Sunday, July 3, 2022

Turning a trade show into a talk show: By Greg Simpson, founder of Press for Attention PR

Greg Simpson, founder of Press for Attention PR and Enterprise Nation Champion for Nottingham, dives into the topic of trade shows and how to stand out from the crowd.

Remember trade shows?

You know the places, a glorified aircraft hangar replete with mega stands costing thousands, keynote speeches, celebrity masterclasses and ‘fireside chats’ with business megastars.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret so that when they finally restart you are going to be way ahead of your competition.

It is something I have done for myself to build authority for years and something that I also now do for clients if they have a stand at one.

Maybe your stand has been there before too?

Perched on the end of the aisle, you and your team hoping for someone, ANYONE to pop over to look at your new widget.

Maybe you didn’t take a stand at all as it was a ‘rip off’ or you don’t have the manpower to make it pay this year? Maybe you have nothing new to show this year so you’ll either not go or just register as a visitor?

We’ve all been there, me included.

However, there’s a little trick I have used time and time again which has not only enabled me to meet people, it has also elevated me or my client right there at the show and in the crucial days after.

Very simply, I stop thinking like a marketer.

I don’t REALLY, I’m always thinking like a marketer, I just put on a different hat.

I revert to my old role as a journalist.

You see, there’s so much more to be gained from a show if you start to detach yourself from your stand and start to play an active role in the event. If you do this correctly, you can start building an audience there and then at the show by being an informed source delivering interesting content.

Consider the usual trade show tweets. They probably go something like this…

‘Early start for @TeamWidget at #WidgetWorldExpo don’t forget to see us on stand 123’

‘Crowds are starting to build here at #WidgetWorldExpo but our friendly team is on hand on stand 123 to chat all things Widgets with @TeamWidget’

‘Busy day here at #WidgetWorldExpo but @TeamWidget crew are looking forward to Day 2. Find us on stand 123 bright and early tomorrow.’

You see this ALL THE TIME and it is well meant, it tries to share some personality, assuming the tweeter has included a photo of the guys and girls on their stand, but it is just noise. It offers no value and is just the same as the tweets likely coming from your rivals over on stand 456.

The good thing about these tweets is they include the official hashtag #WidgetWorldExpo so they are trying to join the party, but it is more like turning up at a party and just talking about yourself.

Here’s what I do, and it starts weeks before the event.

Firstly, I make sure that my client’s digital presence on the official show guide and in any brochures is up to date, then I will ask the organisers about the talks on the day, find out who is speaking and if there are any limits on reporting.

I make a note of the official hashtag and start marketing right away, especially if my client is speaking.

Then, by the time we get to the show, my client is already part of the conversation. Now though, it is time to crank it up a notch.

So, unlike everyone else who begins their silent vigil on the stand, I immediately go for a walk. I appreciate I can do this as I’m paid to NOT be on the stand answering questions, but you might consider who in your team could do this for you.

I roam the halls and stands looking for interesting stories. I preview talks that are coming up using the Twitter handles of the speakers and any appropriate hashtags. I actively listen to the seminars and take notes. I tweet live during the talks, I share interesting stands, different ideas and concepts and then there’s one thing that REALLY helps….

I do videos. Preferably ‘LIVE’.

Nothing polished, that’s not the point. It actually works better as a casual post. It might be me talking behind the camera as I weave my way through the stands showing interesting ideas, props, gadgets and people or it might be my client, looking at the camera and simply being an approachable human.

Ideally, they will say how the show’s going and what they’ve found interesting.

Now, remember, all this time the show’s organiser has someone a bit like me desperately searching for interesting stories too. They would LOVE to see someone else helping to produce interesting content or sharing ideas. It helps the show to look good, it builds traffic and awareness and a general buzz.

Bottom line, it also helps them sell stands for next year.

What I’m doing is rising above the noise and rather than trying to OVERTLY make myself or my client’s brand heard, I get people to want to hear from me. I become a USEFUL part of the show.

Even with BIG sums invested in stands, too many people spend 2-3 days out of their business with the best of intentions, branded up to the max, novelty sponge balls, paperweights and the ubiquitous branded USB stick in hand.

But sadly, it rarely seems to pay off.

Start to think about how you might think like a journalist at your next show and become a sharer of interesting things rather than just another exhibitor.

Oh and one more thing, the work doesn’t stop when you take the stand down. You’ve got blogs to write, to report back on the event for starters, and if you didn’t get to speak at the show, now is the best time to begin lobbying to speak next year.

After all, you’re an asset to the show now.

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