Brands can spend big money on trade shows between attending and sponsoring. Depending on the show, it can be as little as $5K or up to $250K, and that money is typically spent coordinating travel, accommodations, the booth (don’t forget the $1K Wi-Fi, too!) and giveaways. No doubt, trade shows are a great opportunity for building relationships with prospects, learning from industry leaders, checking out competitors and building brand visibility. But, you haven’t even arrived yet, and already, the pressure is on to get a return on your investment. So how do you avoid a boondoggle and make the most of your trade show spend?
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Advance Prep—Leverage Your PR Team
After you’ve booked your show, it’s time to dive into preparations and build a tailored game plan. Leveraging your PR team is critical, especially if you’re launching a product or service at the show or nominating for the event’s award program. Many brands will leverage a leading industry event for a launch to capitalize on captive media covering industry news and trends coming out of a show. Your PR team will help you lead in press release development, messaging and launch coordination.
Many shows also promote themselves through an official event app or social media handles, which you can harness to your brand’s advantage. If your trade show offers an app, leverage it to engage with attendees before they even hit the show floor. If the event has a social presence, utilize it. You can begin engaging in the run up to the event through official event hashtags, and notifying your followers of your presence, demos, special giveaways, booth location, meeting times and other show news.
Also, awards programs connected to the event are another great way to increase visibility among attendees who may get to vote for best in show, or are privy to additional visibility and product/service messaging by finalists and winners—which could be yours, if you nominate!
Speak up—Thinking About Thought Leadership
If you didn’t submit during the show’s open call for speakers months ago, be sure to pursue thought leadership opportunities that are offered as part of sponsorship packages. Typically, this varies depending on sponsorship level –it could include panel participation or a headlining stage spot. This is an opportunity that you don’t want to leave on the table! Stage presence by executives is critical for every brand, as it gives an opportunity to display leadership on an issue, trend or problem and give actionable expert insight. Your brand can further amplify this tactic by inviting a customer or partner for a joint speaking opportunity, which audiences love as they get to hear real-world case studies and learn best practices.
Should your executive command the podium at the event, be sure to capture it with video footage, if the show organizers allow. This recording can be used for social media postings and other various post-event marketing and communications initiatives, such as on your company’s blog or YouTube channel. If it involves a customer co-speaker, it could be repurposed into a customer video case study, too.
Be Social—Media Meet and Greets
Beyond customer prospects, media and analysts also attend trade shows—and they want to hear from you. Leverage your PR team to pitch and secure briefings for attending executives. In-person briefings are great ways to build and or strengthen relationships, and one-on-one face time is important. Do not be discouraged when media want to keep their show schedules “loose,” which can happen at larger shows. While media and analysts may try to control their show schedules, don’t be deterred by those who prefer more “organic” meetings not dictated by a clock. Be ready to greet them at your booth when they stop by unscheduled. Walk the halls and seek them out for conversation. Approach them at the press luncheon or opening night happy hour. And don’t forget other social promotions of your brand at the show. Posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn prior to and during the show can drive booth traffic, brand visibility and attendees to an industry panel that your CEO is participating in.
As you’re making your list of what you want to accomplish at the show, it can quickly grow beyond the important tactics outlined above. And that’s OK—trade shows offer the unique combo of out-of-the-office learning, networking and socializing. It’s critical to be prepared to maximize these opportunities and stick to a comprehensive strategy.
As the trade show winds down, it’s important to not let the momentum wane. There can still be just as much to do post-event as there is pre-event. Your brand may want to consider issuing a post-event multi-media press release or a blog that shares insights and takeaways from the event. And don’t forget the post-mortem—a tactic that communications teams like to hold post-event to capture and address resulting action items and key learnings, which can be applied for the next show—as soon as your feet recover!
By Alison Flood
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