Trade Show Public Relations: How to Make the Most of Your Time on the Floor
So what exactly is trade show public relations?
Whatever industry you work in, there’ll be at least one annual trade show or business expo that brings together the biggest names and brightest minds. Ever considered exhibiting at yours? If not, it’s worth looking into, as these events are fantastic opportunities to grow your business.
Think about it. When else will you be in a position to mingle with a room full of customers, prospects, and industry influencers?
However, trade shows aren’t only great places to generate leads and expand your network. They’re golden PR opportunities, as any show worth its salt will be covered by reporters and bloggers from key industry publications.
In this post, we’re going to give you the lowdown on trade show public relations. From schmoozing the journos, to showcasing your expertise, we’ll cover what you need to do before, during and after a trade show to make the most of your time on the floor.
What constitutes a trade show?
Trade shows are B2B events, where businesses from a specific industry gather to showcase new products and services, network, uncover market trends, and scrutinise the competition.
Much like consumer exhibitions, there’s an event floor, packed with exhibition stands, and a programme of events, such as workshops, seminars and breakout sessions.
Unlike consumer events, trade shows aren’t open to the public. Attendees consist of company representatives, distributors, resellers, suppliers, and industry media.
Why are trade shows good for public relations?
From networking and knowledge building, to lead generation and brand building, the public relations benefits of trade shows are many. Let’s take a look.
We may be living in a digital world, but, as this article by SpeedNetworking.com demonstrates, there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
Sure, you can reach out to reporters by email, or connect with industry influencers on social media, but how far can those relationships really go? Online exchanges only give you so much. Face-to-face meetings give you the whole picture.
Trade shows offer a unique opportunity to get your face in front of the people that matter. So, make the most of it. Engage with fellow exhibitors. Grab coffees with influencers. Invite reporters to your stand for a glass of bubbly. Attend breakfast networking meetings and drinks receptions.
Every face-to-face interaction will result in stronger, more meaningful business relationships.
In need of some networking tips? Read: Forget Me Not: How to Make Yourself Memorable at Your Next Networking Do.
Gain industry insight
There’s no better place to get a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry than a trade show.
Being surrounded by your fiercest competitors while learning from the brightest minds in the industry at speaker sessions and workshops offers a valuable opportunity to gather intel and broaden your knowledge.
Boost brand awareness
Trade shows are packed with opportunities to raise the profile of your brand.
You could sponsor an event, host a drinks reception, be a guest speaker, or run a branded giveaway.
Want to take things up a notch? You know that industry changing product you’re about to bring to market? Launch it at the show. It’ll give industry experts a reason to stop by your stand, and reporters a reason to write about you.
Share your expertise
Speaking engagements are a great way to boost credibility, establish thought leadership, and generate publicity. And trade shows offer a variety of opportunities to get your voice heard. You could host a seminar, join a panel discussion, or lead a presentation.
So why not get out from behind the booth and in front of your target audience?
Be warned though. If you decide to go down this route, you need to be on the ball, as competition for slots is fierce.The organisers will probably start advertising opportunities 6-9 months before the event. So keep an eye on the website.
Want to up your thought leadership game? Read: How to Become a Thought Leader.
Trade show public relations tips
Now you know what trade shows are and how they can boost your PR efforts, let’s look at some top tips for trade show public relations success.
Pre show: Get your ducks in a row
If you want to get noticed by the people that matter, your prep should start long before the doors open.
Here are some key tasks to add to your to-do list.
Send out a trade press release
If you want to get on journalists’ radars and generate some pre show buzz, send out a trade show press release.
The essentials of a trade show press release include:
- A catchy headline: Your headline needs to include a news hook to get a journalist’s attention. It should answer the question: why should they care?
- Sub-heading: The sub-heading should expand on the heading. But keep it brief. Two to three lines max.
- Opening paragraph: This should include ‘the 5Ws’; who, what, when, where, why. Don’t forget to include your booth number.
- Body: This is the meat and potatoes of your press release. Will your business be celebrating a significant milestone at the event, or making an important announcement? Will you be participating in any events, or hosting a session? Mention it all here. You want to show journos you’re a mover and shaker in your industry and that your booth is worth visiting.
- Call to action: Do you want to direct journos to your online press kit, or your website? Make it easy for them to take a deep dive into your content.
- Contact details: Include your name, email address and phone number so journalists can easily contact you if they see something newsworthy in your press release.
Pro Tip: To maximise the chances of your press release being read, circulate it a few weeks before the show. This will give reporters a chance to consider possible story angles.
For more on writing an event press release, read: How to write an event press release.
Book appointments with journalists
Think journalists are going to stroll into the show, head straight for your booth and demand an interview? Think again. If you want to bag some face time, you’ll need to book an appointment in advance. And you need to do it pronto, as slots fill up quickly.
Get ahead of the game by asking the event organisers for the media list. Research the journalists and pick the most relevant ones to reach out to.
Then get on the phone. Schedule short, face-to-face meetings at your booth, so you can bowl them over with a killer product demo. If you’re launching a product, presenting, or hosting a drinks reception, be sure to give them the details while you’ve got their attention.
Pro Tip: If there’s no media list, create your own. Research the journalists that covered the event in the previous year. Chances are the same reporters, or at least the same media, will be covering this one.
Generate social buzz
You’ve booked your booth, secured your speaking slot, and sent out your press release. It’s time to let the world know you’ll be there. The most effective way to do it? Make some noise on social media.
Here are some top tips to build hype and maximise engagement:
Give stuff away
Everyone loves a freebie. Why not incentivise people to visit your stand with a competition or giveaway? You could offer the first 20 people that visit your stand a free trial of your product or service.
Tease your audience
Rolling out a new product or service at the show? Have you pimped up your booth? Are you giving away free swag? Tease your audience with photos, videos, and snippets of content to build intrigue.
In the lead up to the event, connect with fellow exhibitors, attendees, and industry experts. Comment on their posts. Tag them in any content you post about the show. Share content that will add value to them.
If you start building relationships in advance, it’ll be much easier to strike up a conversation at the show.
It’s much easier to woo warm leads than cold ones.
Tweets with hashtags get twice as much engagement as those without. So make use of them. Find the official hashtag for the show and use it when posting content relating to the event. If there isn’t one, create your own. It’ll get your posts in front of a bigger audience.
If your pre show marketing efforts pay off, you’ll be busy. But there’ll be plenty of photo-worthy moments during the show. So make sure someone is on hand to capture them.
- If you’re leading a speaking session, live stream or record it. You can drip feed the content on your socials later.
- Grab footage of product demos and interviews with your events team. You can repurpose the content for blog posts.
- Take pictures of visitors interacting with your product and tweet them out with fun captions. While you’re at it, get some customer testimonials on camera.
- If you need all hands-on deck, schedule key posts. Twitter alerts before speaking slots and giveaway announcements can be queued beforehand.
Don’t forget to use the event hashtag when you post photos and videos.
Make your booth stand out
Trade shows are packed with businesses vying for attention. If you want to be noticed, you need to stand out.
What’s the most effective way to do this? According to a survey by display stand manufacturer Display Wizard, the most effective way to attract footfall is an eye-catching stand.
You can make your stand irresistible by incorporating stunning visuals, captivating soundscapes or interactive features like gamification. Or by creating something ridiculously wacky and over-the-top like Google did at the Consumer Technology Association trade show.
In 2018, the global tech giant erected a multi-storey ‘Wonka factory’ of smart home devices to show how its Google Assistant could work with everything from washing machines to miniature train sets. The show-stopping set included a helter-skelter slide, and a giant, voice-controlled gumball machine full of devices to be given away. Epic, right?
Granted, you probably don’t have the budget to create a Wonka kingdom of your own. But you don’t have to settle for a bland stand. You can make your booth memorable without breaking the bank.
Take Central Desktop (now called iMeet Central). In 2012, the collaborative software company caused a stir at the San Fransisco ad:tech conference with its quirky booth setup.
Picture the scene: A scruffy, middle-aged man is dressed as a baby angel, with a lyre in one hand and a cigar in the other. As you walk past him, he yells, waves, and invites you to join him on his bed of clouds. The ‘man-angel’ was a member of staff from Central Desktop; a company that enables businesses to centralise their work in the Cloud. The scruffy angel not only grabbed the attention of prospects and press, he also conveyed the company’s unique value in a playful, eye-catching way.
Applying a little blue sky thinking to your stand design will pay dividends in visitor traffic, and brand awareness. If it’s clever, and on-brand, you might just bag a spot in journalists’ news roundups too.
Post show follow up
The show may be over, but your public relations activity isn’t.
When you get home, send a thank you note to every reporter you met. Remind them which company you represent, and what you spoke about. Offer additional information or resources and invite them to contact you for a post show interview or quote.
Remember, your goal is to build relationships. This simple gesture will show them you appreciate their time and demonstrate you’re accessible. While you’re at it, connect with them on LinkedIn and add them to your media list for future news releases.