Eight things to keep in mind when attending trade shows

If you’re looking to attend a trade show either as a newbie or a skilful veteran, a startup founder, a journalist, or on behalf of your company, you can never be too prepared for what’s in store, from the food (or lack thereof) to the sheer amount of walking you’ll be doing. 

Fortunately, as seasoned experts in this arena, we’ve got you covered with a selection of things you need to keep in mind when attending trade shows, both big and small. You’re welcome. 

Comfortable shoes

Let’s be honest unless you’re attending Paris Fashion Week, most of these events aren’t fashion shows, so go and grab yourself a pair of comfortable shoes – and I don’t mean a new pair of Vans, grab something with some actual support and make sure they’re broken in before you leave.

Shows like CES, MWC, Gamescom, and London Toy Fair are deceptively big and can often span many locations and venues, as well as multiple days, so wear something that can withstand all of the walking you’ll be doing during the show. You and your feet can thank us later.

Don’t forget your credentials

Most events will either send out passes ahead of time or have you collect them at the event itself. It might sound like a no-brainer, but don’t forget your registration information, or once you have your badge or pass, don’t forget it when you eventually arrive at the show. 

It’s easy to become swept up in plans for the day ahead or spend a little too long at breakfast, as you decide to head straight to the venue only to arrive and realise you left your credentials in your hotel room.

Business cards and brochures

On the topic of not forgetting things, don’t forget the reason why you’re there – business! So don’t forget your business cards, as well as any leaflets, brochures, and fliers you plan to hand out while you’re there.

Alternatively, snap a copy of your business card on your phone, which you can then show and share with other attendees at the event. This saves you from carrying around a wad of cards and makes it pretty convenient if you find that you did forget to bring them. 

Take into account travel time to booked meetings

It might seem like a great idea to book meetings consecutively, but as the unexpected can happen – such as meetings overrunning, or you find yourself at one end of the convention centre and the next meeting is over the other side – you don’t want to miss out on potential opportunities by being late.

The best idea is to reserve 10-15 minutes between meetings in order to account for travelling from one meeting to the next. If you’re posted at a booth, travel time might not be an issue, but you can use this time to grab some water at least.  

Be security conscious

Common sense is key! Be sure to keep an eye on your wallet, purse, and any bag of tech you plan to carry around trade shows. Big events such as CES, with different venues hosting different showcases, can often have you walking from one place to another, making you a target for petty theft.

The same applies after an event, if you decide to walk back to your hotel or go to a nearby bar for drinks. The best advice would be to tuck your name badge away, or simply take off any credentials for the show when you’re not inside the convention centres.

Eat and drink something

Seems like a wacky piece of advice, right? Well, time usually flies at these events and you’ll be skipping lunch and even dinner in a blink of an eye. Take a second during the day to pause and grab a bite, or if you really can’t stay away from meeting people, arrange one of the meetings to be at a nearby cafe or restaurant.

On that note, if you do book working lunches, restaurants and cafes can become pretty busy during these events so ensure you plan enough time to get to the meeting early and hopefully grab a table. Just be mindful some brands book out restaurants and local cafes so check availability before arranging.  

Dress appropriately for the weather

Whether you’re in Las Vegas in January or Gamescom in August, dress appropriately for the weather. You might think being in the middle of the Nevada desert might be warm, but Las Vegas can get quite chilly, especially at night, so pack a sweater or a jacket so you’re not standing there with chattering teeth.

Check the weather forecast before you depart, so you have some idea of what to expect weather-wise too. If it’s going to pour down for the whole week, grab an umbrella so you don’t arrive at your meetings looking like a drowned rat.

Prepare for jet lag and just generally feeling crappy

Trade shows are usually where people from across the globe congregate and with that comes a ‘healthy’ dose of people who are used to being wide awake when it’s 3 am local time. So be prepared for jet lag. If you can, try to sleep on the way to the destination or at the very least pack an eye mask and earplugs/headphones to help with sleep.

On the topic of people congregating across the world, there’s a chance you could catch what we’re tastefully calling ‘convention cold’. Aside from wearing a mask to potentially mitigate the germs, packing some hand sanitizer is also helpful, but at the very least ensure you have some cold and flu medicine on hand for when you get home.

At the end of the day, most of this advice is common sense, but in the hustle and bustle of preparing and ultimately arriving at an event, it’s easy to forget something that might have a knock-on effect on your whole trip.

If you’re looking to be as prepared as you can be, we’re always on hand to help with trade shows both as boots on the ground or as a liaison between your company and journalists. So why not reach out to us today to see how we can support you and your company?

Heather Delaney
Heather Delaney
I run things