Yesterday was my first taste of financial, corporate and exhibition PR and to say that it was a radical departure from my days working on public affairs communications in the Foreign Press Association press office is a radical understatement.
Within the wide ranging sectors that PR covers, live events can be further segmented into conferences and exhibitions, providing a unique opportunity for both the organisers and exhibitors to meet with journalists face to face to raise awareness and achieve their varied objectives.
Before understanding the strategies involved in becoming a conference and exhibitor PR grandmaster, it’s vital to realise what each party involved is hoping to achieve through their participation. For the event organisers, it is simple, they are hoping that the PR teams’ skills will drive conversation to boost exhibitor bookings and delegate registrations. Exhibition and conference PR requires a certain amount of magic and theatre to generate media interest. Without a live demo or an interactive application, it can prove very hard to get a journalist or even the casual visitor to care. For those that fall into this category it is vital to arrange media opportunities in advance.
For conference and exhibitor PR professionals, the best way of maximising coverage for the client is a trident, a three pronged strategy. The first component involves knowing the market and thoroughly researching the vertical media that would be interested in listings, diary dates and news. The second involves knowing how to make the most of the opportunities that arise, involving preparation many months prior to the event itself. When selling in to the media, the fundamental tenet is recognizing that for most speakers and exhibitors’ content is more important than the actual exhibition; therefore identifying the most newsworthy speakers to connect them with the relevant publication is a high priority. When done effectively, it pays dividends.
Finally onsite, now comes the challenge of how to make the most of PR opportunities for the event. The first of these is taking the opportunity to build relationships with the press who attend, as face to face meetings with several key publications in one place are rare. Second, in sourcing quotes from exhibitors and visitors alike, which poses its own set of challenges. It should go without saying that confidence is a must, heavy eye contact and lots of smiling, even when being rebuffed. A lot of humour is also necessary, especially when asking leading questions that the subject knows have their own agenda.
Most visitors are likely to be extremely candid, meaning that the questions have to be more loaded than an ISIS assault rifle. A dose of black magic is also needed to obtain that all important signature of approval.
Despite walking a healthy 14,000 steps (10.5 km) around the hall in one day and most delegates believing I am a certified stalker, I am thoroughly looking forward to the next one soon.