You don’t need an 80s style mullet to save the day like MacGyver at your next event – creating a trade show survival kit just requires thinking ahead and creative use of these everyday items. With so much planning and chaos during the final days leading up to an event, remembering to bring things that can keep your team going and your booth looking great can make or break your exhibition success.
Trade shows are an exercise in proving Murphy’s Law is more than a series of ironic calamities. Small mishaps can be very costly when they impact how well you achieve goals necessary to meet your expected ROI. It usually takes experience (or a borderline paranoid sense of preparation) to foresee many of the problems that can arise at a trade show.
Save money, time and frustration by avoiding last minute purchases with these survival kit tips:
Alcohol Wipes – Great for cleaning up graphics with a quick rub down. Dust accumulates quickly during busy shows and its best to clean things up before packing your display away.
Anti-indigestion – This depends heavily on the person, but fast food, finger food and alcohol can cause quite the upset stomach. Bring Alka-Seltzer for relief so your team performs their best and doesn’t miss any scheduled events.
Black Permanent Markers – Important enough to stand alone from general office supplies like pens. Useful for memos, labeling boxes or marking items that you don’t want getting mixed up or “growing legs”; every deterrent helps.
Cloth Gloves – No not so you can play CSI Detective! These are very useful for protecting your graphics from fingerprint smudges when you handle them during installation.
Comfortable Shoes – This goes for men and women. You want to look professional, but should be mindful that the pair of shoes you choose look nice and don’t kill your feet. Women may like the look of high heels, but be sure to bring a comfy backup pair or you’ll be suffering the consequences by day’s end.
Digital Camera – Take pictures of your booth, empty before the show to best show off your finished booth and again while it’s filled with eager attendees for future promotional uses.
Eyeglasses – Make sure you bring your glasses even if you wear contacts. The long hours might start to dry your eyes out. You also never know when your primary pair will get knocked off your face and stepped on.
Eye Drops – Long hours of keeping eye contact with visitors, watching demonstrations and loss of sleep will ensure these come in handy.
Extra Batteries – This is a must have for any display booth lighting and other devices. If forgotten you face huge markup when trying to purchase from the convention store.
Extension Cord – Your exhibit booth’s nearest electrical socket may be too far to reach. You don’t want to get to the show and find that the awesome new HD widescreen on your backwall is too short to reach and is now in danger of becoming an over sized paperweight.
Garbage Bags – Especially useful for that after show cleanup.
Hand Sanitizer – Shaking hands is a great way to make a good first impression, but it can also be a great way to catch a cold or other illness.
Lip Balm – Excessive talking can dry out any mouth. Get quick relief and keep focused on achieving your goals.
Medicine – Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Sudafed or other medications. Headaches and allergies are common at trade shows due to travel, sickness, long days, after hour cocktail mixers, lack of sleep, and the general stress that comes with the event.
Mobile Device Charger – Need we say more? In the modern day everyone is glued to their phones. At a trade show your mobile device helps you coordinate meetings, make social updates, and keep in touch with the team back in the office. Now days exhibits can include device charging stations, so make sure your bring the cables you will need to make use of this courtesy at the show and back at your hotel.
Mouthwash & Breath Mints – Do your booth visitors keep backing away politely? Travel and quick eats can sneak up on you; don’t be the one with “dragon breath”.
Notebooks – A regular necessity for trade shows. Your booth team should be taking notes on demonstrations, competitor ideas, leads, and general notes.
Office Supplies – Anything you commonly use in the office will be good to have on hand. Don’t get caught without a good supply of black and blue pens for taking notes. Keep business cards, stray marketing materials and information together with paperclips or staples. These cheap items will be highly marked up at the show, if available at all.
Power Strip – Access to electrical sockets can be very limited. Make sure you have a way to share power between all the devices you want to feature as part of your booth’s engagement. An iPad Kiosk is a great way to let visitors interact with your brand, or allowing you to input new leads in real time. Plan ahead to make sure charging these devices don’t compete with your brand’s focal points like stunning lightbox displays.
Push Pins – Useful to hold agendas in place, post messages or notes. Try to resist the urge to place them on your co-worker’s chair.
Paper Towels – In addition to quickly cleaning up spilled food and drink before it ruins equipment, your display will benefit from a quick wipe down as per best practices for maintaining your trade show display for years to come.
Safety Pins – Great for a makeshift fix for a table cloth. Also useful if anyone’s elegant dress has a strap break right before a live demonstration. These are moments you’ll feel indifferent toward until you find yourself in a crisis.
Sewing Kit – This may seem silly, but trade shows are crowded and there are many opportunities to snag clothing on a corner as you pass. Depending on how many extra business outfits you packed, and how far your team traveled for the show you could find yourself frantically reaching for needle and thread. Wardrobe malfunctions might make you memorable, but it’s doubtful they’ll be telling stories about your brand.
Snacks – Energy food that isn’t too messy or rough on the stomach (see Alka-Seltzer recommendation) is a must have. Your team can’t bring their A-game if all they’re thinking about is stealing someone’s unattended sandwich (nobody likes a booth bandit).
Throat Lozenges – Halls or Ricola can be life savers (no not the candy) after days of speaking in the dry temperature controlled convention space.
Tissues – Colds are an ever present reminder of the hazards of collecting hundreds of people from around the nation together in one big space. You never know when you’ll need these, so even if your team is fortunate enough not to get sick there is likely a sneezing someone you meet that will appreciate the gesture.
Tools – A portable multi tool kit is so important it might be insulting to include on this list. If your display isn’t one of the fantastic newer tool free solutions you will need a screw driver at the very least to assemble your components.
Tape – As any home owner knows, the utility of strong masking or duct tape cannot be under stated. You might need to do a quick repair on your display to pin down a wayward graphic or flowing table cloth. Don’t forget to tape down electrical cords so no one trips (memorable yes, but not the best way to make a first impression). After the show you’ll be happy to have this to seal up boxes for the trip home.
Velcro – Many trade show display styles like tension fabrics use Velcro to attach graphics to the frame. Bring extra for last minute signage that needs a firmer stick on the walls of your display.
Wrist Watch – Besides helping you look professional and punctual, a trade show agenda is filled with demonstrations and meetings; make sure you are on time to make a good first impression.
We hope you find this checklist handy to alleviate the last minute panic and give you piece of mind that your team is ready for any unforeseen mishap. For more tips, and expert advice on building a fool proof exhibit booth that looks great give us a call at (888) 484-3344.