When you work in the science, technology and engineering space, chances are your business is represented at trade shows. It’s also likely that you have people in the company asking you to make the most of these events from a PR perspective. But what can you do? A lot of time is wasted trying to do things that are unlikely to have a major impact. But done right, the PR team can be a real asset – and help you really prove the benefits of trade shows.
Know the show
Having a small stand at the Web Summit (the largest tech conference in the world) will be very different from having a flagship presence at Mobile World Congress – though both will see hundreds of thousands of visitors. As a starting point, make sure you understand who is attending: their sectors, their job titles, and their interests.
Will it be a large and busy show or is it quite small and targeted? It’s also worth getting insight into how the information sessions are run – if there are any. Most shows offer a combination of large keynote plenary sessions, smaller side workshops / discussions and panel sessions. If you’ve not been before, speak to people who have so you can really get a feel for what the show is like.
If you’ve been offered a speaking opportunity ask as many questions as you can about the nature of the talk so that you can be sure your speaker offers amazing take-home value for attendees.
The general rule with trade shows is that they are not necessarily the best use of your PR budget. However, with lots of relevant journalists usually on site, they can offer great relationship building opportunities. Particularly so if you already know the journalists.
Take note: in the weeks running up to a big trade show, journalists will be INUNDATED with PR people calling to ask if they want to meet executive X from company Y. You need to be prepared to say why they might want to meet your executive out of the hundreds of other executives they have the opportunity to meet.
You might be able to secure a lot of interviews / briefing meetings with journalists, but don’t count on it. Don’t be tempted to agree to securing 25 interviews if you’ve not got anything big to announce. Instead, make sure you set expectations among stakeholders conservatively and focus on creating great content to be used at and after the show.
If you have big news to launch at the event, consider pre-briefing journalists in order to help them prepare a robust story ahead of time.
Events are a great source of really interesting content. Ask for copies of the presentations being given by any of your speakers. Usually these can be turned into blog posts, white papers, position papers or more. Don’t be put off if they are presenting technical papers – the right person will be able to put the technical story into business context.
Ensure you have someone on site dedicated to populating your social channels with news from the show: relevant announcements, pictures or short videos of demos happening on your stand, industry-relevant news etc. Ideally you should have a professional video of any speakers that you regularly use, in order to create a show-reel that could help secure additional speaker opportunities much more easily.
Yes, having a press release announcing your attendance at the show, with a stand number, might be standard practice for your company…but if you start to think a little more broadly you will likely be in a much better position to demonstrate the benefits of trade shows to internal stakeholders.