Trade shows and conferences are gold mines for content marketers…you just have to know where to look and be creative about how you present it to get the most out of those 3-4 days on the road. If you’re smart you can walk away with at least six months worth of compelling content from one event.
Wikipedia defines content (in reference to media) as…
Content is information and experiences that may provide value for an end-user/audience in specific contexts. Content may be delivered via any medium such as the Internet, television, and audio CDs, as well as live events such as conferences and stage performances. The word is used to identify and quantify various formats and genres of information as manageable value-adding components of media.
Personally I prefer the simplicity of the Oxford English Dictionary that defines content as “what is contained.” Anything and everything that is information can be content. Social media provides us with more and more ways to deliver that information than we’ve ever had before. Social media also makes it easy for others to share your content.
Don’t think of content marketing simply as a blog post or white paper. Don’t think sharing is limited to one or two social media platforms. Compelling content can be delivered via pictures, tweets, video, and the spoken word. It can be shared via a link in an email, which gets posted on Facebook as well as tweeted. The more forms you create your content in, the better because everyone has a preferred format. I love to read and prefer text to audio and video, while others find they retain information better when it’s delivered via video. So where is all that content and what do you do with it?
You are what you tweet
We’ll start with the smallest source…well smallest in terms of length…but not in terms of value and potential. Twitter is not just a way to share valuable content; your own company blog posts, videos, white papers, news, etc. Each 140 character tweet can be content in its own right. You can provide attendees of the conference or show with valuable information, like where is the shortest line for coffee or what topics you are presenting.
Trade show floor reporting
Your staffers are going to be walking the show floor, so why not have them tweet or live blog information on what they are seeing? Exhibitors…this works for you too! There are plenty of vendors who are not competitors that your customers might find valuable. If you see something new and different, why not share it? Even those not able to attend the show can find this type of information interesting, especially if they consider you or are beginning to consider you a trusted resource.
Session and Speaker Highlights
Session summaries are valuable to people both attending the show in person and virtually. People often have to miss sessions they want to attend because there’s another session at the same time. Assign someone or a couple of employees to sit in on sessions you think would be most interesting to your customer base. Have them take notes of the sessions’ highlights and key ideas and then post them on your company’s blog, Facebook page, and Google+ account. These don’t have to be lengthy commentaries; simple key thoughts and takeaways are good enough. They can also tweet pertinent pieces of information that are being shared. (I specifically mentioned using Twitter because more and more trade shows and conferences are promoting their Twitter hashtags. But this same information could be posted on a show’s Facebook page and LinkedIn group.)
Pay particular attention to the Q&A at the end of each session. Write down every single question that comes up during the session because if one customer has a question it’s likely a lot more have the same one. Content that answers customers’ questions is the most valuable of all.
Share Through Podcasts
One of my favorite podcasters is Mike McAllen from Grass Shack Events & Media . He interviews people in the events industry, and his podcasts run anywhere from about 10 to 30 minutes long. The vibe that comes out of his podcast interviews is of two people chatting over a cup of coffee or, in some cases over a beer. They are not performing so much as you, the listener, is eavesdropping on a conversation. How does he do it? He asks great questions that hit on the interviewee’s passion and then lets her talk. He often interviews conference organizers about upcoming events or does an event wrap-up once it’s over.
Tell a Story Through Video
I love the potential of video content because it can be entertaining or informative, and it can be both at the same time. People love videos, and they are very sharable via social media. The key to creating a good social media video is an infectious and engaging personality that comes across on camera. Videos are conversational and should feature someone your audience can relate to. If you have a product you want to demonstrate, you should show, not tell.
A great demonstration of show not tell is the Gibbon Slacklines video created at the Outdoor Retailer show in 2010 (shown above). You will notice three distinct things in the video. One is that no one is speaking. It is simply a series of product demonstrations that are more descriptive than any words can be. Second, it features real people performing on the slacklines; some are really good at it and some are not so good. Some people fall off the slackline and that’s okay. That’s going to happen in real life and it’s pretty funny, so they don’t just feature the perfect runs. Third, it’s short, clocking in at less than three minutes long. This is exactly the kind of video that people love to share because it’s fun, entertaining and a bit unusual.
Create a Photo Log of the Event
Photos might not help position your company’s executive team as thought leaders, but they will add a bit of fun for everyone. People who are attending the show can check to see whether they are in any of your photos, and those not at the event can live vicariously through them. Creating a photo log of an event is as simple as posting pictures on a photo sharing site like Snapfish, Flickr, or Photobucket or Facebook. This can be a good tactic if you are doing a booth activity that involves photos because you’ll already have attendees actively sharing them and spreading the word.
Hopefully that gives you some ideas to get started collecting great content at your next trade show or conference. In future posts I’ll delve into these in greater detail outlining some best practices for each format.
Do you have other suggestions on where you can find great content during events? Please share them with everyone.