Trade shows are the best places to build face-to-face relationships with clients, find new business opportunities, and build team relationships. But if you’re a veteran of conventions, conferences, or trade shows, you know that you need to be at the top of your game to avoid distractions and make the most of these precious days onsite.
The most experienced exhibitors know that a large unique trade show exhibit, a double deck, or some other cool trade show booth design will bring visitors to your display all day long. Even in a well-designed smaller display, you will likely be so busy that you won’t have time to leave your booth.
“Preparedness is the key to success” is certainly true when it comes to trade shows. More than anything, you need to take care of yourself. You’re going to be on your feet all day, and you need to be comfortable, so you can focus on the business at hand.
A “go-bag” is generally considered a pre-packed bag you keep in case of an emergency. The version below is for business travelers; pack it once and you’re ready to go even if you’re called at the last minute. And once it’s ready to go, you save countless hours packing, unpacking, remembering, replacing, repacking…and inevitably forgetting something!
Here’s a checklist of everything you need to pack in your personal trade show go-bag.
If you’re exhibiting at a trade show, you’ll be surrounded by lots of other people. Sometimes being in a new place causes our stomachs to tighten or lead to indigestion. Stress, new foods, or meals eaten on the run can also trigger heartburn or indigestion. Alka-Seltzer, Tums, Prevacid, or other antacids are smart ways to avoid the discomfort and distraction of stomach acid.
Headaches can strike anytime, so it’s always good to be prepared. If you suffer from allergies, using antihistamines on the day of the trade show will help you feel more at ease. You don’t need to tote the whole bottle–a pill or two is good to have on hand–you never know when you might feel ill.
Preparing your booth, shaking hands, unpacking items…they all mean germs or dirt. But you knew that, and you know how to clean them without a proper sink. But did you know you can use sanitizer to clean your glasses, remove a sticky label, do a quick “dry” shampoo, or even as a substitute for deodorant? There are many uses for the now-ubiquitous hand sanitizer.
You’ll want to look good when you meet potential clients and customers. But if you’re accident-prone or sweat easily, it’s a good idea to bring a set of backup clothes (including underwear) to change into later in the day, or before a networking event or dinner. And before you choose something white–remember that it’s almost impossible to go an entire day without getting a stain on it!
Your breath can become unpleasant when your mouth gets dry (avoid this by drinking water throughout the day), you drink coffee or wine, or you eat “offensive” foods, like with garlic or onion. Respect your visitors’ personal spaces and don’t give them a reason to disengage–by making sure you have fresh breath–with breath spray, mints, or sugar-free gum (avoid chewing in front of visitors, though!).
Even better (though admittedly less convenient) are mini disposable toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss. Great to have in any travel go-bag, but especially helpful at conventions or trade shows to help you freshen up before returning to the show or meeting clients later. Brushing your teeth is surprisingly refreshing!
There is usually no way to avoid being on your feet for long periods of time during trade exhibitions. Are you in high heels, too? At the end of the day, treat yourself by soaking your tired feet in a small inflatable foot bath filled with hot water and Epsom salts, which you’ve brought in a small container–an empty pill container will do the job.
And make sure you pack a pair of attractive flats for the later days of the show!
A good pair of insoles can help you get through those long days at the trade show by absorbing shock and relieving pressure on your feet and legs. Pack a second pair–just that little bit of fresh cushioning will feel great.
People can encounter injuries while they’re preparing their booths or even just going to the trade show. There is nothing worse than just needing a Band-Aid® and not having one. Pack a small first aid kit , or even just a few Band-Aids®.
You will be shaking a lot of hands and using hand sanitizer frequently, which can dry out your skin and cause cracks. Make a good first impression, by using hand cream, which will keep your hands moisturized and with no rough patches. Make sure you rub it in well before you grab a hand!
In a pinch, a stain remover stick (or sanitizer) can quickly and effectively get rid of unsightly spots. Don’t have a lint remover? Try making a circle (sticky side out) of packing tape from that beautiful booth of yours.
Massage some peppermint foot cream into dry skin to relax and revitalize your tired feet at the end of the day. It’s a quick pick-me-up that lasts for hours, especially if you’re on to your second or third event of the night. And that massage will feel amazing.
A small sewing kit can be a lifesaver. You never know when rips can happen, a hem falls, or buttons fly out. All you need is a needle, about 6 feet of black and white thread, and a few safety pins. Doesn’t take up any space at all in even the smallest travel bag!
You’re probably going to be onsite for several hours, and you don’t know when you’ll be able to get away to grab something to eat (plus, lines at the cafe can be very long). Bring healthy snacks that can be eaten on the go, don’t smell (no hard-boiled eggs!), can be stuffed in a backpack or purse, and don’t require refrigeration. Peanut butter sandwiches, protein bars, apples, or trail mix are a few easy options that can keep your energy up. Avoid sugary snacks that can give you sugar drop and make you suddenly feel very tired.
After an exhausting day of networking, relax with a soothing bath and a loofah to scrub away grime and sweat, and re-energize you for another day.
Having a cup of tea can help calm your nerves, settle your stomach, and put you to sleep. And teabags can even reduce eye puffiness. Make yourself more comfortable during the event or back in your room by packing your favorite tea bags.
The more you exhibit, the better you know what you personally need, and what you don’t need. It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Packing the necessities will make you feel prepared and less stressed before you go. You can almost always pick up these items at the airport or the hotel gift shop, but why spend the time and money when you can have it all ready to go on a moment’s notice?
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