How do PR pros find success at trade shows?

January 25, 2023

Ready for a shoutout from a national news reporter? Be strategic with handing them your business card.

That’s one of my key takeaways for finding success at trade shows as a PR pro. Recently, at CES, I handed a national reporter my business card with my client’s name written on it. Guess what? The reporter was so impressed they gave me a shoutout.

If you want to find similar success with the media and your clients, here are some of my tips to try on your next trade show trip.

Follow up with media

No matter what you’ve done to gain attention and build relationships with media at a trade show, the follow-up is the key to sealing the deal and gaining results.

So, what are some of the best ways to follow up? The first is a classic one. Send a note of thanks to journalists for their time and perhaps see if there are any last-minute meeting openings that may have popped up during the day. The key here is to send a round of follow-ups to the media during the day and not wait until the evening or late at night.

A second tip is to be opportunistic in grabbing the attention of media walking by your booth. Invite them to come over and see what is new with your client and make a connection. When I first started out, I was surprised by the openness of even seasoned journalists to accept these opportunities and take time out of their day to stop by. Bonus tip: have useful tchotchkes to give out. For example, we saw some portable chargers given out that were huge hits with the media.

My final tip is to make use of smaller events during the larger trade show to get in front of media. My colleague and I found success doing this at several smaller events during CES.

Pay attention to your client

Another great part about attending these trade shows is the time to develop deeper relationships with your clients. Few things bring people together as effectively as spending more than ten hours a day on the same small piece of carpet! And even after you’ve spent those hours together, don’t turn down a client’s offer to join them for dinner or drinks.

So, use this time to your advantage in two very specific ways. The first is to learn more about your client and what’s important to them. Don’t treat it as an interrogation but instead build rapport with open-ended questions and lively discussions. Use this time to promote your agency and its complete service offerings. Long hours together mean great opportunities to share with the client all that your agency has to offer them.

In addition, consider yourself a representative of your client. This means you’re prepped and ready with information about media opportunities and ready to speak with anyone about your client and its products.

Take care of yourself

Make sure you’re prepared to spend hours on your feet at the trade show. That means wear good shoes. Seriously, break out those comfy shoes.

My final tip is to do a little planning when it comes to your own food. The lines are going to be insane pretty much everywhere. Make sure you plan ahead for food or give yourself a lot of time for breakfast and lunch.

One of my favorite things about working in PR is the opportunity to build relationships and learn about cool new things. Trade shows provide a golden opportunity. And, if you’re smart about them, shows like CES can create opportunities to enhance client success.

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About the author

Stacey Grimsrud is a vice president at Bospar. She helps lead the proptech, medtech, edtech and B2C practice areas at the agency. Stacey has more than 20 years of experience working in local broadcast news as a newsroom manager and consultant.