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November 11, 2020

Melissa Baratta


Senior Vice President

tradeshow floor with people walking around in the background

My formative years as a tech PR professional were centered around the annual tradeshow cycle. Each spring and fall season, I flight hopped from Orlando, Chicago and Vegas to traipse exhibit hall floors, chasing reporters, hosting in-booth events and press conferences, and most fondly, sprinting to the press room to file a breaking story and snag the front page of tomorrow’s show daily. 

As we approach the home stretch of 2020, one thing is clear: the tradeshow landscape is fundamentally changed. Events have largely shifted to all-digital affairs throughout 2021, including marquee conferences like CES and SXSW, as the events and exhibition industry tries to rebuild and reshape how it functions in a post-COVID world. 

So, our approach as tech marketers must also be fundamentally different, too. 

Now, not all traditional tradeshow strategies need to go out the window - we as tech marketers just need to be even more discerning about where and how we show up to virtual events, making digital amplification, engagement and nurture plans that much more business-critical. 

Knowing that many tech companies are lagging behind budget and planning timelines this year, it’s not too late to map out your 2021 event plans - and to tailor them for an indefinitely virtual world. 

Here are 4 considerations for your 2021 tradeshow strategy: 

  • I can’t stress this one enough: B2B tech marketers need to know and understand their buyer personas and nurture them like never before. Customer nurture campaigns must extend well beyond pre- and post-event with more tailored content marketing tactics - including content on how your company’s solutions help end customers navigate a continuously evolving new-normal.

  • In a Zoom-fatigued world, content will be king. Many events are expanding slots for keynote addresses and offering more on-demand video content. Attendees will likely be quite selective in session choice, and no longer can you lure someone into a keynote as they walk by. So, thought-provoking, dynamic presentations around pressing topic areas and fresh data/surveys will help you stand out from the (virtual) crowd. Snagging and nailing keynote addresses can also help further executive visibility for your key spokespeople - 2021 is the year to put thought leadership plans into action. 

  • Social media engagement has long been a tradeshow strategy non-starter, but companies and event orgs have started exploring new ways of real-time engagement. This includes setting up conference or breakout session slack channels for attendees to “gather.” Social should still be a part of your mix, but collaboration tools are proving to be successful at harnessing some of that collective event energy. Tech platform considerations are especially important for marketers helping plan user conferences or owned-events for your company - like Microsoft being selected to power CES as its technology partner.  

  • And what may be most important before you do any of the above, is giving a critical eye to the events you have in plan. It’s likely not going to be worth it to pursue everything you would have in a regular year (even if your go-to events are all available virtually). Instead pick the top 3 that are sure to give you the most ROI and reach priority buyers. Then, you can re-allocate marketing budget to support cross-channel, owned campaigns that match the changing patterns and habits of your buyers. 

As one of the country’s top tech PR agencies, we’ve developed a playbook entitled, Creating Your 2021 Marketing Budget, to help you effectively adjust resources in a post-COVID world.