Navigating Trade Shows Amid COVID Uncertainty
If you’re anything like us, you’re buzzing with anticipation about the return to the live NAB, AES and InfoComm shows in October, or the PLASA and IBC trade shows overseas. Once again, the industry looks forward to gathering in-person to catch up and share the latest news, innovations and other happenings since the last physical trade shows, in early 2020. While we all may have fond memories of walking the floor (and the all-to important handshakes, hugs, coffee breaks and cocktail hours with colleagues), this year will look a little different.
To help guide you to a positive trade show experience, we’ve put together 10 tips that will no doubt elevate your brand’s exposure and experience at the upcoming shows, or any trade show in the foreseeable future, whether you’re there live or virtually.
1. Be Prepared.
The world is full of uncertainty, and we must be ready to tackle any obstacle that comes our way. This lesson was certainly not lost in 2020 amid the pandemic. As the world faced uncertainty, so too did the state of our industry. We watched trade show after trade show cancel and, oftentimes, pivot to a digital-only platform, which kept us behind the “lens,” so to speak. We prepared new ways to share our product news and brand messaging. As we return to the first live, in-person shows coming up, remember to wear comfortable shoes, stock up on Altoids, hand sanitizer, pens, masks, water and tissues. But, also be prepared for last minute changes that may affect your experience, such as updated safety protocols, travel restrictions, flight cancellations and people who may decide to not attend.
2. Polish Your Press Kit.
A trade show press kit provides the media with the technical details and specifics necessary to recall and add to the conversation at the booth. It is also a vehicle to showcase your latest products and images, as well as high-profile user stories from the past year that you deem relevant to the show audience. We always recommend clients start the planning process for their press kit in advance of the show to get the right messaging, pricing, availability and assets in order. Well-written press releases that provide the media with the highlights of your product launch are a must, as well as any user stories that could help amplify your products’ application, with high-res photography to support your stories. Having these elements in your press kit will ensure quality press coverage before, during and after the show. Also, a digital press kit translates well for both an in-person or virtual event so plan to have your press releases and images available online.
3. Take Great Pics!
Sounds like we’re preaching to the choir, huh? We can’t tell you how important it is to make sure images are clear, crisp and well lit. Product photography is more important than ever, especially for those with limited time at the show or those who are not able to attend and physically see your latest innovation. With that said, whether you use a professional camera, or a mobile device, be consistent and creative with your photos. Taking pics at home? Find a window or head outside to take advantage of the benefits of natural light. Directing someone else to capture your product? Be clear with your vision and don’t be afraid to ask for several variations of a shot, after all, we’re living in a digital world that makes that possible!
4. Make Videos, Podcasts Pop.
Videos and podcasts are not just necessary vehicles for today’s broadcast/AV professional, they’re an essential tool for manufacturers as well. Not only can video and podcasts further support new product announcements, but they also provide a platform to showcase your brand’s industry expertise, knowledge and relationships with other pros in the industry. If you’re planning to incorporate live video meetings into your marketing plan for upcoming trade shows, be sure to find the best solution for you such as Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts. And have all your WiFi and technical needs in order. If you plan to live stream videos, make sure the equipment you’re using is powered up (!), the lens is clean and you have a backup solution, just in case an ‘oops’ moment arrives. Whether you’re using your iPhone or a handheld camera, a tripod is always recommended for video capture to help prevent that all too familiar “sway.”
5. Know Your Audience.
With the anticipated return to the live trade show booth, it’s imperative that booth staff is prepared to deliver your brand’s messaging and be able to speak to the new products (as well as older ones) and, of course, answer questions to the best of their ability. Make sure booth personnel are well-trained and up to date on marketing messaging, pricing and any other company news that you’d like to share. In addition, make sure they have practiced any demonstrations and are ready to give them both live and virtually, especially as virtual booth appointments continue this year.Also, as the media is an important part of a trade show’s success rate, it’s essential to assign specific company representatives to interface with the editorial teams. Whether in-person or virtually, make sure that anyone speaking with the press is aware of the focus of each publication that is scheduled to meet with the company. Knowing the key points, applications and experiences that will best pertain to the journalist ahead of time will be key for an efficient meeting. Also, make sure you are aware of any recent editorial coverage so you can thank them in person or online.
6. The Daily Is Your Friend.
Trade shows are, in a word, busy. There’s always a lot going on and it can be easy for attendees, especially buyers to miss your news. That’s why we always recommend that clients share their news with the show daily, the daily news digest for the show. With iterations at nearly every trade show “The Daily” (as we affectionately call it) is typically circulated on the show floor each day, chock full of the day’s special events, product news and company highlights. It’s also delivered to attendee hotel rooms and digitally to subscribers’ inboxes. With pre-show (VIP) and at-show editions available, it’s important to plan your content early, keep track of deadlines and deliver your news on time so it can be seen by buyers and colleagues.
7. Going Digital.
Amid the cancellation of the 2020 trade shows, organizers supported the industry with digital platforms, devoted to news, trends, interviews and product coverage that supported the community that was missing the live show experience with the added opportunity to be seen and heard. While we return to live booth presentations, it’s wise to take advantage of each show’s digital platform to further amplify your show coverage. Remember, the world is working and living remotely now more than ever, and many past attendees still may not choose or be able to attend in person. Why not reach them with additional content that will get your brand noticed?
8. Get Social.
Whether its Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, or some combination of the above, ALL BRANDS SHOULD HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE. Not only does it show your brand is relevant in today’s connected world, but it is also a fantastic way to reach more potential customers around the globe. Having an active social media presence is especially important during a tradeshow, as you are able to tap into and connect with the goings on at the trade show itself, which will no doubt have many eyes watching. Be sure to have dedicated staff to take and upload pictures and videos or share captions, links and other content that help make your brand stand out. Think live video demos or streaming performances from the booth, or even pre-recorded content from back at home base! Be sure to include your booth number and the official trade show hashtags in all posts so that attendees can easily find you.
9. Get Help.
For smaller companies that may not have the manpower to actively work on press and marketing materials, especially around trade show time, we recommend working with an outside agency. Whether you’re looking for year-round help or trade show-specific support, a well-established PR/marketing agency that caters to the industry can be a blessing. Look for an agency that has deep, strong connections with the media and other manufacturers or professionals in the industry as they will have a better sense of the scope of how to meet your needs. Also, make sure they are wordsmiths… a well written piece of news is worth the price of admission!
10. Mind Your Manners.
Trade show etiquette takes many forms, but, under the continuing shadow of the COVID-19 virus, it is more important than ever to be respectful and cautious of others’ boundaries when it comes to personal connections. At the time we are writing this blog, NAB and InfoComm show organizers are requiring all attendees to show proof of vaccination and wear masks, and to avoid handshakes. That could change, so be sure to stay updated on all show protocols in the days leading up to the show and share with all attending staff. It’s also wise to establish a policy on how to greet guests, in ways that are appropriate or comfortable for other attendees. Finally, be sure to stock the booth with masks for staff, hand sanitizers and wipes, and clean off stands, tables and other high-traffic surfaces often.
If you are looking for a communications firm to help navigate through these unusual trade shows, and into the future, it is important to work with an agency that’s well-known in the industry. D. Pagan Communications has more than 30 years’ experience in the pro audio and video markets and can provide a variety of solutions to meet any budget.
Contact us today to learn more.