The BOOZE BIN
By Laura Rossacher
It’s one of these things every PR professional has a different opinion on – how to organize a successful trade show. When I got hired I was told that my biggest responsibility would be to serve as the event manager of Vibrant Rioja’s annual Grand Tasting. At my old job, I regularly exhibited for a wine region in France; wearing the hat of the overall organizer instead of an exhibitor seemed enticing, even though I only had a vague idea of what to expect. Seven months of planning and two Grand Tasting events in New York and San Francisco later, I am proud of my learning curve. (I am also thankful that I kept my spirits and calm for as long as I did, not fully knowing what I was getting myself into.)
Looking back at my rookie days of planning a wine trade show, there are many components I credit for our Grand Tasting success. However, these 5 success factors stand out:
1. Pick an overall theme: Would you read a book without a title? Choosing an overall theme for your event gives exhibitors and attendees an idea of what to expect, and is a helpful thread during the event planning process. It guides you in many decision making situations, like which industry experts to invite as panel speakers, or what the look and feel of your event space should be.
2. Invest in relationships year-round: One key asset of the Vibrant Rioja team is outstanding relationships with importers, buyers, journalists and other professional wine drinkers. Dusting off your Rolodex once a year to fight for wines and half a day of people’s time won’t get you far. Nurturing your relationships year-round is key. From monthly industry newsletter, to daily contact with importers we treat every connection and new business card like a prized possession. The Austrian Trade Commission in the US is big on partnerships and personal relationships as well, leading to two sold-out Austria Uncorked! events earlier this year.
3. Sweat the small stuff: At our New York Grand Tasting, I worried for an hour about spit buckets that seemed slightly too small. A colleague commented: “People like us are good at what they do BECAUSE they have the capability to obsess about small stuff.” Pay attention to details, especially the ones that keep your exhibitors happy, from letting them know if/where refreshments are served to providing them with a clean exhibitor space and empty trash can. Attendees appreciate extra pens and pocket-sized tasting booklets to avoid the circus juggling act of tasting and writing.
(Spit bucket Photo Credit:http://www.waitersfriend.com/images/products/product111.jpg)
4. Take advantage of social media: The days where your event location dictates the number of people you reach are over. Invest in livestreaming your event through sites like LiveStream.com or Ustream.tv. Hosted by W.R. Tish, founder of Wine For All, Vibrant Rioja’s livestream received over 2,500 viewers from 10 countries.
TISH INTERVIEW WITH PAUL GRIECO :
If you host a seminar, send tasting samples to bloggers and Tweeters who can’t attend in person to encourage taste and buzz about your event remotely. We included our official event hashtag, #RiojaBuzz in all event materials to encourage people to share their experience. Here are more tips on how to use social media to enhance your trade show, and some great social media usage case studies, such as the Italian Wine Week and their event hashtag, Virtual Vino.
5. Don’t neglect the consumer: Yes, you are organizing a trade show, but it would be foolish to neglect the consumer who, in the end, keeps your business growing. Adding a consumer portion to your show is a small step compared to the overall organizational effort.
For the first time this year, Vibrant Rioja opened its doors to consumers with Snooth, who offered complimentary access to our Grand Tasting exclusively to their members. Alternatively, you can tie your event to a restaurant and wine store promotion, offering “wine by the glass” specials at the bar or discounted deals.