Attending Trade Show Parties
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When the show closes, your day is not over. This is when the fun starts and parties begin.
Parties are very serious business at many trade shows. You may be able to get more done with the press at a party than during the show hours because this is time for members of the press to relax – they won’t have to rush off to an appointment at the opposite end of the show.
Trade show parties are usually sponsored by publications, exhibitors and the press infrastructure. Publication parties are held for advertisers, but reporters usually attend. Call your ad rep before the show to get an invitation. If you didn’t get one in the mail before the show, you may be able to get an invitation from your ad rep if you stop by their booth. You run the risk of missing them if they happen to be selling outside the booth – part of what they are specifically assigned to do at shows. If you must “crash” a party, drop the names of reporters or ad representatives who will vouch for you if the bouncer calls them to verify your status.
Exhibitor parties are held by manufacturers and distributors for their customers and the press. The press attends parties by the “hot” companies and industry leaders. As with these companies’ press conferences, you can take advantage of having the key reporters gathered in one place by attending these parties.
Parties hosted by the press infrastructure are usually intended only for “insiders”. Because of the influential people who’ll be present, it can be very valuable to attend these parties. However, the times and locations of these “top-drawer” parties may be kept secret, and invitations can be difficult if not impossible to obtain. Ask reporters you are familiar with, media sales representatives you’ve worked with, and your peers for the times and locations of these parties; if they are an “insider” or know someone who is, you may be able to get an invitation.
In some industries, there is a subtle acknowledgment that your company has “made it” if you are seen at the right parties. The people who matter know that you’re part of the infrastructure. This can be crucial to establishing and maintaining new contacts, so tap into your network of existing contacts and try to attend these “visibility” parties.
Don’t do a hard sell at a trade show party – be low key. Remember, people are there to work, but in a relaxed setting. Parties are a great opportunity to build rapport with the press, so make the most of the opportunity. Be prepared to talk about topics other than your company or your products, such as:
• Trends in your part of the industry
• What the reporter found interesting at the show
• What the reporter plans to write about in the coming months
• The reporter’s opinion of (fill in the blank)
The reporter will probably ask you what you do and what your company does. You can then relate your positioning statement and the prime benefits of your product that will be of interest to the reporter’s audience. If the reporter asks more questions and expresses interest, ask how you can follow up on the reporter’s needs (such as scheduling a demo, sending a press kit, etc.).