Attending the exhibit hall of a conference can induce a dizzying effect even among the most experienced attendee.
The displays, the noise, the swag!
For PR pros responsible for creating buzz for clients promoting their wares at a large-scale conference, creating a strategy to rise above the noise is exactly what must be achieved.
Every year, conferences and shows attract thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibitors. Some companies disappear, while others seem to be getting all the attention.
What’s their secret?
I asked some seasoned PR, marketing, and digital communication pros for their strategic advice in helping their clients make the most of their conference experience. Eden Spodek
, digital strategist; Julia Beck, founder of Forty Weeks
; and Beth Feldman, partner at Beyond PR Group
, were happy to share their expertise.
Do your research:
“Learn as much as you can about the conference and its culture in advance,” says Spodek. “Interview attendees, exhibitors, and organizers about their experiences in past years.
“Find out what they liked and didn’t like, and ask how this year will be different. Respect the culture, and plan your exhibit to suit the delegated. Some conferences want exhibitors to be laid back and not too promotional. Others are all about the experience and swag, lots of swag.”
The teaser package:
New York City-based Feldman successfully put a pre-tease package in place for her client Voyce
, a health and wellness wearable device for dogs. The package included regular press communications collateral in addition to a teaser video the press used to embed on their sites or feature in their newscasts.
“Additionally, when we learned that reporters were interested in filming with a live dog (dogs were not allowed on the convention floor), we hired a professional dog named Star from Animal Actors and identified a nearby pet-friendly hotel to shoot video with crews,” said Feldman.
For Julia Beck from Bethesda, Md., attending shows is more about creating excitement and buzz around the brand, especially with influencers and clients.
“It’s important to think long term,” says Beck. “I want to be able to ideate and speak with them on a 1-to-1 basis. I spend as much time listening as I do talking—especially outside of the trading floor.”
I’m always shocked when I see a lineup of people for a free lanyard, but let’s face it, swag works.
“Hold a contest with a random draw for a fabulous prize and get the word out in all your social media channels and those of the conference if you can,” says Spodek. “You’ll be surprised how many more people stop by and sign up for your email newsletter in order to enter for a chance to win.”
Julia Beck warns to carefully parcel out your product: “I individualize the product depending on the reporter or blogger’s interest. That way we can expect different stories based on different product, making the coverage more interesting and varied.”
Be flexible and prepared for change:
Last year, Spodek spent months preparing her client, PercyVites
to exhibit at a conference only to learn the prime location they booked months in advance had changed. The spot, which was supposed to draw a lot of foot traffic, was relocated to the back corner of the hall.
“With some quick thinking, in addition to having a product demo, we … took photos of our visitors and shared the photos on the company’s Instagram account—an account promoted to attendees through a dedicated conference app—and tagged everyone who had their photo taken,” says Spodek. “We were able to make the most out of a tricky situation."
Work the media:
“We utilized our extensive media contacts to identify the reporters who were going to be on the ground at the Computer and Electronics Show and then pitched them via phone, email, and social media,” says Feldman.
They also kept writers and producers apprised of the media coverage/headlines as they were secured in order to build additional press interest in Voyce.
How to get primo TV spots:
Feldman also identified bloggers who contributed to major television networks. The result? The client received coverage on influential blogs and websites and landed placements on top-tier news and morning shows.
[RELATED: Link creative communications to the goals of your organization with this one-day workshop.]
Rise above the crowd:
Whenever I attend a large show, it’s usually the creative party/luncheon that organically creates buzz.
For Beck’s London-based client, Pink Lining, she created a “high tea”—which became the must-attend event. “It was a great way to balance creativity without making it look like a product push.”