There are two great periods for tradeshow public relations (PR) activities: when it begins and when it is over. With some exceptions, almost everything else is a blur, a bore, or a waste of time, money and effort.
As industries evolved from technical to entertainment, many companies did away with press conferences and moved to press events. Whether they are single or multicompany events, these provide benefits to the press by allowing them to get an overview of what’s new, especially when it is a sponsored event where they can walk table to table.
The events also serve PR people because they allow them to gather business cards and say hello to media members they will not call or work with for the rest of the year.
What events don’t do is anything to build an image for the company or help establish management as experts in their field.
If it is a company-sponsored press event, the onstage gala is usually followed by several managers moving to the podium and reading announcement information from text-filled PowerPoint presentations. Timing is everything, because most event presentation and booth tours need to be kept to one hour.
Another option for a press conference is to book a conference room on a first-come, first-served basis. The 30-minute time slot means you have to get in, set up the demonstration, have one to three speakers make their presentations and leave a few minute for questions and answers (Q&A).
If PR teams put so much time and effort into these activities, can they really be that wrong? Unfortunately, yes.
Focus on the Audience
A good salesperson is prepared by learning what his or her audience wants to learn and not what the salesperson wants to present. The individual is well rehearsed, makes eye contact with the audience at the outset and maintains that contact throughout the presentation.
Getting the major decision makers at your company to understand the need for presentation and media training is always a challenge. Yet presentation and media training is recommended for every member of the organization—including PR people—who must be called upon to effectively present the company’s messages before an audience or to be interviewed by the press.
Whether the audience is made up of professional contemporaries, the press or people in other industries, members are interested in hearing the company’s story, management’s ideas and plans for products and programs.
Executives who give memorable presentations tailor their messages to a specific audience. They look and sound almost effortless and enthusiastic; they are efficient and effective.
If good presenters use slides, content is either seldom referred to or minimal. During the Q&A, these executives are able to field questions in a comprehensive, relaxed and confident manner.
Result-Oriented Show Meetings
The next important step is not just to maximize the number of one-on-one editorial meetings but also to make certain the right results come from those meetings. This means helping management crystallize the key messages that need to be presented.
Once this is developed and agreed on by all parties, you need to ensure managers, spokespersons and others manning the booth—as well as your PR team—have refined and reviewed their fundamental media relation skills.
Trade show PR is relatively easy because it is seldom adversarial. Media is at the show to get news, and you are there to get news coverage. The first step is to get the meetings and deliver your message.
If you have prepared a PowerPoint presentation on an announcement, give it to an editor to use in taking notes. Be well versed in the product, the market position, the applications and the competition so you do not have to refer to the presentation.
Your executive and you are going to have 10 to 15 minutes of one-on-one time with an editor. Make the most of that time for your company and media outlets. Make your discussion strong and memorable—you are not the only company clamoring for media mindshare.
When the show press meeting is finished, many feel they are done, but actually they have just begun. Make notes immediately after the editor leaves for your client summary report, noting the commitments that have been made and the follow-up that is required.
The complaint we often hear from people in media is that they won’t hear from the majority of PR people until the next show. If they are so important to produce a body count for the show, they should be important enough throughout the year to work with on other story ideas.
There are PR people who believe their only job is to send out news releases and handle PR events. It may impress management, but it doesn’t make them important or memorable to the press.