Like so many service providers, Jaffe PR will have a booth at this year’s Legal Marketing Association conference in Orlando, Fla. For us, it allows our staff the opportunity to be on the conference floor, meeting potential clients, saying hello to existing clients and making ourselves known for what we do best — PR and marketing for law firms and legal organizations. A lot of thought and time goes into the booth sponsorship process, from setting the budget, booth size, display design, flow within the booth and the much-expected giveaway.

But trade shows and other similar marketing events are not just for vendors; they also can be an effective way for a law firm to showcase its services.

Is Event Marketing Right for Your Law Firm?

So is event marketing right for your law firm? Only if you choose the right show.

Attending a show that has no prospects can be a waste of time and resources for your firm and the attorneys who man the booth. That’s why you must do your research before signing up to be a sponsor. Ask the event organizer about the type and number of people or businesses that attend, what levels of sponsorship they are offering and what perks/benefits are part of that cost.

Once you know the event details, choose the shows that will get you in front of your law firm’s core prospective clients. It might be an event for a chamber of commerce; civic group; a practice-specific conference, i.e., franchising, bankruptcy, IP, etc.; or something more client-specific, such as a convention for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Remember too that you can often negotiate a better rate, additional features or extra conference tickets upfront. This is particularly true if you sign up early. Not only does this often give you a better choice of booth placement, but, if it is a popular event, you will have more negotiating power.

What Do You Need for the Event?

To get the most return on your trade show investment, preparation is key. Here are some of the top considerations you should have in mind as you plan your conference appearance.

1. Your visual presentation

What you need in terms of visuals depends on the type of space the event is offering. Local events might only offer a room full of tables, while larger conferences might offer 10-by-10 booth spaces. You do not want to take a small tabletop unit to a large booth display, nor do you want to take a large floor unit to a table-only event.

If you attend multiple events per year, then purchasing your display becomes more cost-effective. There are a wealth of options in the display industry, so it is best to work with your agency or design firm to help guide you to develop a strategy for your firm to make sure your display meets your law firm branding guidelines.

2. Handouts, brochures and giveaways

Attendees have a tendency to pick up anything and everything. Stay away from the large glossy brochures. Instead, have quality materials ready for your key practice areas that are targeted to your audience, and can be mixed and matched on the fly. By having a simple, clear handout with a variety of supporting materials set aside, you can spend more time interacting with potential clients.

Many sponsors set out a takeaway item (often called SWAG, or Stuff We All Get, in the trade show industry), and it can go quickly. So make sure you try to get an idea from the event sponsor of the anticipated number of attendees. But more importantly, decide if having a takeaway is necessary at all. If your answer is yes, then having a unique item helps separate you from other attendees. While the choices are many, the item should be cost-effective and, most important of all, branded with your law firm's name/logo.

3. Prepare your staff/attorneys

The best people to represent your law firm are the attorneys and your experienced marketing/business development staff. To help these individuals prepare, provide a brief memo in advance that outlines what the show is about, the expected attendees and what your law firm is looking to accomplish.

Remind the booth staff to engage all booth traffic. This means not chatting on a cell phone or with the other staff in your booth.

Also discuss a dress code. (I would suggest professional business attire.) Ensure that the people manning the booth are outgoing and comfortable with engaging people. This is a key factor since you are there to develop business contacts.

What Are Other Trade Show Considerations?

While you are at the trade show, visit some of the other booths yourself to see what other law firms are doing and displaying, but only leave your booth if there is someone there to hold down the fort.

Also, if the event runs from 9 to 5, make sure you are there in advance with enough time to set up your space. And be ready for a rush when the doors open.

Finally, be sure to check your state’s ethics rules in regard to trade show participation!

Trade shows can be one of the biggest wastes of money. They can also be some of the most lucrative investments. Be sure to take a strategic approach as to whether this is the type of business development endeavor that will work for your law firm.

For more information on attending trade shows or best booth practices, contact asingles@jaffepr.com or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.