How Caster Supports Clients at Trade Shows

I love putting on a show. Weeks of hard work, late nights and practice beyond the point of perfection, all for that glorious moment where you share it with the world: It’s an electrifying high. No wonder that, once my high school theater and college a cappella days were behind me, I found myself drawn to trade shows.

I worked on the InfoComm trade show for over a decade, producing conferences and education programs. Now, I’m on the other side, managing trade show strategy as part of my clients’ larger PR programs. Every year, we get inquiries from companies who want short-term support for CES, ISC, and other shows, both global and niche. We rarely take them on: It would be like playing Hamlet without rehearsing. Sure, we know all the lines and blocking by heart, and can do a serviceable job at a moment’s notice. But an award-worthy performance, the kind that moves an audience? That takes work together as a cast and crew.

With rare exceptions, Caster only offers tradeshow support only to clients with long-term contracts. Why? Because we’re in this together, and we want the whole ensemble to look good from the audition through the encore. Here’s a glimpse into the role full-service PR plays in tradeshow strategy.

Trade Show Strategy Consultation

As part of our year-round PR strategies, we help clients identify target events, assess their value, and plan an approach. We weigh factors like attendance size, audience demographics, media coverage, and exhibitor profiles against the client’s goals, road map, capacity, and budget to determine an appropriate “level of presence” for each trade show.

There is a full spectrum of engagement to consider, from “attend, listen, and learn” to “host invite-only meetings in a suite” to “commit to a huge booth and headline sponsorship.” Caster helps clients outline a strategy to maximize their ROI at every level. Depending on the scope of the client’s plan, we help assess sponsorship packages, consult on booth design, and plan at-show events.

Speaking Opportunities

The call for presentations usually opens and closes months before the actual event. Caster maintains opportunity calendars for our clients, tracking the events they plan to attend or where they would like to have a thought leadership presence.  When the call opens, we assess the criteria and past programs and talk with our clients about how they can meaningfully contribute to the trade show conference’s goals while advancing their communications priorities. Then, we work to develop and submit abstracts and supporting materials, often working directly with conference organizers to ensure our offerings are in alignment with their needs.

Once a session is accepted, the work really begins. Caster helps clients fulfill their obligations as speakers, tracking materials deadlines, supporting content production, and holding panel prep calls to ensure we deliver on the abstract’s premise. We also help promote the session through social campaigns for clients and Caster.

Awards submission

Our opportunity calendars also track awards. Both official and media awards are doled out at most major tradeshows – and again, for the official program, clients usually need to start early. The CEDIA Awards for Expo in September usually open February; if you’re hoping for a CES Innovation Award next year, you’d better be ready by August.

Caster works with clients to set priorities for which awards to pursue, considering impact, budget, audience, and feasibility. We craft submissions, working with external stakeholders to source testimonials and case studies when needed. We also doggedly pitch media who adjudicate awards onsite – an approach that can pay huge dividends even when product information isn’t available until right before the show.

Trade Show Media Outreach

Press rooms and budgets are shrinking, meaning that even for the largest shows, the onsite press corps is busy and discerning. Caster helps clients make sure their news is a priority.

Unless you’re launching a new company, trade show media outreach should build on an existing bedrock of thought leadership. The media should already know your brand and subject matter experts and trust that talking to them at the trade show will be worth their precious, limited time. Caster works with clients year-round to establish that reputation so that trade show media outreach is a continuation of an ongoing relationship, not a cold call.

We work with clients to define a “news hook” for the trade show. This could be a product announcement, partnership news, original research, new use case, case study, or demonstrations, etc. The goal is to generate FOMO. We want to offer an opportunity – to ask key executives deep questions, to grasp a revolutionary new concept before anyone else, to get a video clip that’s going to go viral – that they can’t get any other time. We usually craft an official announcement around this “news hook” and use it to reel in press appointments.

In the modern era, we offer briefings before, during, and after a show. Embargo briefs before the show allow us to seed stories, ensuring same-day coverage for at-show announcements. They also help us tell deeper stories. Often, press members have only a few minutes to spend in your booth: enough to grab a few photos and video clips, see a demo, and ask one or two surface-level questions. A pre-show briefing lets us provide adequate context, so the at-show experience really hits.

At the trade show, Caster maintains a schedule of press appointments and promised stop-bys. We prep clients – who, at this point, should already have media training – with likely questions, making sure they’re prepared for each briefing. We stay on top of our friends in the media, coordinating with them as schedules inevitably shift onsite. We also look for organic opportunities, spotting journalists and influencers and corralling them to visit our clients.

Post-show briefings allow us to go deeper with press and analysts who either didn’t attend the show in person or had a brief stop-by and want to know more. Post-show engagement is crucial: making a huge splash at a tradeshow and then falling off the map makes a company look like vaporware. That damaged credibility puts your next announcement or outreach effort in jeopardy.

Onsite Social Support

Caster also offers onsite social media support for clients. We plan show-specific campaigns and build out a shot schedule to ensure a client’s award wins, speaking engagements, packed booths, parties, and more have the maximum reach. Trade shows also present a key opportunity to gather media assets that support clients’ year-round social programs.

Social support from Caster leaves clients free to focus on their primary trade show goals: connecting with partners and customers. The assets and posts we create help deepen those relationships, creating new touchpoints as we tag and share.

Event Support

Like all Caster programs, trade show support is customized to our clients’ needs. Many clients host their own events at key trade shows – and Caster, as always, is in their corner. We offer event support services ranging from event messaging to end-to-end design and execution. From intimate press dinners to essential customer roundtables, Caster curates events that help strengthen clients’ more important relationships.

Trade shows are an essential touchpoint, especially for B2B companies – but they cannot stand alone as a tactic. Once the curtain falls, the larger communications journey must continue. At Caster, we map and travel that path together with our clients. Learn more about our approach:

Rachel Bradshaw

Vice President of Account Services

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