Written by Peter Padovano
RSA2014As PR professionals, we know that part of the job is to attend industry events – conferences, trade shows and seminars. While a necessary function of the job, most of us don’t look forward to this exercise. Crowded expo halls, boxed lunches, drawn out keynotes and the same old giveaways (stress ball, anyone?). As trying as it can be, it’s important that we don’t view event attendance as just a “part of the job” or a necessary inconvenience with watered down drinks. Instead, we should embrace and view them as an opportunity. With watered down drinks.

Most of the time your reasons for going are to support a client’s attendance or to engage in new business opportunities and networking. However, industry attendance will also enable you to grow as a PR professional. If, like me, you are newer to the PR world this is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge in whatever field the event is covering.

As a newcomer, you should be attending as many events as you can. These events are a chance to finally meet the reporters you’ve been dealing with face-to-face in a professional setting surrounded by relevant subject matter. Conversation is natural and easy given you’re both there for similar reasons: To network and learn.

Industry events give young PR professionals a chance to learn more about the industry and issues the event is focusing on, to better inform conversations with journalists and our efforts on behalf of our clients. Industry events are a great source to learn from experts who have years of experience in the field. Seasoned vets stand to gain too, as even an old dog can learn new tricks at these events. They are a handy source to freshen up your knowledge in the space and an opportunity to sharpen your tools as a professional.

While all the learning and networking and new business gained from event attendance is valuable, it’s important to remember that the #1 business we’re in is to support our client’s efforts towards the bottom line, and events are typically at the top of the list in terms of lead generation. Events are a massive expense for sales and marketing teams, and it’s up to us to help maximize that investment.

Here are the three pillars that we at Aspectus use to get the most out of the trade show circuit for our clients and ourselves:

Media support

Networking is a key component of these industry affairs. We at Aspectus use our expertise in media outreach to help forge new relationships between our clients and members of the media. Many companies put out press releases in advance of or during industry events. Simply issuing a release and hoping it gets attention in the swarm of “event noise” isn’t enough, however. We pre-pitch media who are attending for meetings and coverage ahead of the event. We ensure that during the event we hustle to set up journalist meetings on the fly. And we include those journalists that can’t attend but may still cover the event from afar.

Brand awareness

Beyond media, we use events to increase the brand profile of our clients at these conferences. For example, at the upcoming RSA Conference, we are working multiple angles to increase awareness of our cybersecurity clients. We may host an event (media included), pursue speaking engagements, or develop and manage a social media campaign targeted at event attendees. Or maybe we help clients develop smart content (infographics, articles, etc.) for distribution before, during and after an event. There are any number of tools beyond simple media relations that can be used to help ensure a client’s event experience is a success.

New business

While boosting a client’s brand awareness is a top priority, don’t forget that events also provide a forum for you to increase the brand of your own business as well. Conferences provide an excellent chance to show your expertise to both journalists and attendees. While not every company there may be looking for PR support in the immediate future, being able to make connections at these conferences could lead to new business down the line. And nothing shows off your capabilities better than for prospective clients to see what you’re doing on behalf of existing ones. So be sure to point to the work you’re doing when engaged in these conversations.

Industry events are too often looked down upon as a necessary evil. However, you need to be able to find the substantial benefits of attending these events to not only achieve greater personal success, but to also increase your knowledge in the space and to help grow your agency. For 2017 and beyond you should make it a high priority to attend as many industry events as you can because the benefits and learnings are simply too valuable to pass up.

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