It’s a Saturday afternoon and if it were my regular weekend routine, I would have worked out with my trainer at the gym, paid some bills, gone shopping with my wife and would be making plans for dinner out.
But instead, I’m 39,000+ feet above the Rockies headed to Los Angeles for a major e-commerce trade show called Shop.org, sponsored by the National Retail Federation.
Our client, Klarna, is an online payments company that provides innovative ways for merchants to make the online checkout experience “frictionless” and “smoooth.” They’re a big deal globally – the financial community calls Klarna a unicorn due to its private valuation in excess of $2b.
At the show, Klarna will have a booth (where I’ll be living during show hours), is a sponsor and will be speaking on the show stage with one of its client partners. Our team will put out a press release for Klarna Tuesday morning and I’ll be handling media relations for Klarna’s North American CEO and the company’s featured client. Over the course of the next few days, there will be informal company meetings to attend, press materials to print and assemble, participation in an industry party on Monday night, long booth hours, visits to the press room, press interviews, industry analyst meetings, planning and more.
I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years and know what? It hasn't grown stale. It’s every bit as exciting as my first trade show, though perhaps a bit less scary.
I remember my first trade show, in Miami, when I was a younger pup working for a small PR department in an ad agency called Paul Kaufman Associates. I was the lead account executive for a company called Periphonics, a mainframe computer, voice response technology company (and small subsidiary of Gilbarco, which in turn was an Exxon portfolio company) that was pushing its way into the banking industry. It was Periphonics’s vision and plan to support a then new concept called banking by phone. They would do that by making it easy for consumers and business people to call their bank’s computer, and by pushing touch tone buttons, find out their balance and complete simple banking transactions.
Similar to what I did last night, I packed for my trip, clutched my press kits close to me to ensure they would be with me in Florida and headed off to the American Banking Association’s National Operations and Automation Conference. The "big time" for a kid growing up in Coney Island!
But concerns overtook me: Would I embarrass my agency in some way? Would the media show up for their scheduled interviews? Would my client take me seriously? Would I fit in with its booth staff?
The show and my efforts turned out well. We handled many trade media interviews and I politely nagged all Miami-area reporters including the local AP correspondent. And surprise, AP ran an item and it was picked up by the New York Times. I returned to New York standing a little bit taller – a conquering business war hero and a little bit more experienced in the ways of PR.
Between then and now, I’ve attended several hundred trade shows in banking and financial services, consumer electronics, AV, oil and gas, food products, dairy products, packaging, paper and plastics, insurance, photography, e-commerce, aviation, mining, advertising, public relations, ergonomics, electrical and electronics and more. Trade shows provide the opportunity for PR practitioners to learn more about their clients, their clients’ industries and emerging issues; meet the media in person; interact with customers and prospects; and for a while, immerse into another world.
It never grows stale! Wonder what I’ll learn this week…