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Leveraging Your Tradeshow Investment with New Media

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by Andy McCaskey, Principal 

Few aspects of business communications are changing as rapidly as the in-person tradeshow event. Recent trends in technology can amplify or eliminate the competitive advantage that a heavy trade show investment provided just a few years ago. [Reference]

Here are some tips on techniques and equipment that we recently deployed while providing New Media style coverage of a very large industry trade show event, along with some things to think about that will spark ideas for your next live trade show event.

The impact of connected mobile devices around the world has greatly increased the expectations of would-be trade show attendees and exhibitors alike. Advances in wireless networks with the new broadband wireless standards, powerful tablets and ubiquitous smartphone availability offer your company opportunities to involve more people with your product in its best light over a longer period of time. For a powerful combination, split your team into two groups - one at the trade event and the other in their normal home office locations, but still dedicated to the event.

Mobile devices deployed by team members attending the show in person provide the link to widely dispersed members of your community. Ubiquitous connectivity gets that information distributed while it is still of greatest interest. Team members remaining at your factory or headquarters leverage materials from the field team in real-time, during both show and non-show hours, and reach customers and prospects around the world. Both teams have their full attention on the project during the trade show.

What can you accomplish by NOT sending your full team to the show? You can leverage your tradeshow presence by planning and deploying part of the team in non-show remote support. Base team members are still fully up-to-speed on events and involved with the show team in real-time, thanks to their mobile connectivity. More importantly, this approach generates rich content that can be used on your social media channels for months to come.

Let’s look at three separate tools and some basic equipment tips and techniques:

1. Live video streaming can be done from your booth or in the show arena - featuring your product introductions and in-depth demos. Using either professional services or at least a two person team from your organization dedicated to the task, streaming video allows creation of informal content that is ideal for website or social media content and interaction with customers who are NOT at the site. You can contract for professional services that provide both the equipment and broadcast professionals who are skilled and knowledgeable in your technology area at costs ranging from $5K-$50K per event; or you can choose to provide informal coverage with your team using “prosumer” equipment (nearly professional quality equipment at high end consumer prices) and an ad-hoc production for under $5000. Consumer HDMI HD video cameras (many under $500), prosumer video streaming devices (under $1000), and LTE wireless hot-spots allow you to assemble portable camera/backpack mountable systems that can provide flexible coverage. On-camera LED lighting panels are now affordable (under $100) to increase the video quality.

Webcam-based services such as uStream or Livestream are free, but are generally not suitable for business use due to random, intensive, and intrusive advertising and adjacent non-professional content in their listing services. There are, however, paid tiers of service that remove the ads and add the ability to embed the coverage on your site. Depending upon your audience, there may be familiarity with the services that can offset the disadvantages. Google+ style hangouts from Google can be used to advantage, and can be recorded for future distribution. New vendors such as offer the advantage of no Google login requirement and can also be recorded at both free and paid tiers.

2. Real-time blogging with photos and short videos from smart phone can be done using a client such as ScribbleLive. This is an exceptional tool for sustaining high personal involvement with those at the event, especially when the base team is able to immediately edit and augment with additional information that directly applies to the subject matter just featured by the field team.

3. Real-time chat room interactions with customers on your website can help you involve show-goers and remote viewers alike. The factory team members handle the bulk of the interaction using client apps such as ChaTango and field team members take their clues by merely reading the chat comment flow. Chat permits the field team and your audience to interact with the headquarters team, direct their activities and enrich the content back to the audience. All of this can be captured on your site, and made available for post processing.


Equipment: The Smartphone Rules

Smartphone or tablet tools are very useful for gathering informal content for later publication on your website or social media channels. With minimal planning and attention to audio, interviews for website, email, and audio podcast use (with photos) are easily gathered if you can find an area that is quiet enough to capture a good conversation. For a step up, you can add professional audio gear to the smartphone Broadcast wireless microphones or headset/mixers can easily run $2000, but they will make a significant improvement in the quality of the interview.

Tablets may be more convenient to handle in some cases, but to use either a tablet or a smartphone and get consistent results; you will need to add simple mounting hardware and a monopod or tripod. Shaky video and poor audio - or lengthy talking head videos are the marks of poor preparation and technique.

A long, stand-up, talking-head interview will generate less compelling video for re-use than a planned segment approach. Plus, the large file sizes will quickly force you to video editing and compression software to make distribution possible. Consider a one minute stand-up product ID, benefit statement and call to action to visit the website. Then, with audio introduction only, get a number of well-lit short close-ups of actual product features. This strategy will go a long way towards generating three or four blog posts or tweets with focused SEO keyword descriptions (generated by your home team). It will index well, plus has a much higher probability of being actually viewed than a long, talking-head, traditional interview.

Your content can be integrated with social media by the factory-based support team members; they can offload the field team and keep the stream of information flowing professionally. Live streaming video service companies (above the free ad-supported levels that are not recommended) can sometimes provide real-time recording that allows access and replay of field events during times when the field team is in motion or when the tradeshow is closed. You might consider looping pre-recorded content for your customers in other time zones, or using your streaming channel to air that content from your headquarters location.

Your use of live streaming from the show is in fact news-worthy - so make sure that your PR efforts recognize and promote your activities before and after the event. Each media asset that is recorded or posted is ripe for edit and repost, with commentary and expansion. Each piece of field produced media can act as an introductory piece to a whitepaper or app note that will offer more information and build your mailing list of prospects.

Reuse of media assets can further qualify prospects and generate leads that are more useful to sales people than simple contact information. Short interviews with clips linked to specific products or topics, augmented by product photos or expansion blog posts, provide self-validating qualification of leads; because those who clickon a specific offer have thereby indicated what product or service is most attractive to them.

Trade shows are still a major way to communicate with customers and prospects. The good news is that they can do it even more effectively and over a longer period of time, thanks to New Media technology.

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