Even for those who like the idea of traveling for work on a generous per diem, the trade show lifestyle is not always as alluring as it seems. But when something goes wrong and you fail to plan, store, pack, unload, and set up, the trade show experience quickly goes from stressful triumph to fruitless disaster. As part of our trade show storage solutions, we offer this trade show packing guide:
Trade Show Packing Category Lists
- Exhibit Booth, Signage, and Assembly: An attractive trade show booth is the first thing on most trade show packing checklists. But it's not just the booth itself. It's also determining the best set up, and any additional signage, for each individual show. You probably want something a little finer for your contact list and sign-up sheets, but sharpies are a must for any last-minute signage messaging. Wire and string, along with duct tape and stapler, are not optional.
- Swag Bags and Promotional Materials: Brochures and other handouts are standard. And keep everything well-stocked. If you've really done a job with your swag, the items and the bag itself are likely to be highly visible. By the end of the show, you may have people visiting your booth because they heard about the goodies you're offering. Just make sure you're also getting a lot of leads for the investment.
- Video and Presentation Equipment: This could be a full-size computer screen with extension cords and/or smaller iPad units with chargers. Make sure your cords reach a long way. Remember, too, HDMI or other A/V cords necessary to actually play your video content. Know what the venue provides and what it doesn't. Do you need to bring a few extra chairs? If you've done your job promoting the presentation, it could be very well-attended. The venue may provide you with tables, but table coverings should probably be on your list as well.
- Office Supplies: It's not just pens and pencils; it's also a pencil cup. It's not just business cards; it's also business card holders and a container to collect business cards from others. Some combination of rubber bands, zip ties, tape, and paper clips are important for efficient packing and organization, without losing the information and leads that are the principal reason for being there in the first place. Some people list hand sanitizer, first-aid kits, and crisis-response tools separately, but if your office is anything like ours, this is already part of your essential office supplies. Either way, bring them along.
- Personal Items: Earplugs for noisy hotel rooms. An extra fan for hot, stuffy hotel rooms. Whatever else you need to ensure a good night's sleep. Even if you don't need an overnight bag, you still want gum or breath mints, snacks, water bottles/thermos, name tag, safety pins, and a change of clothes. Wear your heels and dress shoes if you want, but pack an extra pair of comfy shoes. The time will come when it's the only way to make it through the day and have any shot of still driving back the next day.
Backup Supply Bag
A lot of trade show exhibitors have a personal travel bag as well as a storage unit for their exhibit booth and other trade show supplies. Whether you leave from home or the office, visiting the storage facility is often the last stop on your way out of town. By having an extra bag of stuff at this facility, you're going to be able to troubleshoot a lot of inventory problems on the fly. Whether it's pens, sign-up sheets, brochures, or swag bags, redundancy is never a bad thing.
Here's why redundancy is so important: It's one thing to be prepared for your first trade show. If you're like we were, you're probably so nervous and over-prepared that you've triple-checked everything. But what about after the first few seasons, when the combination of excitement and apprehension has worn off, right up to the moment when you're at the storage facility to pick up your booth exhibit and break into a panic because you forgot to refill your travel bag with more brochures? Think of your backup supply bag as one of those things that sound like overkill until it becomes a life-saver.