Tricks Of Trade Show PR and Networking

Trade shows and conferences represent an opportunity to reconnect with friends and associates in the industry; make new contacts; and be inspired by influential speeches and personalities. But, too often we view attendance as a group effort, or even a chore, sticking with the team we came with or those we know.

Whether it’s a new product show, a blogger conference or a huge happening like SXSW, here are some tips to maximize the networking opportunity so you can get a return on your time investment in the form of insight and contacts.

Have a plan. Study the floor plan in advance and plot your path to make sure you visit the most relevant booths and panels. Most exhibit directories exist online and many have a calendar plugin so you can manage visits with location in mind and avoid walking back and forth all day. Cluster meetings in the same general area for convenience, if possible, and give priority to those exhibitors whose businesses are most likely to advance your own.

Take names. Don’t be shy about asking for cards or using apps like to download contacts. Use every opportunity to make a connection, whether it’s a journalist or blogger; potential business partner; or even a prospective employee. Limit your visits to 10-minute increments, but don’t leave without making a date to continue the conversation if  it’s warranted.

Document and share. Take smartphone shots of unique displays, note the best speeches, and share them on your social media feeds. It’s a great way of connecting with colleagues who might not realize you’re there!

Dress well. The trick to trade shows is to appear professional but be comfortable. A jacket or structured sweater is always good for a professional look, and for day-to-evening temperature changes, but you’ll be thankful that you wore smart flats!

Follow up. A quick note, a phone date, Facebook connection… just be sure to choose one and not all at once.  Be diligent to let no one go un-contacted after the event;  this is often the time when the “real deals” are sealed.

Got any trade (show) secrets you’d like to share?

PR Prep For A Flawless Trade Show

A PR team getting ready for a trade show can be like athletes prepping for the big game. There’s a game plan to follow, other teams to beat, fans to impress, and, most of all, a drive to score and score big.
Conferences and shows are always a good opportunity for companies to meet with a captive audience of media, including both familiar faces and new contacts. It can be quite chaotic, though, so it’s important to have that plan nailed down before you get there.

View and review. It’s vitally important to look back and see what your team did last year, if relevant. Compare last year’s plan/results to what you’re aiming to accomplish this time. Make sure you get all current media and attendee lists from the show operators, and it usually pays to befriend the PR rep.

Do the message drill. Spend the weeks leading up to the show finalizing your key messaging and announcements.  Decide on your most critical goals and topics, whether a new product, an updated brand identity, or an innovative new path, and make sure everyone buys in to the strategy. There should be no surprises about what you need to accomplish.

Check out the competition. Research which competitors are attending, and what they are up to. Are any of them holding events, announcing new products/services, or doing something out of the ordinary? Plan accordingly. It also helps to ask the first wave of media you meet what has impressed them the most; most of us operate in a client bubble at a show or conference, and it helps to know who’s talking about what.

Prep your star players. Make sure your key spokespersons are ready and that they’ve got the game plays down. They should be comfortable speaking to media and being on camera. You will also want to go over their schedules and prepare detailed briefing books on all journalist meetings, complete with cell phone numbers. Leave nothing to chance.

Pace yourself! Trade shows (especially ones that last multiple days) can take a lot out of you – hours spent on your feet, back-to-back meetings, very little down time – so rest up during the days leading up the show.

Pack some essentials. In addition to comfortable shoes, always have mints or gum on hand to avoid dreaded dry mouth, some emergency RX to ward off aches and pains. Also, make a point to learn some things about the town you’re visiting. You may want to talk about your client, but you could impress a visiting reporter with your tips on a great bar or restaurant.