DSEI: The ultimate event for defence networking success

Sep 30, 2021 | B2B PR Blog, Trade Events

Back out, doing what we do best

It feels like a long time since we’ve been able to join clients, colleagues, journalists and friends face-to-face at a trade show. As PR professionals, so much of our role revolves around our interactions with people, engaging with our networks and building and maintaining our relationships. And it’s no different for our clients. We’ve all adapted to a world of online meetings, video conferencing and virtual engagement, but now we’re beginning to emerge into our post-COVID reality and we’re finally able to engage in person after all this time.  It was certainly a pleasure to be wearing out the shoe leather once again at this year’s Defence and Security Exhibition International (DSEI) in London.

Trade show crowds

DSEI 2021

As one of the most highly regarded and well attended defence and security exhibitions on the global calendar, DSEI connects governments, national armed forces, industry thought leaders, the defence and security supply chain and the worldwide defence media over four days, every other year. For many of our clients operating in the defence sector, it is arguably one of the most important events for driving that face-to-face engagement, and for creating and nurturing those brand building and commercial opportunities that will help deliver tangible growth within the defence and security markets.

This year however, we were all curious to see the impact the pandemic would have on what was one of the first global trade shows to come back as a major face-to-face event within the defence sector. Pre-pandemic in 2019, DSEI celebrated its 20th anniversary in style with a landmark event where over 1,700 exhibitors plied their trade, and more than 36,000 visitors were in attendance from around the world. It was and always has been ‘the event you can’t not be at’, but what about now?

Clearly, DSEI 2021 was not going to deliver to the levels it has done in previous years in terms of exhibitor presence and delegation engagement or on visitor footfall so, it became even more crucial that businesses made the most of their Marketing investment.  The question is: is it still worth it?

Exhibiting in a post-Covid world – value and output

Having walked the floor at DSEI 2021, the answer is the same as it has always been – an undeniable yes. Aside from the fact the power of face-to-face engagement cannot be overestimated, even with a reduced audience and footfall, the opportunities to engage were as present as they had ever been, if not enhanced by our newly awakened focus on the importance of engagement and communications in the lead up to the event.

The key was to invest time and energy in your wider brand building and outreach and to focus on your overall communications approach so that by the time you’re at the show, you’ve already laid the groundwork for the opportunities you want to develop and nurture at the event.

Cutting through the noise

One of the best ways to find your voice in this crowded space and enhance stand presence is through targeted media relations. We recently wrote about something similar in our blog on what defence journalists expect from credible industry commentators, and DSEI only reinforced what we already knew. You can have the most compelling story to tell but if you are unable to frame it in the right way, you’re going to struggle to strike a chord with one of your key target audiences – the media.

DSEI trade show air land sea defence security

DSEI 2021 – successful engagement

This year we were pleased to be supporting several clients with their media outreach and engagement in the lead up to DSEI including Blu Wireless, BMT and Sonardyne International.  Conversation topics ranged from launching brand new concepts and visions for future autonomous naval scenarios, to the next steps in technology for automated Mine Countermeasure operations (MCM), to what 5G will bring to military communications and how it can revolutionise C5ISR capabilities in the field. All cutting edge technologies and genuinely interesting stories, focused on the key differentiator.

We have always been privileged to work with some of the best journalists and experts in their field, all genuinely knowledgeable individuals and people who hold real insights into their areas of expertise. At an event like DSEI, journalists’ diaries are packed, and they are often running from stand to stand all week talking to leading industry experts about the latest trends, challenges, issues, and technologies impacting the global defence sector today across the air, land, sea, and space domains.

Interesting insights that create conversations

That’s a lot of noise and a lot of news when you consider the scale of the industry, and particularly in the context of the prime contractors and their strong hold on the share of voice in the media. So, what was important for us was to identify those genuinely interesting insights our clients could offer journalists that would start a conversation and get them wanting to know more. And we did.

It was a pleasure to work with the likes of Shephard Media, IHS Jane’s defence, Armada International, Military Technology and Global Defence Technology around DSEI and to create some thought-provoking interviews and articles around the great work our clients are doing in defence. We know from feedback that our clients really valued this engagement and that it helped to make the significant investment of their time and efforts around DSEI even more worthwhile.

We certainly look forward to being back out again in the exhibition circuit soon!

Trade shows – looking ahead

If you want to engage and exhibit at an upcoming trade show or find out more about how EC-PR can build an effective communications programme for your organisation, please get in touch.

For more ideas, read our featured Case Study about how EC-PR has helped Blu Wireless to increase brand awareness in the defence sector with striking results.

Or, if you’d just like to stay in touch – sign up to receive regular insights on how to make your PR work harder.

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