Tradeshows are like professional sports – there’s a season and an off-season. In every sport from hockey and football to baseball and soccer, the best athletes don’t spend their off-season relaxing and losing focus. Instead they get themselves physically and mentally prepared for the next season. We in the industry need to follow this example and spend our off-season, not taking a break and forgetting about shows for a few months, but prepping for the upcoming tradeshow season. And let’s face it – it will be here before we know it.

Companies want editors and other attendees to be aware of and learn about their newest products. After all, that’s why so much time is put into tradeshow preparation. More than just raising the initial awareness, it’s crucial for editors and attendees to be able to take product information home with them to be sure it’s not forgotten after the show. A great way to do this is with a press kit.

Once a simple packet of information, the press kit has really evolved in recent years. AEM and PICA recently conducted a survey of industry editors and the results were fairly strong towards one type of kit. But before I get into the results, let’s take a look at the drastic changes press kits have seen in the past few years.

At my first tradeshow, plenty of companies had, what I would call, “traditional” kits. These included printed releases and perhaps a disc with a few images, housed in a simple 8 ½ x 11-size folder. Though each kit made an effort to look professional and unique, all were essentially the same.

Recently, the trend shifted to mostly electronic press kits. All contents began showing up as files on a CD and packaging was reduced to a simple, yet nicely designed CD holder. Some got a bit more detailed and also included a small information booklet. These contained all the same vital information as the larger, bulkier kits, but in a smaller, more convenient package.

But ever evolving technology and our need to carry less “stuff” with us led to another change. The latest press kit takes compact size another step further. Just as companies do it with cell phones, MP3 players and computers, we’ve found a way to make press kits smaller. Enter the jump drive. Press kits housed entirely on jump drives seems to be the way the trend is going and I would bet we’ll be seeing a lot more of these at future tradeshows.

However your company chooses to design and package press kits, let’s not forget that it’s what’s inside that counts (yes, mom’s advice can be applied to the business world). Don’t get too caught up in fancy designs and packaging, only to write poor releases and provide recipients with mediocre information. After all, they’re taking the time to look at your company or client’s information; the least you could do is give them something interesting and intelligible to read. By the way, the AEM and PICA survey showed an overwhelmingly large percent of editors prefer the jump drive format.

Have you begun thinking about press kit designs for upcoming tradeshows? Do you agree with newer, electronic options, or do you still feel the traditional design is best? And if you’re on the receiving end of the kit, what style do you prefer?

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