Emerson booth at an industry tradeshow

After two years of uncertainty and cancellations, industry conferences are coming back to life. And after attending several trade shows on behalf of clients this trade show season, I have to say, it feels good to be back!

And more good news: People are eager to return, attendance is strong, and companies are noticing the quality of attendees. Those who are present are ready to make deals. As a result, exhibitors are not only enjoying the camaraderie that these events bring, but are seeing better leads from the show.

If you’re planning to attend an upcoming industry trade show, have you considered your public relations (PR) strategy? While most exhibitor marketing teams focus on the booth graphics, layout design and how to best collect leads — which are all very important — they sometimes forget to consider how to amplify their messages to trade media, generate additional booth traffic, and continue to engage with their audience beyond the show itself.

It’s showtime for your products and services

The B2B trade show market in the United States was worth 15.58 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 and will likely continue to grow as trade shows return to full force. And it very well may, as exhibitors will have ample opportunities to showcase new technologies, products and ideas. These shows give decision-makers the chance to see what’s going on in their industries. In fact, 92% of trade show attendees come to see and learn about what products and services are new.

But with so much opportunity, how do you decide where to start?

The first step is to determine internally what your company wants to promote at the show. This is important, because 49% of attendees plan to buy one or more of the products or services exhibited at a trade show. Do you have a new product launching? Do you have a product suite which address a hot industry pain point? If so, you should consider having PR support at the show to promote those topics, not only to those in attendance, but also to trade media present as well as those audiences who could not attend the show.

This typically works for larger booth product displays that your visitors can walk through. Having a 10x10 table with one or two company representatives present may not warrant this additional investment unless you’ve truly got something good. And if a show is so small that press members don’t attend, you also should reconsider this investment.

Consult your PR rep on trade show strategy

With so many attendees and excitement around trade shows, it’s important to establish your audience base ahead of time. If you want to reach beyond just your customers on the show floor, then engaging your PR rep to reach out to appropriate trade media at the show is imperative. Your PR team can create a list of media attending the show, set up appointments, and create media coverage for your booth. You can also lean on your PR team for:

Press conferences and media coverage

If you’re launching an industry game-changing product or have a big announcement, then a press conference may be worth your time. But it better be BIG — like the first iPhone® release or Intel’s $20 billion Ohio computer chip factory announcement — or you’ll look silly. Other options for less groundbreaking news could be in-booth presentations, participating in a podcast from the show floor, or contributing as a speaker in an educational session or roundtable. These afford targeted discussions about industry topics and technologies. Your PR team can help you prepare for these types of opportunities with speaking points, presentations or other materials.

Trade publication awards

And don’t forget to ask your rep about awards. Many industry associations hold award ceremonies in conjunction with their biggest shows, and winners are usually announced there. Winners can gain additional recognition before, during and after the show in publication award announcements.

Trade show sponsorships

Sponsoring an event at the show not only engages customers but can create additional time with the media as well. Sponsored client breakfasts covering industry topics may be scheduled to attract attendees and even editors.

Pre-show prep

Consider using blogs or social media to promote your presence pre-show. To keep momentum going, work with your PR team on a flexible social and content strategy during the show as well. Trade shows can be great opportunities to add live video to your social media strategy as well.

Build relationships

It’s no surprise that in-person meetings are preferred to virtual interactions when it comes to trade shows; the same is true when it comes to your relationships with the media. Be ready to make the most of that precious face-to-face time. Seeing an editor in-person can be much more impactful than communicating via email or by phone. But be sure that what you’re sharing is helpful to them by preparing:

In-booth media appointments

Be ready with the appropriate displays, booth graphics, materials and subject matter experts (SMEs) that can collectively reinforce your messaging. You want to put the SMEs in front of your media representatives to answer questions and talk about your company’s solutions. If your team needs help feeling comfortable, consider working on a media training plan prior to the show in preparation.

Expert talking points

Your PR rep should compile talking points and a schedule for your team. They may also send a news release before the show to announce your participation (if you have something newsworthy to announce), or at the very least to the show organizers for the news release area of the show’s website. Many shows do a “show daily” publication that these releases can also be featured in.

Electronic press kits

These kits are loaded with videos, photos, news releases and other sales materials that can be shared with the media who visit your booth.

Story pitches

In addition to running media appointments during the show and creating introductions, your rep will pitch story ideas to editors. Stories should be relevant to the editorial calendar for that particular publication.

Don’t forget post-show outreach

When the show is over, that doesn’t mean the PR work is done. Your rep will follow up with media and send show materials to those editors who could not attend, or even schedule post-show interviews. Media monitoring tracks show coverage or stories printed after the show that can be shared with your team. Stories sometimes won’t appear for months, so investing in PR support provides additional exposure beyond the show itself to reach potential customers and any media outlets who couldn’t attend the show.

The relationships built among your PR rep, SMEs and team during the show can keep your company top-of-mind for future stories a reporter may write. Now that the editor knows your brand and SMEs, there’s a better chance they’ll reach out for help with future stories.

There’s nothing quite like in-person networking to make connections, build partnerships, explore new products, and fuel ideas. Trade shows are a great way to foster a sense of community in the industry, interact with quality leads and potential customers, and share your company’s story. With a just a little PR support, you can make the most of the opportunities your industry events may offer.

For more information about PR support at your next trade show, contact us.