It’s official – tradeshow season is in full swing! And for those of us in healthcare, one of the industry’s biggest events of the year – HIMSS18, is just one month away, March 5-9 in Las Vegas. With the evolution of digital marketing, social media and PR, planning a successful tradeshow activation now requires more strategy and organization than ever to stand out from the crowd on the show floor and beyond.
Whether it’s HIMSS or another tradeshow, here’s a “must-do” checklist to maximize visibility, drive leads and achieve ROI as you head into the final 4-6 weeks before the event.
Finalize the details of your VIP guest events and get those invites out as early as possible. Be sure to cross-check the timing of your event with other major industry parties so that you’re not competing with others.
If you haven’t already created your booth schedule, now is the time! Make sure booth reps are trained and equipped with all of the essential marketing collateral and sales sheets they need to be successful. Also, be sure they know what to do or who to direct questions to if the media stops by.
If you’re planning any onsite social media engagement, identify those in charge of this initiative and map out the strategy for live tweeting and/or video feeds at the event.
Make sure you have all of the supplies, technology, and equipment necessary to ensure you can gather leads and facilitate any on-site introductions or activations. Don’t forget to ship any remaining items to the on-site team at least 1-2 weeks prior to the tradeshow start date.
Order your swag! While your plans for giveaways and branded merchandise should already be well underway, there’s still time to come up with last-minute creative ideas that can be shipped quickly. Almost every vendor will be handing out some kind of freebie to attendees, but only a handful will actually stand out. If you’re on a tight budget, opt for a limited quantity of something that’s unique and impactful that can be used to entice traffic (i.e. the first 100 to visit the booth get X) instead of a mediocre giveaway. The goal is to create a lasting impression, therefore swag should be useful, memorable and portable.
Plan your post-event follow-up now. Remember, what you do after the tradeshow is just as important as what you do on the show floor, and timely follow-up with prospects is key to conversion. Consider a strategic nurture campaign after the show to continue the conversation with qualified leads that visit your booth.
Creating Pre-Show Buzz to Drive Traffic
Start creating buzz to help drive booth attendance through a variety of targeted campaigns like social media or Google ads, organic social media content, video, texts or more traditional outreach via email or physical mailers.
Depending on your goals, consider a dedicated landing page with a specific call to action that encourages booth visits and appointments. Whether it’s a contest, exclusive offer or giveaway, first-of-its-kind demo or evening entertainment, give attendees a reason to choose you over your competitors.
To engage with prospects and start networking prior to the show, interact with social media posts using the conference hashtag. (FYI - the event hashtag for HIMSS is #HIMSS18)
Develop a pre-show blog post for your website or LinkedIn and/or place a bylined article in a tier one trade journal to establish thought leadership and build momentum leading up to the event.
Media Relations is the Name of the Game
While most advertising and editorial space closes 2-3 months prior to the event, reach out to show dailies and other media sponsors to see if there are any last-minute opportunities for inclusion.
For large conferences, in particular, begin media outreach at least 4-5 weeks in advance. With many companies issuing their biggest news of the year at events like HIMSS, it’s critical to secure press meetings early before they are all booked-up.
If possible, have your press release completed several weeks prior to the start of the show so if the media are interested in a preview you can send it under embargo.
Identify key company spokespeople and be sure they are adequately prepped on the key messages your business wants to convey during interviews. Develop briefing books that include all scheduled interviews with high-level details about each reporter and specific topics they are interested in covering.
If your booth doesn’t have a designated area for meetings or your exhibitor package doesn’t include a private room, be sure to identify a semi-private meeting location somewhere at the venue where you can conduct press interviews – even if it’s at a nearby coffee shop
It’s Show Time!
Once you’ve collected your badges and finalized booth set-up, conduct a meeting with all team members to run through any last-minute details and sales scripts.
Let the live tweeting and other social engagement begin, leveraging the event hashtag combined with compelling photos and videos (Periscope, Facebook Live) to promote giveaways and contests to help drive booth traffic and external visibility.
If you don’t have a PR rep supporting you at the event, designate someone to help lure target press walking the show floor to your booth (specifically those reporters that couldn’t commit to a scheduled interview). Ideally time it with a live demo, planned speaker or other enticing activity to help drive interest.
It’s a long day on the show floor, so be sure to give booth reps lots of breaks. It’s important to keep the energy flowing even during periods of light traffic. No attendee wants to see sluggish vendors staring at their cell phones.
At the end of each day, conduct a brief team huddle to discuss what’s working and what isn’t, and adjust as necessary for the next day.
And finally, take a deep breath and have fun! This is your time to “own it” as a team and execute the strategy you’ve been planning for months!
At Alloy, we have extensive experience helping clients plan and successfully execute tradeshow activations. Check out how we enabled five health IT clients to cut through the clutter to #MakeNews and #DriveLeads at HIMSS17.