Twelve Tips for your Next Tech Trade Show

In a previous life and as way of background, I was the corporate director of public relations for Digital Consulting Institute for many years. DCI was the largest U.S. owned high-tech trade show company at that time.

During my tenure at DCI, I marketed, advertised, and provided PR support for a myriad of trade shows. This meant promoting them before the event, at the event, and after the event. In this capacity, I also had the opportunity to work with some of the largest companies in the industry such as Microsoft, IBM, HP, and numerous others, and observed what their PR staffs did to promote their trade show participation. Since DCI, I have been involved in agency PR and have attended a number of events on behalf of clients.

I only share this experience as an indicator that the following tips -- while by no means "top secret" or all-inclusive -- are initiatives that I have seen work from my years in the field and from some of the largest tech companies in the world. Hopefully, you will find these to be helpful in support of your client, company, or organization.

On To The Show...

1. Survey & Gather Intelligence

To start, find out all PR and free promotional offerings at the show—speak to the marketing manager, PR director, other event contacts you might have at the event and discover the universal list of opportunities. This also includes speaking engagements (seminars, panels, track sessions, tutorials, roundtables, product demos). Find out about awards, receptions, and other events taking place. Offer to fill in for any cancellations. Try to negotiate a deal for sponsorship opportunities such as booth size plus promotions.

2. Formulate Campaign Strategy

Have a PR strategy and plan in place with what you hope to accomplish at the event. Schedule an announcement (new product offering if possible) and organize the following initiatives in support of your news. The biggest news to come out of trade shows is often new product announcements. Too many companies just "show up" to the event and let the event come to them. You have to have an action plan with staffers aggressively "working the event" before, during, and after. If you don't have a product story, then develop another newsworthy topic to talk about.

3. Pre-Event Exposure

Make sure you’re included in all pre-event marketing: brochure, email marketing, postcards, letters, Web site, social media, press releases, media advisories, advertisements, online opportunities, communities.

4. On-Site Exposure

Verify that you’re included in all marketing and PR collateral at the event: show guide, show dailies, press releases, press tip sheets, signage, banners, online events, Web site, show press kit. Be sure to have your company biography, corporate contact information with links, background information, and photos included whenever possible.

5. Press Lists

Try to get all the press lists (negotiate with exhibit sales person if needed) —invited press, pre-registered press, press from last year, and attending press-work the press list before the event to set-up meetings and calls with press and analysts on-site at the event –do the same afterwards.

6. Press Meetings-Part 2

Try to schedule appointments with local press who aren’t attending the show; contact industry press outside of the local venue who aren’t attending and tell them about the announcement you’re making at the event and probe about a story. Issue a press release over the wire from the show—many free or low-cost wire service offerings are available to take advantage of these days.

7. Customer Case Study

Try to connect with a customer and offer to present a joint case study at the event. These are widely received by trade show coordinators and audiences. They can often be submitted for industry awards as well. This builds goodwill with your customer and is an excellent way to communicate to audiences. Then, the case study can be used for other PR opportunities such as an editorial case study or marketing case study. Videotape the presentation and broadcast it as a case study on multiple video outlets. Use the case study for testimonials.

8. Free Giveaway

Offer a free giveaway that is useful and cost efficient (white paper, eBook, free audit, etc.) and promote it thru the event marketing, PR channels, and social media. Offer a discount or added service from the show and use that message to deliver traffic to the booth or to set-up calls with prospects who couldn’t attend.

9. Consumer or Business Hooks

Try to develop a local consumer hook and local business hook and pitch that to local media—even if your message is technology, healthcare, or another vertical. I once got a data mining story on the cover of the Arizona Republic by developing a consumer oriented angle—and the press member only came to the event to meet with my spokesperson.

10. Leverage Social Media

Broadcast live from the show thru all social media channels: (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Scribd by deploying appropriate content with each channel (video, audio, show tips learned, photos with captions, presentations, and documents). Take a unique photo from the trade show and add a creative caption and lead in, and you’ve got a nice product asset to promote via social media.

10B. Repurpose Content-SM Part 2

Take your existing show content such as your speaker’s presentation or booth presentation—turn this into an article and promote that thru PR and social media channels. Take the presentation and post it on StumbleUpon and Scribd. Take the presentation and add some audio to it and upload it on YouTube.

11. Press Room

Determine what offerings are available in the press room and try to get exposure there. As a minimum, make sure your press kit is complete and available in the press room. Also, for press who might be interested in your company but don’t want to lug around the press kit, make one available online in your company press room and an online press kit service.

12. Work the Show Floor

Most people do not like to do this, yet, this can be one of the most effective strategies at the event. Try catching up with press, analysts, and influencers while at the event and engage them in a short, friendly dialogue about the event and your news activities. Ask if they’d have interest in speaking with your spokesperson for a few minutes during the event about your news and what it means for their readers, viewers, followers, or listeners.

Did I Miss Any Proven Trade Show PR Methods?

Certainly, there are other marketing, advertising, and promotional opportunities that exist and could be used at the trade show. The focus of this post was to use PR as a strategy in a cost and time efficient manner, with an eye on netting results given the initiative. Further, there is some crossover between PR, marketing, and social media, but if you think I missed any PR strategies I'd like to hear back. Please comment and let me know.

About the Blogger

Dave Costello is the principal of TechSposure (<a href="http://www.techsposure.com">http://www.techsposure.com</a>), a high-tech public relations and social media firm. He blogs and tweets regularly on communications, public relations, social media, and marketing issues. For more information, contact Dave at dave@techsposure.com.

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