There are numerous ways to come face-to-face with the highly coveted industry media covering trade shows in which your company or your client’s company may be exhibiting. Show producers offer some events, while some are coordinated and hosted by the exhibitors themselves. â€¨Either way, they almost always come at an additional expense. However, receiving coverage of your trade show participation is the quintessential validation of your exhibiting investment as well as the ultimate return of any public relations efforts.
Some networking and media events such as meet-and-greets are traditionally widespread at the majority of shows, while rarer, more exclusive functions are generally offered at the higher-budget exhibitions.
An alternative to exhibitor-hosted media-only events are media-friendly ones where the guest list is predominantly media but sometimes includes other show contacts, show partners, show vendors and the like. Invitations to these types of affairs are often extended as gestures of gratitude or goodwill to friends and associates in the industry. If you are exhibiting or representing an exhibitor, when compiling a media-friendly guest list, think of your affair as the rehearsal dinner to a wedding where only the closest family and friends are included in the kickoff to the festivities.
Show-Produced Media Events
A show-produced media-only or media-friendly event is generally one where show promoters are selling the opportunity for exhibitors to get more face time with the media. One such event is a preview. A preview is typically scheduled anywhere from two to three days to two to three months prior to an event, and sometimes in a different destination than the actual show. This is when exhibitors have the opportunity to purchase tabletop space or presentation/speaking time affording them the opportunity to release information about products and services they will be exhibiting at the upcoming show. This is all in an effort to create a media buzz prior to the show.
It's important to remember that exhibitors are not the only ones competing for attention at trade shows—trade media is also always competing among themselves for the biggest breaking story about the biggest product being unveiled or the best information being released that season. Previews give the media that glimpse into who may be making the biggest splash at that year’s trade exhibition.
Since these types of events are more exclusive due to additional costs for the exhibitor, they are always smaller, more intimate affairs providing more media face time than at the actual trade show.
To find out about such events, which are often considered a sponsorship at some level since there are additional monies involved, visit the show’s Web site or directly contact the show producer. Keep in mind that, as with anything else, there will be a registration deadline for these functions.
Exhibitor-Hosted Media Events
Other media-only events are hosted by actual exhibitors. Exhibitors at the helm of such gatherings generally have a healthy trade show budget and these events can fall under trade show networking or the PR category of an event budget. Although, depending on the scale of your event, these events can be quite costly, they often end up paying for themselves in priceless PR and media coverage.
On the more economical side, media-only events can be as simple as a reception where hors d'oeuvres are served and an exhibitor presentation is made. Gift bags filled with catchy company promotional items, product information and literature are commonplace. These events serve as the ultimate plugging platform. The media is there to hear you promote your company’s or client’s company’s products and services while they enjoy a cocktail or two and the obligatory and highly anticipated pigs in the blanket.
For exhibitors with larger budgets, there is no end to the type of media-only events that can be held. Fancy restaurants, country clubs, amusement parks, nightclubs or even the ultimate tourist attractions such as Alcatraz Island outside of San Francisco or Islands of Adventure near Orlando have been known to serve as venues for media-only functions hosted by trade show exhibitors. Fine wine, open bars and more elaborate or creative fare are often on the menu of these functions, which are more like media-only extravaganzas than events.
Grab Attention, Stay on Course
Whether serving a five-course meal or hosting a round of golf on a luxury course, the main thing to always remember is to stay the course. Always keep in mind that the main objective of such an event is to grab the attention of the media in an effort to receive exposure and coverage. Be certain to use these events as a way to get out the message of whatever product or service you are promoting or unveiling at that year’s trade show exhibition.
Hold a 30-minute presentation with a Q&A or interactive demonstration amid the festivities. You want your media guests to have fun but to fundamentally be aware of why they are there. Of course, it is not an automatic quid pro quo of fun and food for a front-page feature, but it is understood that they are there to be educated and yes, hopefully, wowed by the information you are there to share.
At the conclusion of many of these events, it is likely there will be a call for certain materials. Be sure your company’s PR or media rep is prepared to promptly turn around art work, press release(s), company literature or a quote upon request increasing your chances of free publicity and media exposure.
Linda Musgrove is the founder and president of TradeShow Teacher, a trade show management firm based in South Florida. Follow her on Twitter @tsteacher.