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Life of a Trade Show Journalist



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Spring has sprung at Hotwire, as we’ve been blooming with new podcast episodes from our recently reignited HotTakes podcast series. I was honored to kick off this new round of content by interviewing Mike Andronico from CNN Underscored, where we chatted about the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences of a trade show journalist. 

Mike joined CNN Underscored in November 2020 as a senior tech writer, focusing on helping people find the best gadgets for their needs via original columns and tested reviews with a wide range of beats that include audio, computing, and gaming. You may have watched or listened in to our original interview, but if not – we have you covered! I’ve pulled out some of Mike’s key insights from our conversation to help you better understand the life of a trade show journalist from his unique POV.  

I present to you the TL:DL (too long, didn’t listen) from our chat, below. Of course, if you’re interested in watching the full podcast, check it out on our YouTube page or find the audio-version only here.  

What is it like working at a trade show, specifically with PR people in that sense? 

“Well, I meet with several PR teams and PR people with the media, you know, I like meetings that are kind of loose and informal. I’ve done meetings over breakfast, sometimes grabbing a drink at the bar, which, sometimes there’s a time and place for that. But I always appreciate a casual setting where there’s more freedom that I’m given to kind of just check out the products with minimal hand-holding. Obviously, you know, they are always going be there for questions and walkthroughs and what not. But yeah, I appreciate those types of laid-back meetings where I’m kind of free to explore the products at my own pace. And, I can ask questions if I want, but it’s very relaxed and I have the autonomy to kind of do my job how I want to do it.” 

PR professionals want to know… does it make sense to email you while you’re on the show floor at a trade show? 

“The short answer is not really. I mean, I’m still checking my email as much as I can during any trade show, but that’s definitely a much less effective way to reach out. I feel like, because I’m running around so much, a text message or anything of that nature is probably what I prefer. Whether it’s a text or a call, I appreciate more direct communication if there’s any kind of last-minute emergency, change of plans or anything like that.” 

What has been the weirdest experience you’ve ever had on the show floor as you’ve been walking through?  

“Now, I could not even count. Like I said, I’ve been doing this full time since 2013. As far as the funny stuff, you know, people are generally pretty cool and respectful. One example is definitely PR-related, even though it’s not always PR people making this mistake. I worked at Tom’s Guide for many years and a lot of people got confused with Tom’s Guide and Tom’s Hardware. I would have PR people and just regular show goers see my badge and be like, ‘Oh, Tom’s Hardware, I love you guys. I love your PC building guides that you do,’ which is very much a Tom’s Hardware thing. So, I dealt with a lot of that and not just in the PR world, but just in general.” 

What can PR professionals do to make your trade show experience easy? The one thing I found really valuable is to share embargoed news before the show even starts. Is that helpful for you? 

“That’s super beneficial. With Tom’s Guide, we were all ready weeks before we would even fly out to the show. We had spreadsheets of all the products we knew were coming, what we wanted to cover, and what we might want to skip. So, yeah, having the embargo news early is really such a godsend in terms of figuring out how you actually want to tackle the show.” 

What are some things you like to cover these days and what should people keep in mind for you if they’re attending a tech trade show or something like that?  

“Well, being at Underscored now, it is definitely a different type of outlet than Tom’s Guide. Basically, our mission is to focus on products people can actually buy and provide buying advice around that. So, we’re not necessarily going to cover just straight up news or are going to write about a new feature coming out. We don’t deal in rumors or we don’t deal in, you know, hey, this thing just got announced, but there’s no press release date. We are kind of hyper-focused on the consumer. So, it’s really all about the trade shows. That means focusing on being hands-on with products that are coming to market soon. Basically, that’s the simplest way I could put it is the more consumer focused it is, the better for us.”

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