Tradeshows are a key public relations strategy for many of our healthcare and manufacturing clients. The Association of perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Surgical Conference and Expo brought in over 4,200 exhibitors and 4,000 attendees last year and the AC, Heating & Refrigeration (AHR) System Expo brings in nearly 2,000 companies and over 6,000 HVAC professionals. With these numbers, it’s clear why companies choose to attend. But simply having a booth is a missed opportunity. Our clients see the best results when they go beyond a booth and look at other ways to leverage their tradeshow attendance. Here are some tips for success.
Plan and budget
The first step to leveraging tradeshow attendance is to plan ahead and allocate PR budget for the show. The plan should include pre-, during and post-show PR support. The pre-show efforts open up the door for securing speaking opportunities, pre-show media coverage and booth interviews. At the show, it is important to be prepared with press kits, as well as have support for the spokesperson, whether during media interviews or a speaking opportunity. Lastly, one of the most important parts of the planning and budgeting process is ensuring there is follow up with the media you connected with at the show and post-show publications covering the event to help leverage all the effort during the show.
Many publications cover industry conferences, even if their editors are not attending. If you are launching a new product or unveiling big news at the show, there are opportunities for coverage in pre-and post-show issues. If media is attending, it’s also important to connect with them at the show for relationship-building. Focus the conversation on their needs – upcoming topics they are hoping to cover and their interests. With this information, you can follow up after the show to propose story angles to fit their needs.
Show versus tell
A key benefit of an exhibition is having customers see your products. The same is true for editors. Whenever possible, make your product available in the booth for display and demonstration so editors can see how it works, and capture original photos and video to share with their audiences. Press kits with photos and videos are a best practice too, but many journalists prefer to snap their own visual assets, so encourage them to do so.
Companies can demonstrate thought leadership or highlight a successful customer case study by speaking at conferences. Although most speaking opportunities cannot be commercial, they are great opportunities to showcase your company expertise. Work with your PR team to identify fitting speaking opportunities and submit abstracts (note, most deadlines are months in advance). Once accepted – practice, practice, practice. Finally, remember to invite media and prospective customers to attend your session.
There are many ways to benefit from attending a tradeshow, beyond having a booth. Since you are already investing significant time and money in exhibiting, it makes sense to maximize your ROI through these proven PR strategies.