Beyond the booth: 10 tips for hosting successful media events at trade shows and conferences

Trade Show BadgeIndustry trade shows and conferences can be a great way to reach important audiences for your organization, including potential customers, investors and partners – and media.

Media attend conferences to learn what is new, innovative and trending. Conference attendees and people unable to attend look to media coverage for information and scoop on what they should be paying attention to in their industries. So, how do you break through the noise and really engage media at trade shows?

One option is to take it outside the conference hall doors and host an ancillary event with your key experts, partners and media. Here are a few tips to make this type of media event successful:

  1. Have a purpose. Before diving in to plan an event, determine your goals. What do you want to get out of this event? What do you want media to take away? Media events can be a great way to deepen your relationships with industry media contacts, demonstrate your organization’s expertise in your field, share new information and more. Determine your goals, and let the goals inform your planning and messaging.
  2. Play by the rules. Most conferences and trade shows will have guidelines and criteria for hosting events in connection with the conference. Some require notification and the ability to approve events in advance. Determine the requirements early, so this can be factored into your planning.
  3. Gather intel. Talk to people who have attended the conference in previous years to gather insights into the best days and times for hosting an event. Some key questions to ask: What kinds of ancillary events have you experienced and in what format? What are the busiest and least busy days for ancillary events? When do people arrive in town for the conference? When do people typically leave town?
  4. Let your audience and message guide your format. The format and tone of your event should be tailored to your audience and key takeaways.  Launching an awesome new mobile wellness app at SXSW? Maybe the media event format is a juice bar happy hour with the founder and developers, and a hands-on opportunity to try the new app. Announcing the results of several new, practice-changing clinical research studies at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting? Maybe it is a more intimate dinner setting with your presenting researchers and top physician experts who can dive into the importance and impact of these studies.
  5. Develop your media invite list. Sometimes this is easy, as a number of conferences and trade shows, like TechCrunch Disrupt, will provide a list of attending media to exhibitors on request. But what if there is no provided media list? A media scan of last year’s conference coverage can help you determine which outlets sent reporters to the conference in previous years, and which reporters covered topics related to your industry. You can also monitor the event hashtag on social media and keep an eye out for media who are tweeting or posting on Instagram about attending and covering the conference.
  6. Get out there early. Media schedules fill up quickly after the conference dates are announced. Get planning early – and send a Save The Date, so media are aware of your event well in advance.
  7. Keep the logistics organized. When event planning, there are bound to be a ton of moving pieces. Break it down into tasks with a timeline. Share the timeline with everyone on your team, and delegate. Know that your timeline may need to adjust in the planning process and include some wiggle room for things to go wrong, when possible. Check in with your team and your timeline on a regular basis to keep planning on track.
  8. Bring something new to the table. Especially for larger conferences and trade shows, your media event could face a lot of competition for reporters’ time. What are you able to provide that others can’t? This could be access to high-profile experts, exclusive information about upcoming studies or the opportunity to trial a new product before anyone in the public. Find your differentiating factor.
  9. Prepare your spokespeople. Your spokespeople are the face of your brand and organization for the event, so make sure they make a good impression. Prepare your spokespeople with expectations for the media event, the agenda (if there is one), key messages and discussion topics, and brief background information on confirmed media attendees and what they typically cover.
  10. Follow up. This is the most important part – and the most frequently neglected. Follow up with every attendee after the event to thank them for attending and provide any post-event materials. Pay attention to reporter questions, interests and challenges mentioned during the event, and share story ideas and resources that align with their needs. Continue to build the relationships you started.

Have you had success with ancillary events at trade shows and conferences? What are some of your top tips?

For more trade show tips, check out the 6 Secrets to Expo Success.

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