Plan for trade show success

Published January 29, 2016 in the Sacramento Business Journal

Whether you do public relations in-house or on behalf of a business, maximizing your efforts at a trade show can mean the difference between success and failure in the investment. When you add up the cost of booth materials and construction, travel, hotel accommodations and exhibition fees, trade shows are enormously expensive. That means the stakes are high — and, coincidentally, expectations of your client or company will be, too. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan for maximizing this investment.

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First: plan ahead
Trade-show success starts with planning. Those who do not prepare lose out on the opportunity for a tremendous amount of press coverage. Preparation should begin months before the show. And using generic media lists to pre-pitch is a waste of time. Start by reaching out to editors and reporters you know attend the trade show every year and lock them into editorial appointments.

Once media lists are released, it’s time to take an aggressive approach to pitching. Don’t start and stop with a single email or phone call. Use multiple pitching channels to ensure your pitch isn’t overlooked. And be sure to incorporate social media. Twitter and LinkedIn should be key components in your overall outreach efforts.

Prepare for anything
It’s crucial to arm yourself with all the information that may be useful on the trade show floor — maps, schedules, names and faces of contacts. Also, remember that your role at a trade show is to make your client or company spokesperson look good. So come prepared with anything he or she may need to be successful: talking points, pens, water, mints, gum, lip balm, tissues, extra phone chargers.

Finally, remember the reason you’re at the show — to get publicity for your company or client. Your chances are much better if you make the experience as easy as possible for your editorial guests. Be ready to greet them the moment they step into the booth. Let them know you’ve prepared by directing them toward products or collections that would best suit the editorial style of their publication, TV show, website or blogs.

Also, remember that they have many stops to make — they don’t want to carry anything heavy, nor will they remember who represents which brands after they leave. Prepare for this by putting press kits on a branded USB drive with an electronic version of your business card as the first file.

Politely follow up
The trade show is over, so your job is done, right? Wrong. Now is when you really get to work. During the show, you should be collecting business cards from every editor and journalist you meet. Write down the products or collections in which they expressed interest, and then spend the week after the show following up. Be polite, remind them who you are, and be specific. They will appreciate the courtesy.

Be sure to follow up with your executives, board of directors or client, too. Prepare reports and share editorial data. Don’t be afraid to show them the great publicity you’ve garnered. Remember: If they don’t see it, they can’t appreciate it.

Trade shows are an efficient and effective way to leverage your PR efforts all year long. You get to connect personally with media from around the region and in some cases from around the country or the world. So the next time your company or client is planning to attend a trade show, prepare early to garner great success for both you and the organization you represent.

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