Where to Meet with Reporters
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Now that you have the appointment, where do you meet the reporter? You have four choices:
At the booth: This is the best place to hold a demonstration at a show since you have all your products, equipment and experts in one place. If you have a big booth, design a meeting room so you can have privacy and quiet when you talk to the reporter. If the booth doesn’t have a meeting room, the demo could get crowded with other observers. Designate one demonstration area as the VIP area and alert booth personnel to steer booth traffic away from you. You don’t want the reporter to feel pressed for time or space.
At the Press Room: Some conventions have a room set aside for the press to conduct interviews. You may need to bring your own equipment to demonstrate your product, as most press rooms lack equipment. Check the policy with the show office.
At your hospitality suite: If you don’t want to pay for a booth space, consider renting a room in a nearby hotel and setting up a hospitality suite. This strategy gives you the luxury of controlling the environment for the demo, from lighting to beverages. However, if your hospitality suite is not within walking distance of the convention center, the press may be reluctant to visit: it takes a long time to find a taxi, travel to your room, and return to the convention. Only the biggest companies with the hottest products attract many reporters to a hospitality suite. You may consider “piggybacking” with other companies that use hospitality suites. For instance, if you know a big company is having a hospitality suite in a large or prestigious hotel, the press will come to it. You may rent a suite in that hotel and tell the media they can see your product before or after they see the bigger company. Rick Doherty of Electronic Engineering Times said he combines trips. He sees the show the first day and then spends the rest of the time visiting hospitality suites.
At a restaurant: Breakfast and dinner are the best times to schedule mealtime appointments. As with a hospitality suite, only the biggest companies can lure a reporter away from a show for lunch. The primary advantage to an appointment at a restaurant is having the reporter’s undivided attention for roughly an hour. The disadvantage is that it’s impractical to demonstrate most products at a restaurant. If your purpose is to establish good rapport and conduct an interview about marketing or finance, a restaurant meeting is clearly appropriate. And remember, you pick up the tab – not the reporter.
By the way, some people say the quickest way to reporters’ editorial pages is through their stomachs. That’s not necessarily true. There is so much free food at a trade show that another round of hors d’oeuvres does not necessarily motivate a reporter to talk to you.
Regardless of where you hold your meetings with reporters, you must be on your best behavior. Don’t come on too strong. Reporters may be intimidated and turn you off. Act as a consultant and advisor, and remember to listen for clues to what interests the reporters and their readers.
Minimize “No Shows”
One important note: With all the commotion at a convention, it’s easy for appointments to get lost in the shuffle. Don’t let that appointment be yours. Here’s a two-step program that reduces no-shows to a minimum:
1. When you schedule the interviews or demos, ask reporters for the name and phone number of the hotel they’ll be staying in.
2. The night before the meeting, call the hotel and leave a message with the hotel message center, confirming your appointment. Don’t call the reporters’ rooms – you may wake them! When reporters check their messages that night or in the morning, they’ll be reminded.