As a blogger, what’s the last trade show you attended?
Journalism conferences or blogging events aside, there’s probably a B2B industry event dedicated to your passion.
It’s easy to overlook trade shows or feel out of place there when you’re not an event guru.
But if you think events like these are only for buyers or traditional media, take another look. There’s a lot of value for bloggers in these spaces.
Why — and where — should I go?
As the professional event landscape evolves, more and more bloggers and consumer influencers are appearing at trade shows that are closed to the public.
Not only are events meccas of content inspiration, they provide almost limitless opportunities to learn and enhance your expertise.
Are you a dad who blogs about toys? A student who writes about beauty? Attending a show can help you get an inside scoop on new products or allow you to glean insights to trends, and ultimately make you that much more credible with your audience.
If you have a very niche beat and you’re convinced an event for you doesn’t exist — or you’ve gone to the same show over and over — try zooming out and examining your industry with a wider lens. For example, if you cover tea, consider attending a large specialty food and beverage exhibition.
Conversely, if you write about anything and everything remotely tech-related, try more targeted events. An event like CES (one of the largest tech shows in the world) can be incredibly overwhelming because of the sheer scope of its consumer electronics net, whereas an event like the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) zeroes in on videogames and may be easier to manage.
When feeling out an event, always check both the press and attendee requirements to see which group you fall into. This also is the perfect time to take a preliminary look at the rules to see if there are any limitations on things like photography.
I’ve signed up! Now what?
Apart from event and travel logistics, you’ll want to take deliberate steps to ensure you get the most out of the show.
Keep these five tips in mind when preparing to attend an industry event as a blogger.
1. Research the structure of the event and review the agenda, then plan your time accordingly.
Whether the event lasts for a few days or more than a week, you may not be able to attend the whole event – and that’s fine!
Look into official or unofficial media days, or days focused on international attendees, and pay attention to exhibition hours. If you can only attend for one day or part of a day, try to avoid going on the last day, if possible; companies may wrap up early and or be out of things to showcase. You’ll have a better chance at holding their attention earlier in the week.
2. Sign up for news alerts.
You’ll probably get a lot of emails from the event organizer filled with navigation tips, details on special events, and deadlines – all of which are very helpful, especially if you’ve never gone to this particular show before. However, you’ll also want to sign up to receive event-related news announcements from exhibiting companies.
Since many companies will have pre-show news, including media invitations, perusing this information will help ensure you’re not missing out on any brands that you may want to visit. Plus, you can get a head start on creating content well before the event begins.
3. Make a list of companies to visit and sessions to attend.
Most events are sprawling, intimidating mazes — even with a map.
Take advantage of exhibitor directories that can be searched by keywords or categories and develop a game plan ahead of time to maximize your efficiency. Do a thorough search for multiple terms rather than just looking for familiar brand names; companies often co-exhibit with a distributor or are included in large pavilions and may not turn up in your usual queries.
Be sure also to check out any special areas of the exhibit hall, too; most shows will dedicate portions of the floor to startups and first-time exhibitors or will group companies together by theme. Pro-tip: Schedule appointments and interviews in advance when possible so that you’re guaranteed face time.
4. Be prepared to explain your value.
Many companies struggle with understanding why earned media is important and how to court it.
At trade shows, most booth staffers are ready to talk to buyers, but they might not be as equipped to speak with journalists — let alone bloggers.
But, just because a company isn’t expecting blogger attention doesn’t mean they won’t be receptive to your questions. Come up with your own quick elevator pitch to articulate what you do, why your spotlight is uniquely valuable, and how you can help one another.
5. Think about the tools you’ll need to create content and manage leads.
Show floors are a flurry of activity, so you want to be ready for whatever they throw at you.
While coming armed with just a smartphone can work, packing an extra charger, multiple cords, and even several devices can serve you well. Don’t forget any additional equipment that you may need to capture content (e.g., microphones, cameras, lens attachments, etc.)!
Finally, make sure you have a way to organize your leads and notes, whether you’re simply collecting business cards or digitally jotting down information.
I’m at the show. What should I expect?
Between visiting exhibitors, taking photos, and checking out educational sessions, you might find yourself with some downtime.
These moments are great for talking about the event on social media or experimenting with new types of content, such as live video. Try to pepper in use of the event’s official hashtag across your communications to help reach new audiences — and potentially increase your blog’s following.
After the show, take time to reflect on your event experience – either privately or on your blog. Evaluate the successes you found, and any shortcomings that you may have encountered, so you can make adjustments for next time. For example, if you had a hard time catching booth staff available to speak with you, try to make more appointments ahead of time in the future.
Depending on how your conversations went, you probably have some new friends to follow up with.
Exhibitors are notorious for letting show leads grow cold and might not know how to continue to engage with bloggers after the initial meeting. Help them out by taking some initiative to reach out to the brands you’re interested in covering or working with, and they’ll be that much more appreciative of your attention.
Next time you’re looking for something to freshen up your blog, check your calendar and start hunting for your new favorite trade show.
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Erienne Muldoon is a senior customer content specialist for Virtual Press Office, PR Newswire’s trade show marketing solutions division. When she’s not advising clients on storytelling best practices, you can find her tweeting about Cleveland, PR, and video games @ECMuldoon.