So, you’ve signed up for exhibiting space at a couple of trade shows that are relevant to your industry. Your exhibit has been thought out, well-designed, built to your specifications, and transported to the show venue. You have prepared your marketing materials and your staff is all checked in at the hotel and ready to go. Things are going smooth and the big week is just about to begin and then you realize you’ve left a very important question unanswered. What exactly do I bring to a trade show? What have I forgotten, and what will I do if something goes wrong? Don’t be that person. Be the one that is cucumber-cool on show day.
For the more experienced trade show veterans, this question may seem a bit silly. However, for those that are less experienced or are preparing for their first event, this is a crucial question. It is not uncommon for even experienced trade show managers to forget things. So, how do you avoid this? Make yourself a checklist and cross everything off as you load it into the car or pack it into your bag. Use your phone, or a paper and pen. The medium is not as important as the list itself.
Let’s get started with a list of items, broken down into important categories, that you should consider putting on your checklist to bring with you on the day of the trade show or event.
This list should include important items that will help you and your staff stay comfortable throughout the day. This may include an extra shirt (if it’s really warm and you end up getting sweaty or spill something on it and don’t want to have to head back to the hotel), breath mints, ibuprofen/aspirin, water bottles, band-aids, alcohol wipes or hand sanitizer.
It is hard to discount the benefits of offering promotional or giveaway items. Always make sure that you have what you need before the show so any raffles and other marketing strategies are covered.
Business cards, informational brochures, white papers or data sheets are printed and packed. I like to keep a series of QR codes for those items handy just in case I run out. This ensures you can still deliver that information out on the show floor.
Make sure that all of the promotional items are ready and on the show floor as the setup is winding down. Also, keep the digital files on a thumb drive so if you are running low on day one you can run to the copy center during the off hours and have some printed.
Exhibit Repair/Maintenance items
Things happen. It is never an ideal time for things to take a crazy turn, but eventually, you will have to deal with one or two surprises. Some of the more common issues are related to items being misplaced or needing to make modifications to your exhibit. It could be something completely unexpected, like discovering you’re missing a few power strips from your normal inventory of supplies.
Velcro, power strips, double-sided tape, rubber bands, and a multi-tool are all things you should bring to a trade show to guard against the unknown. If a forklift takes a bite out of the corner of your white laminate counter, that double-sided tape and paper can help hide things rather well. You could even fasten a strategically placed graphic over the blemish, making the issue disappear altogether.
Basic Supplies and Storage
Do not forget the basics like pens, pencils, paper pads, appointment book (and something to record leads in), tape, staples, folders, highlighters, scissors, rubber bands, etc. Also, make sure you have plastic boxes or containers to store and organize things. When considering what to bring to a trade show, keep the old saying in mind: “Organization is the key to success”. Keeping things separated will make everything easier to find in a hurry.
It is always prudent to bring a few items you may or may not need to the trade show. I have found that having three tablets with tablet holders can stand in for a variety of items, such as registering for a giveaway, browsing your company website, and those giant QR codes we mentioned earlier. Bring a few power banks as well so the tablets stay charged as needed. You may not use them at all, but in a pinch, these can be a show-saver!
The things you bring to a trade show could be vital
When things go perfect it is a testament to everyone involved. When things take a turn for the worse – be a hero and not a victim of circumstance. By taking the time to make a list of important items that you should bring to the trade show, you will be seen as a person of action. Someone who is prepared to deal with issues if they happen to arise.
Matt Smith has been a professional Graphic and User Experience designer for over 28 years who works closely with trade show and event companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Denver Colorado.