How to coordinate a press conference at a trade show

As I mentioned in my previous post (see Planning PR Efforts for Trade Shows – Part I), trade shows offer you the unique opportunity to showcase your company’s products and service specifically within your target markets, maximizing your PR exposure to key industry media and gaining publicity for the rest of the year.

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But, PR efforts at trade shows aren’t a “one size fits all”. For some manufacturers, PR at trade shows is used to highlight the launch of new products and to make special company announcements. For others, PR is a way for your company to connect with industry media face-to-face, building relationships that are often formed and nurtured via phone or email throughout the rest of the year. Whatever the reason for having a PR effort at your next trade show, make sure your efforts match your end goal.

In this post, I’ll break down what you need to know about hosting a press conference at a trade show.

When you should hold a press conference

A press conference isn’t for everyone. Press conferences are a good option if you have newsworthy information to share with industry media, such as a new product introduction, market expansions, new employees or a tie-in to a current event, like disaster relief efforts. Editors are interested in covering news that has value to the industry at large and will come to your press event with high expectations of learning new information during your presentation. So if you have a big announcement to make, a trade show is the place to do it!


As a service to its exhibitors, most industry trade shows provide a designated media conference room on-site where exhibitors can host press events or meetings with editors free of charge. To make use of this room, you should contact the trade show management team to schedule your event. Once your event is scheduled, the trade show management team will provide you with contact information for audio/visual and catering vendors, a list of media registered to attend the trade show, as well as a few recommendations to guarantee that you have a successful event.

Planning the format

The format of your press conference largely depends on the content you plan to share with the media. A traditional format includes a brief presentation from one or two key people within your company, possibly your CEO or CMO, followed by a Q&A with the editors. But, that is only one option; find a format that makes sense for your company.

It is always helpful to use visuals whenever possible. Whether you have a slide show, posters or the actual product to show the press, you want to catch their eye and keep their interest. Keep your presentation short, casual and interesting. And at the end, invite the media to stop by your booth on the trade show floor.

Attracting Media to Your Event

Once your event is scheduled, the trade show management team will include it on their agenda and will also publicize it for you in their pre-show and at-show communications. But, a well-crafted PR effort also means that you should plan on sending a special invitation to registered media in advance of the show. Your invitation should not only let the editors know the day and time of the event, but it should also convey excitement for your company’s news — give them a sneak peak of what will be covered during your event, this can often result in positive pre-show coverage for your company!

Editors want fresh and exciting information — not the same products or announcements they may have recently covered. You are also more likely to gain the media’s interest and earn post-trade show press coverage if you pay attention to what topics the editors are covering after the show and tailoring your company’s message to address those topics. Also, pay attention to what the editors are discussing by staying current on industry news — by participating in those discussions with the editors at the trade show, you can increase your opportunities of gaining media coverage.

The best way to contact the media is through email or with a hard-copy invitation. Contact the trade show management team to get a list of media registered to attend the trade show, which will include each registrant’s contact information and preferred method of receiving pre-trade show communications. Send your invitations out at least two weeks prior to the start of the trade show. This allows the media the time to include your event in their busy schedules. Ask for the media to RSVP to your event so you know how many press kits to produce and how much seating to plan for. But, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from the media far in advance of the Show — continue to send them information and reminders for your event up until the trade show to stay on their radar. 

Once you are at the trade show, remind the trade show management team about your scheduled event and encourage them to invite media to attend your press conference. This effort will ensure that last-minute media registrants still have the opportunity to attend your event.