Effective Tradeshow Engagement

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By Jason Ledder, Vice President of Media Relations, R&J Public Relations

I’ve been to five tradeshows this year alone and have seen a variety of different ways that companies entertain and engage their core media and customer audiences.  These functions have ranged from $100,000+ parties for 400 people on down to $800 – $1,000 dinners for 6 key people.  There are pros and cons to both, of course.  But having hosted both types of functions over the years, I almost always see a far greater value in the $1,000 investment.

If your client’s boss needs to see lots of RSVPs and huge masses of people (the vast majority of whom have little or no bearing on your brand’s success), then the intimate gathering is obviously out.  But if you are trying to build a productive, fruitful, long-term relationship with a core group – to get in front of them and to stay there – then break bread over a great dinner and truly engage.

Let’s break it down.

$100K gets you:

  • 400 people with 800 eyeballs on your brand
  • Potential to hire/see a pop-star
  • Decent food
  • A faceless congregation to preach to from your podium
  • Virtually no quality one-on-one time
  • A hefty price tag to hand over to your boss
  • An initial spike in your media coverage.

$1,000 gets you:

  • Fewer eyeballs and bodies to put in a post-show report
  • Exceptional food
  • A dedicated, attentive audience
  • A focused, engaged group that you can farm for information about your industry (and your competitors)
  • The foundation for a very beneficial, longstanding, professional relationship
  • Long term, repeat, and deeper media coverage.

When it comes to engaging with a client’s core audience, I always try to find a venue that lends itself to a superior personal experience.  Usually this is a nice restaurant – not too loud – with a table that’s conducive to lively conversation.  Oh, and I also look for a good wine selection.    In this setting, you can have open discussions about the industry, where your client truly stands, and what short- and long-term inroads you can realistically achieve.  In this environment, you can build a friendship with your audience and learn what makes them tick.

Over the years, I have dined with a wide range of journalists in this type of setting.  I can honestly say it has paid far greater dividends than any large, splashy party we ever hosted.  But I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Why the wine? It lowers the boundaries, opens the dialogue, and encourages conversation.  Or it just tastes good – but that can be your call.

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