Are You Paying Enough Attention to the Press On-site?

It’s impossible to over-state the power of the press in publicizing an exhibition. And yet, show organizers vary enormously in the seriousness with which they take press relations. This is especially true when it comes to providing media facilities on-site.

At our first ISE show in 2004, we did not even have a press room. The number of pre-registered journalists was barely into double figures, and we reasoned that, because each magazine had its own booth, the press would use those as their base. But editors do not like to use their own booths as a place to write. The show floor is too noisy, and those pesky ad sales people keep interrupting them with questions.

Your press room should be an antidote to that. Ideally located close to, but not directly on the show floor, it should be an oasis of calm in which reporters can gather their thoughts, take stock, and begin filing their stories. A press room needs a number of things in order for the people who use them to do your show justice.

First, food and drink. Forget the old clichés about journalists wanting a long, free lunch. These days, they don’t have time. But they do appreciate not having to join long lines of exhibition-goers at food outlets. Give them a sandwich and a soda, and they can eat while they work. If you run out of food, order some more. And be sure to offer the same choice every day. Don’t make the mistake of putting out a few stale cookies on the last day “because it’s quiet.” The cookies are probably part of the reason it’s quiet. You wouldn’t reduce the speed of your Internet on the last day of a show, would you?

Speaking of Internet, free WiFi is a must, and so are good numbers of fixed PC workstations. This may seem odd in the age of BYOD (bring your own device), but many journalists do not like carrying laptops around a big show. An iPad is lighter, but few reporters use them to file stories because they cannot type quickly enough on them. Time really is of the essence for journalists, particularly in the multimedia era. As each year goes by, there will be more and more demands on your press room’s Internet bandwidth, as reporters need to upload podcasts, photos, videos and more. So don’t pinch pennies here, either.

Finally, and perhaps controversially … paper. The best press-rooms are a social hub in which journalists can interact with each other. The place they do this most is in front of the shelves of exhibitor press kits. But if those press kits are all electronic, there is nothing to talk about. In recent years, large numbers of shows have banned paper press-kits as a way of underlining their “green” credentials. As well as annoying exhibitors who have painstakingly printed their kits and then lugged them to the room only to be turned away, this frustrates reporters who don’t have time to load files from CDs or USB sticks before they can read a story. It’s also misguided. Paper is 100-percent recyclable; CDs and USB sticks go straight into the landfill.

At ISE, we encourage our exhibitors to provide their material both in print, for ease of reading, and digitally, for ease of editing. And our host venue recycles all the unused paper for us at the end of the show. If all this is starting to sound expensive, well, next month, we will look at how a well-resourced press room can generate revenue as well.

Mike Blackman, CTS, is Managing Director for Integrated Systems Europe.The event, ranking No. 9 in EXPO magazine’s "2010 Top 25 Fast-Growth Shows" list, sits on 22,760 square feet of exhibit space and attracts 28,489 attendees. Reach Blackman at blackmanm@iseurope.org.