How to Generate Tradeshow Buzz Like a PR Boss

Industry tradeshows are one of the oldest and most popular tools in the marketing toolbox for generating sales leads; they are also one of the most expensive. The industry average for a 20×20 tradeshow display costs between $40-$60K, according to ExhibitUSA – not including employee travel costs, hotel stays, food and beverage, audio and visual, alcohol, or entertainment.

To almost no one’s surprise, tradeshows continue to be one of the most powerful tactics for companies seeking a direct return on investment. Where else can you meet face to face with prospective customers and partners while getting to spy on your competitors?

If you have been using tradeshows solely as a sales tool, you’re missing out on opportunities to expand your PR footprint by building credibility and buzz for your brand, as well as getting to meet key trade media in person.

Whether you’re attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) or EDUCAUSE, there are great ways to build buzz and garner media coverage.

Be a detective

If you are an exhibitor, speaker or sponsor, chances are, you’ll have access to the registered list of media attendees. If not, or if the organizers won’t share the list with you, use Google to find out what media covered the event last year; there’s a strong chance that if they’re still at the same publication and covering the same beat, they’ll be the ones attending again. Reach out to inquire if they’ll be attending again and if they can make time to stop by your booth. If they aren’t assigned to cover the conference this year, ask if they can connect you to the right person at their publication.

The early bird gets the worm 

If you wait until the week before your event to ask reporters for a meeting, you’ll be greatly disappointed. By that time, their calendars are already full. Traveling for tradeshows is a big investment for reporters, and they typically have a number of things they want to see and accomplish. They will have sessions they want to hear and interviews their editor has already assigned. Ideally, reach out 3-4 weeks in advance to ask for a meeting. If a reporter’s schedule won’t allow a face-to-face, schedule a phone interview in advance to brief them on your news so that if they do swing by your booth, the pressure is off for both of you and you can just hit the high points. 

Create a sense of urgency

If your client has big news to share, don’t wait until the day of the show to make a splash! Give your media contacts a heads up at least a week in advance and share the release with them under embargo, so that they are able to gather all of the information and conduct any interviews they need to tell a great story, BEFORE they step foot on the tradeshow floor. This way, your story is more likely to run AT THE START OF or DURING the event, which can create greater buzz and capture greater attention. 

Social media can’t be done in a vacuum

 If your company has been inactive on social media channels up until now, leveraging a conference is a great starting point to build a following. Assign one person to be in charge, but encourage all employees to engage with the Company’s social media channels during the event. Use the event hashtag in your posts so that anyone following the conversation will see them. Use the weeks leading up to the event to leave teasers about what you’ll be showcasing, where your booth will be located, and to start generating conversation and building followers that you want to meet with at the event. Don’t rely on a colleague sitting in an office 3,000 miles away pushing out canned tweets that don’t reflect any real-time interaction from the event. Mix it up with photos, quick video interviews and direct quotes from speakers at the event.

Follow up!

When the show is over, you’re just beginning. You’ll want to follow up with any media and analysts that you met with at the conference to see if there they would like a follow-up call, if they have any questions, or if there are any materials that they would like to see. It’s YOUR responsibility to close the loop and move the tradeshow meeting into media coverage. And, for anyone that you weren’t able to meet with – because there will ALWAYS be cancellations – make sure to follow up to reschedule the meeting by phone. Connect with reporters you met on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter and have your client do so as well – use the tradeshow as a catalyst to get the conversation going.

Tradeshows are a large investment of time and money for companies. By putting the right amount of time, effort and strategy behind them, you can create measurable value beyond sales!

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By Colleen Martin, Principal

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