Exhibiting at an out-of-town event can seriously boost your brand visibility, not to mention the insights gained from scoping out your competition on the show floor. But whether it’s a small one-day trade show or a week-long business conference, it’s easy to either over- or underestimate how much stuff to bring. This handy exhibitor packing list should help.
First things first. For each day of the event, make a list of the absolute minimum number of items you’ll need, such as:
- Daytime booth clothing — Including branded t-shirts or any required team uniforms for booth staffers.
- Casual nighttime clothing — For attending dinners with colleagues or prospective clients.
- Two pairs of shoes — You’ll need a comfortable pair of shoes for long hours standing on your feet during the day, as well as an alternative pair to give your feet a break in the evening.
- Mobile and handheld devices — Including your laptop, credit card readers, smartphone, etc.
- Power cords and chargers
- Business cards
You will of course also need booth supplies, such as brochures, pens, order forms, swag and booth giveaways, etc., but with so many airlines charging for checked bags these days, the smarter option is to have those items shipped directly to the hotel.
Contingency or Emergency Items
These are small items that you don’t foresee needing right now, but if the occasion arises, you’ll be glad you packed them. For example:
- An extra belt — In case your primary one breaks. (It happens.)
- An extra power strip — No kidding! Hotels and convention centers often run out of these.
- An upscale dress or jacket — In case an impromptu client meeting or last-minute sales presentation opportunity comes up.
- Backup paper versions of presentation materials — If you’re slated to give a sales presentation and technical A/V equipment problems arise, a paper printout can be a lifesaver.
- A personal emergency kit — Think bandages and antibiotic ointment, over-the-counter digestive tablets, or even a small sewing kit.
Dress to Impress
What you wear and how you dress will often depend on where you are and what kind of business you’re in. Before you just throw a bunch of pants and shirts into your suitcase, consider the following:
- Show location — A show in the Midwest probably calls for different attire than one on the East Coast, or a European city, for that matter.
- Event type and industry – Typically, exhibitors at high-tech shows wear more casual attire than exhibitors at a financial event, for example.
- Your role in the company – General booth staffers often wear the same branded clothing for easy recognition by attendees, but if you’re a VP or director, you might want to dress more formally to indicate your status as an executive.
- Special events – Check with the event organizer to see if there’s a dress code for any after-hours events or parties. Sometimes an upscale dress or a tuxedo are in order.
Give Special Attention to Your Shoes
Shoes are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s essential that your feet are comfortable so you can stand on them for eight-plus hours without getting blisters. On the other hand, nothing screams failure like scuffed, wrinkled or shoddy-looking shoes.
As an exhibitor and booth staffer, your shoes should be clean, shiny, stylish, well padded, and actually about a half-size larger than you normally wear (because your feet will swell during the day). If the heels or soles are wearing down, get them repaired. And above all, if you’re concerned your shoes might not look nice enough, you’re probably right. Invest in a new pair.
Space-Saving Tip: Pack Interchangeable Clothing
To minimize the number of pieces you have to pack, choose wardrobe items that complement each other and can do double duty. Adding a suit jacket or upscale scarf over top of your daytime dress can make the whole outfit more formal for evening wear. Swapping out your shoes and shirt but wearing the same pants can give you a freshened-up look for cocktail receptions.
The Most Important Item to Bring? Your Best Self
How you’re received by show attendees will depend not only on your attire, but also on your smile, your energy level, your handshake, your knowledge of the product or services offered, and your overall willingness to serve. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before the event so you can bring your “A” game to the show floor. Sales prospects may lose your marketing collateral after the show or forget what your booth looked like, but if you impress them with charisma and a bright, positive attitude, they will be sure to remember YOU.