Maximize Your Trade Show Value

Is your credit union making the most of credit union industry event participation?

By Lauren Schuster

CUES’ CU Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month.

Trade shows are a costly component of a credit union’s public relations campaign, from both a time and a cost standpoint. From travel expenses to registration fees and valuable time spent away from the office, participating in a trade show requires a hefty investment.

There are dozens of credit union-specific trade shows each year – but is there really a benefit for credit unions to participate in these events? Absolutely.

With several key industry trade shows on the horizon, it is important for credit unions to fully understand the benefits of attending trade shows and how to capitalize on their advantages.

Benefits for Attendees

While it is difficult to quantify the value of trade shows, they provide significant benefits for credit union executives, including:

Education: Trade shows are a great opportunity to learn. From breakout sessions to networking, trade shows are the best place to learn about upcoming trends and innovations within the credit union industry. In no other place than a trade show will you have access to a wealth of industry peers who may have valuable insight on how to overcome common industry obstacles.

Visibility: In addition, positioning yourself among other leading institutions will heighten your credit union’s reputation as an industry innovator and thought-leader.

Partnerships: Leading technology and service providers are typically prominent at these events, which provide credit unions the opportunity to explore technologies that can potentially solve business challenges.

To Speak or Not to Speak

Speaking at events provides an excellent opportunity for increased exposure and visibility, and can prove valuable for numerous reasons.

Build Your Brand: Participating in industry sessions is an effective way to get in front of a large crowd and promote your personal or professional brand. For credit union representatives who do it well, speaking can be a career-advancer.

Build Your Confidence: There is no better way to improve your speaking skills than practice. Speaking in front of your peers can be intimidating, true, but the more you speak, the more confidence you build. This can also help improve your presentation skills within your institution (another surefire way to advance your career) or when speaking to media outlets on behalf of the credit union.

Share Your Best Practices: Last, trade shows are educational and offer speakers a platform to share their best practices. This provides an opportunity to position your credit union as an expert and thought-leader, and sharing these ideas can sometimes lead to industry-wide improvements or a call to action. It also provides a forum for open discussion and feedback – an ideal setting to collectively solve shared challenges.

Maximizing Trade Show Participation

To take full advantage of what a trade show has to offer, credit unions cannot simply attend; they must actively participate. To maximize trade show participation, credit union leaders should:

Step 1: Go With a Plan: Some shows have hundreds of vendors and last several days, so lack of planning can result in an overwhelming, ineffective experience. Decide ahead of time which booths you want to visit and which sessions or speaking engagements you want to attend.

Step 2: Document Results: Keep a record of who you talked to. For lengthier shows, names and conversations start to blend together. If you exchange business cards, make a quick note of your interaction with that individual and if and why it was significant.

Step 3: Develop Personal Relationships: Contacts you meet at trade shows can prove valuable. For instance, approaching an executive from another credit union following an educational session to learn more on how mobile banking improved member service could expose you to implementation best practices to improve your own future mobile banking rollout.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Experience: While it is difficult to measure trade shows, credit unions should evaluate their overall experience for future events. Ask yourself such questions as: Were the educational sessions relevant? Did I learn anything new that I can implement within my credit union? Would I consider attending this trade show again?

When leveraged properly, trade show participation can be a valuable investment to support the overall success of your institution. But to garner success, what you do before, during and after are critical. Following these best practices will certainly further enhance your experience.

Lauren Schuster is an account associate at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or its blog.