How to Navigate a Trade Show as a Publicist

Trade shows, fashion shows and media presentations were once the only way to preview a brand’s upcoming collection. And while these debuts have become increasingly consumer-friendly, the industry trade show continues to bring together multiple brands under one roof, all eager to connect with buyers and investors interested in learning more and hopefully, placing an order.

Traditionally, attending a trade show as a PR professional was a frustrating experience; with so much focus on sales, conversations about potential representation and media strategy often felt forced and unwelcome. However, trade shows these days have evolved alongside the digital media revolution, and now with social media integration, special industry events, expert panels and influencer/blogger attendees, it’s opened up the tradeshow floor to be more than just about sales reps and buyers discovering brands.

That said, the most important thing to recognize is that the priority of show for exhibitors is sales, and to be respectful of that primary goal. There are still opportunities to network, grow and maintain relationships and gather information, in fact, fashion and apparel trade shows can be most insightful for market research, trend-seeking and the like.

Though trade shows aren’t traditionally PR friendly, there is potentially lots of upside in visiting to gather industry information, maintain relationships and make new ones all in one place.

Before you step onto the trade show floor, make sure to do the following:

1. Pre-register

Coordinate with your client to make sure that all parties attending the show are registered and approved in the show’s system. Your attention to detail as a publicist is crucial for your client whom you’re visiting or walking with – do not assume that they’ve taken this step for you.

2. Schedule your time most efficiently

Most exhibitors are busy with appointments with buyers as well as foot traffic during the show. As a PR representative be sure to reach out to a brand you plan on visiting either formally via email to give them some further context and gage interest or on social media for a more casual “pop-by to say hi” encounter if they’re busy with sales meetings. Many brands are still looking to network as well in addition to getting feedback and buzz built around their booth.

3. Map out the venue

Be prepared for your visit and pack your go-to marketing materials!

In addition to exhibitor booths and special sections make sure to locate important things like bathrooms, food vendors, bag check, shuttle/cab areas so that you can maximize your visit and be as helpful as possible to clients. Check out the schedule for special events and show enhancements in order to gain the most out of your visit.  Trade shows now have interactive booths, “shop the floor” activations and industry panels that you can participate in as well.

Having walked several fashion trade shows over the last decade I would have to say that above all – eat well, wear comfortable shoes (and wear your Fitbit to track your MANY steps!) and keep your eyes and ears open. Stay on track and on schedule but also try to take in as much as possible from the experience.

About This Author

Liz got her start in the corporate public relations department at Coach, where she oversaw regional press and events. In time, Liz segued into the fast-paced agency world, moving to a boutique firm specializing in fashion accessories. In early 2009, with her passion, talent and eye for irresistibly chic and stylish designs, Liz set out on her own. She founded her fashion PR firm, Mariposa Communications, to provide unparalleled services to a selection of designers, whether established or on the rise