By: Tim Viall
I’m not even going to try and say that I’m a “master of trade shows” because honestly, I’ve only been to one since joining the Caster Communications team (the 2013 CEDIA Expo). However, overall at Caster, we probably average more trade shows per year than you can count on your fingers and toes. More self-disclosure, I didn’t realize before joining Caster just how many trade shows are out there and are still going strong, across ALL industries! Sure, I’ve heard about car shows, Comic-Con, SXSW, etc… but never as a young public relations professional did I think that a company’s whole PR and marketing plans, and product launches, still revolve around these shows. As I’m writing this, I’m a bit envious of two of my colleagues who are at ISC West, the largest US security event, as there are several reasons why I feel they’re a great benefit to both companies and PR professionals. You may say, “How does he know – he said he’s only been to one…” And to that I say, I’ve researched, prepped, and made press appointments for at least half a dozen, and again, my colleagues go to shows extensively. So here’s why trade shows still matter:
CEDIA is only one of several trade shows our clients exhibit at each year.
Connect Face to Face
On an average day, how many members of the media do you talk with face to face, or even on the phone? Close to zero, right? Even add your clients to that mix. Despite the weekly or bi-weekly conference calls and the constant barrage of emails, when’s the last time you met in person with your client? Most PR agencies don’t have the pleasure of working in the same town, city, or state as their clients, and with technology, obviously there’s no need for that to be the case. Trade shows provide a great opportunity to connect, reconnect, and socialize with clients, media members, and anyone else you happen to meet on the show floor. Sure, there’s this thing called Skype that exists, but how many people have actually Skyped their clients? Trade shows are the perfect environment for some good ol’ fashioned human interaction.
Show Off Your Best Side
You never know what might happen at a trade show, like meeting rapper 50 Cent…
It’s fair to say, that no matter the trade show, people go to them to be “Wow’d.” Consumers and anyone in your industry expect to see the best of the best companies, with their best products, announcements, demos, etc… It’s necessary for a company or PR professional to bring their ‘A’ game to every trade show, especially multiple throughout the year or a few months-span, but it really has to be done. For the most part, you have reign over the trade show, in the sense that you can prep messaging points, accept or decline certain press appointments, the company controls what it’s putting on display, etc… It’s a cliche I use a lot, but with trade shows, the ball’s in your court – and it’s up to you and your company to deliver.
Plan A Whole Year
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I was shocked and somewhat naive to learn that companies plan multiple assets of their business strategically around trade shows. It makes perfect sense now: trade shows demand new products, ‘new’ news, people, time, money and a lot of effort. However a company does it, one major trade show in a year, one trade show a quarter, a few regional and one national a year, etc.. it can really help plan and establish PR and marketing objectives and goals around trade shows. For planning news announcements, trade shows are great because media members will be LOOKING for all of those things and related stories, opposed to a random announcement made at an irrelevant time in the industry. Capitalize planning around trade shows and you’ll very quickly see the company’s calendar year take shape.
Scope the Competition
This is pretty self-explanatory so I won’t go too deep here, but trade shows provide the perfect opportunity for scoping out your competition! As I said above, companies bring their ‘A’ game to trade shows, so it’s extremely helpful to see how you stack up against them. Trade shows are also a great place to gather and observe new ideas for booth set up, publicity stunts, you name it. Also, I’m sure it’s a great feeling to be having a super-successful trade show, only to find out that your competitors aren’t even there! (We can wish, right?)
No matter the size of the show, there are bound to be some VIP’s there (like our own Pete & Nick!)
Networking and New Business
Trade shows are busy, noisy, sometimes stressful, and definitely tiring, but if can survive the days on the show floor, they’re also tremendous opportunities for networking and making new business connections. I’d say my boss is a certified “master of trade shows;” I can’t say how many new business leads she’s gotten from trade shows, and I’m not sure even if she’d remember (because there’s a lot!). As a young PR professional, my first trade show was a great experience because again, I got to meet face to face with people I’ve only communicated with digitally, as well as meet new people through networking. I miss college because if you asked me who to go to for X, Y, or Z, I could refer you to someone I knew who helped me out in the past. I know it’s only a matter of time until I get to that level professionally, and trade shows will certainly help.
Do you have a favorite trade show? We’d love to hear about it!