So you have made the decision to invest a large proportion of your marketing budget in a trade show? Then it is probably a great idea to spend a fraction of that cost and get the most from pre-event PR.

Exhibitions are probably the most costly form of promotion for any technology company, especially if they take place in a different country. It is not unknown for companies to spend up to a third of their entire marketing budget for just three or four days at an event – which is why it’s best to do everything possible to maximise ROI. Fortunately well-planned pre-event PR can make a significant contribution to show payback.

Exhibitions can be a powerful form of branding and lead generation because they both promote the company name and can bring prospective buyers directly to the stand. However, high stand traffic does not happen by accident – you can’t take a “build it and they will come” attitude.

One thing that many companies get wrong is the pre-show or preview announcement – either by not sending one out at all or sending one out too late – or not making the content interesting enough. A well-timed and interesting preview press release (i.e. telling the media more than the simple fact that your company will be at the show – for example raising curiosity by hinting at new technologies to be launched) can gain coverage during the run-up to the event, encouraging people to come and see you when they plan their visit. ideally your show preview release should be issued between two months and six weeks in advance of the event itself.

What’s more modern exhibition campaigns go beyond the traditional media and demand that all social media and networking platforms be used. Pre-event blogs, simple teaser videos and hashtag tweets can all work wonders in racking up attention. See this infographic for some potential suggestions.


And if you want to arrange press meetings during a show (after all it is a great opportunity to tell the media about your fantastic new products and services and to maximise post-event editorial coverage by discussing potential articles or case studies) your target editors will also need to be contacted well in advance.

That’s because editors are rarely busier than when they are at an exhibition and they often plan their itineraries with a precision bordering on military. As a result they need to assess what value they are going to get out of a meeting with your company and they need to be able to schedule the meeting into their diaries – inviting them to ‘drop by your stand for a coffee and a chat’ simply won’t cut it!

Think beyond PR and social media

There are a number of other ways to encourage stand traffic. Competitions, for example, can work well by offering a suitably appealing prize in exchange for a business card, while direct marketing has a role to play too.

Consider an email blast to buyers in target markets for example – and follow-up with reminders. Alternatively, make a call extending a personal invitation to the stand. Here, deliver a compelling reason to come along; focus on problem-solving and providing real value rather than just pitching products. Also, don’t forget to ask strategic partners, distributors and international agents to invite mutual clients and prospects.

Last, but by no means least, it is always good practice to set objectives for what you want to get from the exhibition and then measure success against those objectives once the event is over. For example, how many leads do you expect to get from your investment? How many customer meetings should take place? What value of editorial coverage do you want to see from the spend on PR support around the show?

By answering these questions the real value of attending the show can be ascertained – and the decision of whether or not to attend the next one can be justified.