Things I Wish Somebody Would Have Told Me About Exhibiting
#10. Packing for the Road Warrior
In earlier blogs, I’ve talked about pampering your exhibit staff and making sure they’re as comfortable as possible when they’re on the road and working at a trade show. But what about you, the exhibit manager — and the ultimate road warrior? What do you do for yourself?
There are 5 things I do for myself to make my life on the road as a Booth Mom® easier:
1) Buy comfortable shoes.
I buy the most expensive, comfortable shoes I can afford. If I really like the look, I buy both my usual size and a pair ½ size larger. I wear the usual size in the morning and switch after lunch to the larger size with an extra foam or gel insole. As your feet swell, remove the insole if necessary. Remember, you’re working at a trade show, not a fashion show!
I’ve also learned that if I want to wear heels with slacks that boots give great ankle support and my legs aren’t as tired as if I were wearing shoes with the same height heel.
2) Keep an on-the-road travel kit packed and ready.
My personal kit includes small bottles of toiletries that fit in a compartmentalized travel bag that hangs on the back of my bathroom door in my hotel. (I purchased it at The Container Store.) I also pack a small night light for my hotel bathroom and flashlight for next to my bed.
My portable office set-up in my hotel room includes my mini-printer and Neat scanner and paper, retractable cell phone charger cord, 12′ CAT5/6 Ethernet cable, 8′ extension cord, cube tap, laptop power cables, extra charged laptop battery and a little zip-close bag of essential office supplies (Post-It Notes, pens, mechanical pencils, highlighters, binder clips, paper clips, tape and hand-held paper punch.)
My carry-on suitcases also hold some individually-packed snacks to tide me over if I don’t get a real meal, extra contact lenses, a back-up pair of glasses, my mini-umbrella, plus one-day’s change of clothes in case my suitcases happen to miss my plane or get lost. Two items never leave my possession, regardless of the size plane I’m on: my laptop and my critical show paperwork.
To facilitate packing and not missing anything critical, I have an “everything I’ve ever taken to shows” list on my PC where I highlight what I want to pack for a show, then cross it off as I pack it in my suitcases. (And, if you ever have to put together a claim for lost luggage, this comes in really handy!)
3) Color coordinate.
Traveling up to 80% of some months, I’ve come to love the non-color, black. It goes with everything and doesn’t show dirt. I even have an assortment of clothing items that are either reversible to hide dirt and some that are guaranteed to dry overnight if you need to rinse out a few things in your hotel room. Run a Google search for “travel clothes” and you’ll find some of my favorite shopping spots for these items like TravelSmith, Magellan’s, Eddie Bauer and Chico’s Travelers.
4) On show site.
I also pack my lanyard that I wear on show site with a retractable box cutter, small black Sharpie felt-tip marker, pen, and exhibit keys on a retractable key ring so I don’t strangle myself every time I need to open a door.
Behind my exhibitor badge you’ll generally find some business-card-sized Post-It Notes, a few of my business cards, and a $20 bill for emergencies if I need cash on the show floor to buy someone a coffee, soda or sandwich. I also have my daily “things-to-do” lists tucked here to check off time-sensitive things that have to be completed each day.
5) Ship your show clothes with your exhibit properties.
I’ve mentioned this in my sessions at Exhibitor Show for years and been laughed at, but shipping my suitcase of “show clothes” with my exhibit or equipment going to a show lets me schlep one less bag on the plane and allows me to pack my show binder, dozens of homemade cookies and those pesky last-minute hand-carried items to a show without paying excess baggage fees.
And your dirty clothes get to ride home the same way if your exhibit and/or equipment reside close to home. If you get as behind as I do when you’re on the road, you won’t have time to do laundry when you get home anyhow!