panel; not sit and smile quietly as each present their sometimes boring, prepared notes.
Here are a few tips if you’ve been tapped to moderate a panel, or want to suggest one to a show producer at one of your upcoming trade shows:
- Know your audience. What are their needs, concerns, issues? Who, on the panel might most attract them? Have you included your own version of a “Rock Star” that’s going to get a lot of attention?
- What purpose does your panel provide? In your preparation – and you need to do your homework on every panel member and every topic that may be included in the discussion – what are the pertinent industry topics that could be controversial. Don’t avoid them. In fact, go to them with vigor and a sense of urgency.
- Make sure you know each panelist in advance. Call them. Talk to them. Know how to correctly pronounce their name. OMG – that’s of extraordinary importance! How do they want to be introduced; college degrees; article publication lists; personal info?
- Be certain your panel has a good, quality mix of expertise. Are they all articulate, opinionated (yeah-that’s a great quality for a lively panel).
- Prepare ten topical and open-ended questions that will bring out the best of the divergent opinions of the panel. Yeah, you’re going to have to do some research. Always a good idea to know some of the hot-button issues for two or more of your panel.
- Have at least one rehearsal with your panel somewhere in the convention center facility. However, don’t reveal the most controversial topics for which you’ve written tough questions or statements to stir it up and get their hearts pounding. Be sure to share some of your research findings with them. But again, don’t reveal too much. A good, serious rehearsal can also bring out chemistry conditions that will give you more ideas on making this panel one that gets industry media attention. Good for you.
- Take copious notes during the rehearsal and absolutely during the real thing. Your involvement in the guts of the session is going to be what leads to tough, testing follow-up questions that will light up your audience and take them out of the session talking and sharing.
- In rehearsal, let them know you want them to be open during presentations to question each other rather than you being a traffic cop. The dialog generated by this kind of informality on the panel will get your audience more into the subject and the discussion.
- Be extremely respectful and patient. Don’t interrupt and don’t embarrass. Being a bit feisty but gentle is what will make your panel moderation memorable. Vanilla may be the most popular flavor of ice cream. But not what you want for you and your panel.
by Neil Kuvin