Ideas fresh off the wire

Power Rankings: Highly Subjective Best (And Worst!) Ideas to Generate Trade Show Buzz

Huawei-Booth-CES-2014In PR, we talk a lot about the “death of things” (DoT, I should probably trademark that). Email is dead! Press releases are dead! Fill in the blank legacy technology – DEAD. I’m getting a bit morbid here, but despite all of these changes in the way we do PR, there’s one thing that will never die: the trade show.

Yes, the trade show will always be around, no matter what shifts in the market we experience year after year. For many of our clients, there’s no better way to get in front of all of their customers and prospects. Hackers flock to Black Hat and RSA, consumers take over Vegas every January for CES and HIMSS transports healthcare professionals to the most glamorous cities in the U.S.A. – Orlando, Houston, even Cleveland, or as I call it, “The Big Apple.”

All jokes aside, we love trade shows. And while they’ll never go away, what does change with time are some of the tactics you can employ to make an impact on the show floor. Strategically tying back booth events, parties and messaging to your business will not only help increase your sales pipeline, but it can actually help with PR too. With that, we’ve put together a “Trade Show Power Rankings” highlighting some of the best (and worst) ways to draw attention to your booth and make sure you’ll leave Cleveland, or whatever magical city your next trade show beckons you to, with a long list of new leads. Here we go:

10. Clowns497597816_38c728c144_n

This is a terrible idea. Clowns are creepy and under no circumstance should you ever bring them to your trade show booth. Next.

9. Magicians

C’mon guys. Magicians are not cool, but time after time, there are always two or three vendors at every trade show that think somehow they can attract new business leads- we’re talking actual adults- with magic.

8. Massage tables

There’s nothing less comfortable or more vulnerable then laying face down on a massage table in the middle of a trade show floor, with no knowledge whatsoever of what colleagues or industry friends might be having a laugh at you nearby. That being said, massages are great, but realistically, anybody who comes to your booth for a massage likely won’t turn into a lead. Sure, it’s great for traffic, but probably not the most business-savvy idea.

7. Book signings

OK, this is the part where we move on to ideas that are actually good. I myself specialize in security PR, and every year at RSA, there are at least 2-3 smart vendors that bring a notable hacker or researcher to their booth to give away free books and meet with attendees. If you’re really smart, you’ll find an author who has written about a problem that will map back specifically to your company- “we fix that!”

6. Pizzapicjumbo.com_20140314-DSC_0138

Everybody loves pizza. Just imagine how bonkers your trade show will go once they get a whiff of a fresh cheese pie. People will flock to your booth as they think “Am I in Cleveland, or did I get transported to an Italian villa?”

Editors note: might not work at the Pizza Expo, which is a real thing/what dreams are made of

5. SWAG and giveaways

For all you trade show noobs, SWAG = Stuff We All Get. We could probably do a whole separate power rankings on our favorite trade show SWAG, but branded t-shirts and stuff you can actually use at the conference- notebooks, pens, laptop cases, backup mobile power supplies etc. – will help keep your brand visible and top of mind for conference attendees. Beer and coffee is always a winner too.

4. Something interactive

A welcoming environment is key to a strong trade show booth. Interactive games- skeeball for example- gives attendees the opportunity to stop for a fun break, and open up the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation once they are drawn in.

3. Partnerships with media

At huge consumer shows like CES, PR folks will often find themselves wading through 1,000 different reporters on a media list- more than half of which might not even be relevant to each clients’ target audience. But every once in a while, you’ll be able to not only work with that outlet, but actually partner with them on a mutually beneficial demo/campaign. Take for example Highwire’s client Edyn, who partnered with Refinery29 at CES this year to showcase the “Garden of the Future.” Refinery 29 ‘s Apartment of the Future, showcased interesting IoT devices that could soon play a role in our everyday lives. Filled with gadgets that did everything from monitor how you sleep to feed your fish for you, Refinery 29 focused on the design and function of the smart home. For the Edyn team, this was the perfect place to highlight their product, a garden sensor that uses collected data to provide smart recommendations for how to best care for your plants.

2. Integrated campaigns

A closely-knit partnership between agency and client that expands what most consider to be “traditional PR” can have an impact on “traditional marketing” (trade show booth planning falls squarely into the latter.) By making sure you are integrating key messages for media with your broader messaging strategy, you’ll create a lasting impression at the show. For example, Highwire PR partnered with our client Shape Security at RSA- the company, who makes the world’s first and only “botwall,” created a massive two-floor booth, complete with a “wall” that was filled with quotes from journalists about their product, secured through engagement with Highwire. 

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1. Puppies

We actually haven’t seen this one done yet, but it’ll work. Somebody please take us up on this.