Hi there, class! I am always excited to teach a new class relating to tradeshow success. Today’s class is especially exciting because it touches on one of the more fun and festive elements of tradeshows: media-only and media-friendly events.

There are a number of ways for exhibitors to grab the attention of the highly coveted industry media covering tradeshows both before and during a show. Show producers offer some events, while some are coordinated and hosted by the exhibitors themselves. The purpose of these events is to give the media a sneak peek into what your company or your client’s company will be touting at that year’s showcase.

Either way, keep in mind, whether participating (sponsoring) or hosting, such functions almost always come at a price. However, receiving coverage of your tradeshow participation is the quintessential validation of an exhibiting investment, as well as the ultimate return of any public relations efforts. Some ‘networking’ and media events such as meet-and-greets are often offered at the majority of shows while some more exclusive functions take place only at the higher-budget exhibitions.

An alternative to exhibitor-hosted media-only events are media-friendly ones where the guest list is predominantly media but sometimes also includes other show contacts, show partners, show vendors and the like. Invitations to these types of affairs are often extended as gesture of gratitude or ‘good will’ to friends and associates in the industry.

Show-produced media events
A show-produced media-only or media-friendly event is generally one where show promoters are ‘selling’ the opportunity for exhibitors to get more ‘face’ time with the media. One such event is a ‘Preview.’ A preview is typically scheduled anywhere from two-to-three days to two-to-three months prior to and sometimes in a different destination than the actual show. This is when exhibitors have the opportunity to purchase table-top space or presentation/speaking time, affording them the opportunity to release information about products and services they will be exhibiting at the upcoming show.

This is all in an effort to create a media ‘buzz’ prior to the show. It is important to remember that exhibitors are not the only ones competing for attention at tradeshows, trade media is also always competing amongst themselves for the biggest breaking story about the biggest product being unveiled or the best information being released that season. Previews give the media that glimpse into who may be making the biggest splash at that year’s trade exhibition.

To find out about such events, which are often considered a sponsorship at some level since there are additional monies involved, visit the show’s website or directly contact the show producer. Keep in mind that as with anything else, there will be a registration deadline for these functions. As always, I remind you to plan ahead!

Exhibitor-hosted media events
Other media-only or media-friendly events are hosted by actual exhibitors. A healthy budget is required to be at the helm of such gatherings. Although often costly, these events can often end up paying for themselves in priceless PR and media coverage.

On the more economical side, media-only events can be as simple as a reception where hors d’oeuvres are served and an exhibitor presentation is made.

Gift bags filled with catchy company promotional items, product information and literature are commonplace.

These events serve as the ultimate ‘plugging’ platform, as is their primary purpose. The media is there to hear you promote and ‘plug’ your company’s products and services while they enjoy a cocktail and the obligatory and highly anticipated pigs in the blanket.

For exhibitors with larger budgets, there is no end to the type of media attention-grabbing events that can be held. Fancy restaurants, country clubs, amusement parks, nightclubs or even the ultimate tourist attractions have been known to serve as venues for media-oriented functions hosted by tradeshow exhibitors. Lavish libations and more elaborate fare paired with games, rides and entertainment are often on the ‘menu’ of these functions, which are more like extravaganzas than events.

Grab attention and stay on course
Whether serving a five-course meal or hosting a round of golf on a luxury course, the main thing to always remember is to stay the course. Always keep in mind that the main objective of such events is to grab the attention of the media in an effort to receive exposure and coverage. Be certain to use these events as a way to get out the message of what you are promoting or unveiling at that year’s tradeshow. Hold a 30-minute presentation with a Q&A or interactive demonstration amidst the festivities. You want your media guests to have fun but to be aware of why they are there. Of course, it is not an automatic quid pro quo of fun and food for a front-page feature, but it is understood that they are there to be educated and hopefully wowed by the information you are sharing.


  • Review, define and align tradeshow objectives with sales, marketing and PR departments
  • Establish the important of grabbing extra media attention to meet that year’s expectations
  • Determine what that year’s budget is for media-only/media-friendly events
  • Assign a point person who is fully in charge of coordinating such an event
  • Be sure to be prepared to make a presentation/demonstration in an effort to wow media
  • Don’t forget PR preparation in regards to press releases, artwork and quotes
  • Last but not least, smile and have fun.

About Linda Musgrove, The Tradeshow Teacher
Linda Musgrove is founder and President of TradeShow Teacher, a full-service trade show training and management firm. Through her result-driven formula, she specializes in teaching companies to significantly improve trade show results through strategic, customized trade show management and training for individuals, departments or entire teams. Training options include phone consulting, webinars, seminars and one-on-one in person coaching. Musgrove authored “The Complete Idiots Guide to Trade Shows,” published by Alpha Books/Penguin Publishing. Learn more at http://www.tsteacher.com and follow on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/tsteacher