I must admit, when I found out that I was going to The Security Event, at the NEC in Birmingham, I was much more excited than one would expect. That is because this was going to be the first in-person event I had attended since the start of the pandemic. So any excuse to get out of the office for a day, I was taking with open arms. Although I have worked at C8 for over two years, due to the pandemic I have only been to a handful of exhibitions and I have never hosted an in-person briefing, so I was looking at The Security Event to be a great learning opportunity.
So, if you are brand new to PR, or, like me, have worked in the industry for a year or so but COVID halted your opportunities for in-person briefings, here are my five top tips for successful hosting.
1. I’m all for saving the trees… but on this occasion print everything
I am all for a paperless future and I avoid printing documents if hard copies are not entirely necessary. But on this occasion hit print… on pretty much everything you may or may not need for the exhibition. Passes, briefing books, a sheet with all your journalists’ contact details, recent press releases, and whitepapers, you name it. It is likely you will bring your laptop with you, where all the information you need will be in one place, but the chance of scoring free, good quality WiFi is going to be low. With thousands of people trying to log into the same open WiFi, it is better to be prepared and have a hard copy, just in case you cannot access the documents you need. Similarly, printing facilities can be limited at these events, so get prepared the night before and print everything you need.
We always create a briefing book before an interview; this is a document which highlights information about the journalist, their publication and their interests for our clients to look over before they give a briefing. This way, we can guide conversation towards topics we know the journalist enjoys writing about.
But the truth is that before an exhibition all hands are on deck. It can be a little frantic and a million things are going through your client’s head. Even if you send a briefing book via email a day or so before hand, amongst the chaos of approved press releases, finding physical stands, not to mention another new hurdle, COVID passports, a briefing book may have been glanced at but not digested. On the day, when the stand seems quiet, give your client/spokesperson a printout of the briefing book. It is much more likely they will read and digest the information about who they are about to talk to, which will ultimately lead for a better interview.
2. Text a reminder to the journalist
If you have multiple briefings at the event, it is important that the day runs like clockwork. By sending a text an hour before the briefing is due to take place, it should stop journalists turning up early to try and do the briefing before your scheduled time. If your spokesperson is in a seminar, or they have not had enough time to prepare, you could find yourself making awkward excuses. Not to mention the possibility they are still in a briefing with someone else. It would seem rushed and unprofessional if you had to wrap another interview up to make way for someone else, so send a text and make the arranged time clear. You never know, it could avoid someone not turning up at all, with your text acting as the reminder they needed!
3. Get to know what you will be speaking about
I will admit, especially if you work in an agency like me, where our primary focus is on tech and cybersecurity, trying to wrap your head around things may be easier said than done. But it is important that you have a good primary source of information which the briefing will be based around, for example, a press release or some research. Read it, re-read it, and read it again, until a few things resonate. You do not need to know the fine details of every product – the journalist is here to speak with the spokesperson after all. But if you have a few questions which you know your client/ spokesperson will enjoy answering, note them down along with any other key points of information which you think shouldn’t be missed.
This way, if a journalist is a little on the quiet side you can prompt the spokesperson with questions so that they do not feel as if they are just pouring information onto a journalist. By making things a little more two-sided, the conversation will become more natural, and it could also remind the spokesperson to speak about something which they may not have initially remembered.
4. It may seem old fashioned, but a USB will be your best friend
As a 23-year-old, I feel like I may be in the last generation to use USB sticks. With the cloud so prominent, and smartphones so advanced, those only starting their PR careers now may have never owned a USB stick! A simple tip for hosting briefings is to load up a few USB sticks with all the necessary content a journalist may need as they write up their article following the interview. Logos, spokespeople head shots, the latest press release, research or whitepapers, and relevant infographics, all neatly packaged in a USB. It is a nice way to wrap up the briefing, thanking them for coming and giving them the USB with everything they may need to send them on their way.
5. Wear comfy shoes!
I don’t need to explain this one… all I can say is “substance over style” will be a winner on a day where you are on your feet for eight hours straight at an exhibition. Leave the heels at home, and bring out the old faithfuls – no blisters, no sore feet, no tottering for the last train home, just keep it simple.
For more information about how C8 Consulting can help to create compelling campaigns and kick-start conversations for your business, or to understand more about the social and digital activities that we are undertaking for our clients please feel free to contact us.