Important things you should bring to any trade show or event.

Important things you should bring to any trade show or event. Banner

So, you have signed up to have space at a couple of trade shows that are relevant to your industry. Your exhibit has been well thought out, designed, built to your specifications, and finally transported to the show venue. You have prepared your marketing materials and your staff is checked in at the hotel and all ready to go. Things are going smooth and the big week is just about to begin and then you realize? What exactly should I bring? What have I forgotten, and what will I do if something goes wrong? Don’t be that person. Be the one that is cool as a cucumber on show day.

For the more experienced trade show veterans, the question may seem a bit silly, however, for those that are less experienced or this is the first event the question is a great one. It is not uncommon for even an experienced trade show manager to forget some 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 paper and pen. The medium is not as important as the list itself.

Let us get started with a list of items, broken up into important categories, which you should consider putting on your checklist to bring with you on the day of the trade show or event.

Personal items

This list includes 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 you don’t want to have to head back to the hotel), breath mints, ibuprofen/aspirin, water bottles, band-aids, alcohol wipes or hand sanitizer.

Promotional materials

It is hard to discount the draw of promotional items and 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 they are all given out. That ensures you can still deliver the information 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. Some of the more common issues are related to items that are misplaced or maybe your exhibit had some modifications and your normal inventory of power strips is a few short.

Velcro, power strips, double-sided tape, rubber bands, and a multi-tool are a good start to help 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 and even fasten a strategically placed graphic 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. Organization is the key to success the old saying goes. Keeping things separated makes everything easier to find in a hurry.


It is always prudent to bring a few items you may or may not need. I have found that having three tablets with tablet holders can be used for an abundance of items such as registering for a giveaway, browsing your company website, and those giant QR codes mentioned earlier. Bring a few power banks as well so they can stay charged as needed. You may not use them at all, but in a pinch, these can be a show-saver!


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 time to make a list of important items that can help when emergencies happen you will be seen as a person of action who was prepared to deal with issues if they so 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.

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