The Perfect Formula for a Successful Trade Show

By February 16, 2016 July 28th, 2016 Industry Perspective
successful trade show

So you’ve signed up to exhibit at a trade show. You’ve claimed and paid for your floor space, designed and built your booth, and booked your travel and accommodations for the week. What now? Aside from fielding inbound inquiries from marketing companies and potential buyers, how do you spread the word about your company’s attendance? How do you increase foot traffic to your booth? If media coverage and social engagement are among your goals for exhibiting, follow our fool-proof formula and get the most bang for your trade show buck during your company’s next event.

The secret to a successful trade show is in the sauce, and we’re giving away the recipe.

  • 1 part press release (optional): First, consider why you are attending the trade show. Are you launching a new product or showcasing new features? Do you have news-worthy updates to announce to your users? If so, consider drafting a press release. Even if you don’t end up releasing your announcement over a formal wire (which can be costly), it’s nice for press to have a product resource to guide their stories (a press release isn’t the only content document that can serve this purpose). If your communications team decides a press release is not needed, consider posting your trade show attendance in blog form instead.
  • 1 part media kit: What product information is important to you, and what information will be important to buyers and editors? Consider aggregating high-resolution images and videos, recent press releases, fact sheets, social sharing links and award seals in one location. Whether that is a rubber duck-shaped USB drive, a paid listing on the trade show’s press room or a shareable Dropbox link is up to you.
  • 1 part press list: Depending on what trade show you’re attending, there may or may not be a press list available. Try logging in through your exhibitor profile and searching the documents provided on the press page. If that doesn’t work, reach out to the media contact at the show. They should be able to provide you with a full list of registered press, or a list of individuals who attended the year before. Don’t stop there, though! Search for show roundups and features of yesteryear – who wrote them? Add those individuals to your list. Search for local press – what are the local TV and radio stations? Add those people to your list as well.
  • 1 part pitching: Once you’ve curated your list, you’re ready to pitch. Separate friendlies that you want to call personally, or those you know respond better to phone pitching, and dial them up. If you’re more comfortable sending emails, make sure they’re short, sweet and to the point. At an event as large as the Consumer Electronics Show, media get bombarded with thousands of emails (sometimes each day). Don’t bog them down with unnecessary details.
  • 2 parts meeting prep (1 scheduling, 1 briefing): As the meetings start rolling in, and your show schedule starts filling up, it’s important to stay organized – particularly if you have multiple team members simultaneously scheduling. Open up a Google sheet and block out 30-minute meeting times for each day of the show. As times are claimed, slot in editors and buyers in real time. After you’ve confirmed each meeting, build your brefing book – who is your team meeting with, what publication are they from, what do they look like? Make sure your team is armed with as much information as possible before heading into a one-on-one interview.
  • 2 parts social content (1 visual, 1 written): It’s not enough to just get the word out to registered press. To fully maximize your presence at a trade show, it’s imperative to share your message on social, through both written and visual content. Get with your creative team and work up a few images that showcase your product alongside your location at trade show (kind of like this). Share this content through your most active social platforms alongside a call to action to visit your booth. Create a log of content that’s ready to go, and schedule it to go live during each day of the show. What is the official hashtag this year? What is the handle for the show’s Twitter account? What giveaways or booth stunts are happening throughout the event, and when? What award ceremonies or speaking engagements is your team attending? All important things to keep in mind when crafting your social content for the week.
  • 1 part creep-tastic advertising (optional): If increasing your digital reach is top of mind, you might want to throw a few (hundred) ad dollars behind that aforementioned social content. Dive into your social advertising options and you may just find that you can target based on location. Attending New York Toy Fair? Drill down to individuals currently located (you read that right) in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, layer on an interest in the Toy Industry Association and watch your click-through-rates soar.
  • 2 parts show-day hustle (1 active listening, 1 eyes on the ground): Trade show success can be somewhat like an iceberg. 90% of the work that goes into it is hidden from the public eye – that other 10% comes into play the day of the event. One member of your team should be plugged into what’s happening online. Who is announcing new products? What products are being covered by the media? How many pieces of coverage do your products have thus far? Find out who is writing stories, and reactively pitch your company’s news for inclusion. Another member should be present at the show. Their main focus will be keeping an eye out for scheduled meetings, and ensuring that media leaves with the perfect sound byte or product demo. Mark down those meetings that did not show, and reach out to them when you get back to your hotel room to reschedule for the next day. Also – keep an eye out for press walking by your booth, even if you don’t have a meeting scheduled with them. If they’re a fit (and especially if they have a camera) draw them in and introduce them to your team.
  • 1 part follow up: The calm after the storm? We think not. Gather all of those business cards that you collected throughout the show and compile them into a spreadsheet. Assign follow ups to different members of your team, depending on who they met with at the show, and what their request was. If you’re interested in product reviews, seed out a few samples to those top-tier individuals that expressed interest in receiving a hands-on unit, and make sure to include a copy of the press kit when you follow up via email.
  • 1 part reporting: To get the full picture of what your show looked like, compile everything into one document for your team (and don’t forget to share it with your investors). Compare and contrast the following benchmarks with previous years to see if your trade show was a success: total social reach, new followers gained, advertising click through rates, total media impressions, social media mentions, number of articles ran, number of meetings attended. Then, sit back, relax and start planning for your next successful trade show.

Hey, we never said it was a simple formula.

If you’re no communications chemist, leave the media blitz to those of us that do it for a living (read: BLASTmedia, here’s proof). Contact Lindsey Groepper today for single show pricing, or to add trade show support to your already-existing retainer. Happy exhibiting.


About Grace Williams

As a vice president with a background in innovative content creation, Grace oversees the planning and implementation of creative media relations strategy on B2B client accounts. Through strategic relationship building and targeted outreach, Grace has led her team to secure consistent coverage for SaaS clients in both trade publications and top tier media outlets. The proud owner of a SoBro bungalow, Grace can usually be found at Lowes, gearing up for her next project (or at Starbucks, fueling up with caffeine instead).

Leave a Reply