Are you ready for your company's next convention or trade show?

Sure, you've got your lead forms all printed out and ready for your salespeople to fill in. You've rented booth space and put together a dynamic-looking display. You've got your new products ready to show off.

You can have the greatest display; the most high-tech, innovative, interesting new products; a super sales staff and the best booth spot at the show, but if no one knows about it, what does it matter? If you're just waiting for people to walk by and notice you, pick up a good book, you probably have a long wait.

Studies show: More than 75 percent of trade show attendees decide which booths to visit before they even arrive at the show!

If you really want to be ready for a trade show, you have to let people know you're going to be there. Pre-show publicity can make the difference between a great lead-generating, attention-getting show and a mediocre or worse, completely unnoticed, show for your business.

The following are some tips for making your next show a publicity success:

q Remember, you're never too small to publicize.

q The media looks for the most interesting angles and intriguing products, not which company has the most employees.

q Check with the show promoters about publicity help. Can your company be included in a press kit the show will be sending out? Do they offer a media/press day before the show officially opens and will they distribute your press release?

q If the show is small or doesn't offer any publicity assistance, go directly to the media yourself.

Prepare a newsworthy and factual news release.

q Spell out what your product or services are, pointing out the advantages and positives. Explain what you'll have at the show. Be careful not to cross the line into "advertorial," for example, say- ing"ABC products are the best." Instead say, "ABC was ranked first in product reliability by the XYZ Association of America in 1994."

q Never lie. The media will remember you, but not for the reasons you want.

q Always include a contact name and phone number at the top of the page, in case the person reading the release has questions.

q You may want to consult a public relations agency or professional for assistance if you need help.

q Make sure to take copies of the news release along to the show.

q If you release new products each year, consider waiting until the show. That way you will have a strong news angle to pique both buyer's and media interest. You may want to send copies of the news release to possible customers as further enticement.

Take your news to the media.

q Contact trade publications. This should be done several months, or at the very least, weeks in advance. Many trade publications are monthly magazines with deadlines two to three months before printing and delivery.

q Trade publications are a good source because their readers already have a built-in interest in your field. (For example, computer businesses and magazines). A recent study showed almost 85 percent of business executives interviewed used trade journals and show dailies to help them plan which booths to visit at a show.

A little research will tell you if the show is affiliated with any publications.

q Many shows have publications that put out special sections, pre- views and/or after show articles. Ask when you register and make sure to include these publications in your mailings and phone calls. If the publication is printing something about the show, they're just one step away from printing your news!

q Find out the name of the editor in charge of your industry. If you're a landscaping company, find out the name of the garden editor. A simple phone call to the publication should answer your questions.

q Send your news release to the targeted editor's attention, along with a personal note.

q After the editor has had time to receive the material and look it over, give him a follow-up call. It's not unheard of for news releases to get misplaced. If so, re-send the information and ask if the editor had any questions. Refresh his memory with a sentence or two about your company or product and why his readers (or viewers) would be interested in a story.

q If the editor turns you down for an article, ask about the possibility of being mentioned in a brief or at the very least, ask for the show to be listed on the calendar of events.

q When you're contacting local mainstream media, don't overlook weekly newspapers. These community-oriented publications are easier to get coverage in than some of the larger publications and are read avidly by the people who receive them.

Make your display newsworthy.

q Keep in mind that while you're trying to entice media out to the show or to your business, you have to have something to show. Be careful not to make unrealistic promises.

q Update display units with the latest information and make sure your booth is visually appealing with clear signage and arresting (not alarming!) colors.

q Have your new product or best products on hand to show off. If possible, a moving display showing your product in action garners even more attention.

q Of course, it's not only the media that will be drawn by your attractive, informative booth. Buyers and possible customers will notice too!

Follow up after the show.

q OK, so the show came and went and you didn't get any press. Don't forget to follow up with your trade publications. Maybe the editor will tell you he didn't have room this month, but would be interested in writing about your company now that the hustle and excitement of the show is over.

q And even if he still says no, you've at least begun to build a relationship with the publication. Maybe the next time a writer wants to do an article about landscapers, your name and news release on file will come to the surface.

One thing is sure, they can't write about you if they don't know you exist!

Miller Lopez is a freelance writer and corporate event handler based in Aneheim.

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