Once upon a time, I covered trade shows as a market analyst for a major consumer publication. Shortly thereafter I flipped to the other side of the desk and ended up with a press conference on one side of the Consumer Electronics Show and a photo shoot clear across the exhibition hall. Let’s just say that roller skates were very much on my mind by the time I finished my Mrs. Doubtfire dash back and forth across the crowded exhibit halls.
I empathize with journalists who have been given the immense task of covering trade shows, scouting for new trends, and trying to maintain relationships with industry leaders. That is why when I have a client exhibiting, I try to be a resource to media covering the show by helping them identify my clients’ product introductions long before the show, setting up interviews or, better still, pre-show interviews to save journalist’s precious time, jet-lagged exhaustion, and, especially, their shoe leather.
- Know what will and will not be available to offer for “show and tell” by show time. If your prototype won’t be ready or no graphics will be available, you will have worse than a hard time showing off your new product. If your interview subject is not a sure thing, don’t promise to produce him at your booth. Vapor is a turn-off to media, and it leaves a lasting impression and reflects poorly on your client, you, and your PR agency.
- Embargoes are intriguing to some media but use them wisely. Only top-tier publications are worth embargoing for. You want to let the word out judiciously on your new and unique products as early as possible and maximize media opportunities.
- Visuals are key! A picture is worth a thousand words to herald your new product, and a video demo of a scintillating new technology makes a booth appointment worthwhile for appropriate media.
- Get the media list from the show organizers and download it every week. Keep track of changes. There is a fine line between spam and information. Don’t spam the media! One way to avoid that is to figure out if your product introductions have features that are likely to appeal to differing vertical media segments. If so, send out separate emails to different groups of journalists.
- Find a timely news hook that illustrates the problem that your product addresses. Show precisely how your product solves the problem. This will help convince a producer or editor to push your organization’s product to the head of the massive line of exhibitors vying for their attention because it makes it easy for media to understand your unique selling proposition.
DO carpet your booth. There is nothing more wonderful than sinking your sore reporter’s feet into a thick carpet after hours of pounding cement pavement. Done right, a trade show can be a wonderful opportunity to make new media friends and to introduce your company and your products to media you are unlikely to meet anywhere else. But, as the saying goes, you only get one chance to make your first impression. Get it right the first time.