5 Tips I Picked Up During My First Trade Show

Walking the trade show floor

Last week, I exhibited at my first trade show – the Healthcare Internet Conference (HCIC) in Orlando, FL. It was a cool opportunity for marketers at healthcare organizations to meet with vendors like Connectivity. Going in I was anxious, hoping my booth materials would arrive on time, and that I wouldn’t inadvertently embarrass myself while representing Connectivity.

Regardless of whether or not this is your first trade show or you 500th show, there are a few things you should always keep in mind when you’re exhibiting at a trade show or conference.

1. The Show Starts When Your Plane Touches Down

By that I mean, as soon you land or arrive wherever the show is, it’s game on. If it’s a big show, chances are someone on your flight is attending the show. When I arrived in Orlando, I was hungry and tired from the long plane ride. I decided I had to have a beer and a snack, however I didn’t give a thought to my attire.

As I settled in with my Stella, the woman to my left started up a conversation with me. I was wearing leggings as pants and pigging out on Spinach and Artichoke dip; she donned a professional dress and classily sipped on her white wine. She asked me if I was there for the conference. I said, “Yes,” as it sunk in that I was representing Connectivity and silently cursing that I hadn’t changed my attire.

Needless to say, I was embarrassed and wished I had taken a second to change before going to the lobby bar for my post-flight snack. At a conference you represent your organization the entire time you are there. You never know who you are going to meet when, so it’s best to act like you could meet your company’s next big opportunity anywhere at any time.

2. Something Will Go Wrong, But That’s Okay

You’ve done all this planning, you have completed your checklist and you’re ready to kick butt at the show. When you get there, your booth is late, you don’t have the right cords for your monitor, your carpet is navy blue instead of black, etc. Don’t worry! No show is ever going to be perfect.

At HCIC, the monitor we ordered was tiny and old, and we bought all this candy that no one ate. Also, the team setting up our booth took almost two hours. But almost no one coming up to your booth notices these tiny details because their assessing your presentation as a whole, not obsessing that you don’t have sound coming out of your video. Remember you are presenting to people, and people understand that mistakes happen! As long as your presentation as a whole is tight, you’ll have a great show.

3. Dying to Try Out those New Heels? Think Again

Most trade shows are “business professional.” If you’re a man, wearing comfortable and layered business clothing is easy. Dress pants, a button down shirt and blazer should already be an essential part of your wardrobe. If you’re a woman, be sure to wear flats, not heels. Nothing is worse than setting up a booth in 4 inch heels. Also, these exhibit halls tend to be freezing, so make sure you have blazers and cardigans to put on top of your dresses and tops. This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but it’s hard to enjoy the conference and focus on the task at hand when you’re cold and uncomfortable.

4. Beware of the Yummy Snacks

Trade shows tend to be filled with danishes, donuts, and myriad other unhealthy snacks. It’s easy to eat the unhealthy food because it’s convenient and you’re tired, but your body will not be happy about it. After exhibiting all day, you’ll most likely go to happy hour, and drinking beer on top of a day of unhealthy eating is a recipe for disaster. Keep a piece of fruit or granola bar at the booth and stay hydrated. Your energy levels will be much higher and it will make those 12-15 hour days go by much more smoothly.

5. Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Show

It is easy to get wrapped up in everything that can go wrong, which can make trade shows anxiety inducing. However, don’t forget to enjoy the show. Make sure you take a break from exhibiting to attend sessions (if they’re offered), as that’s where you will be immersed in the key themes of the show. That way, when you’re speaking to people at your booth, you’ll be able to have a more intelligent conversation about their top priorities and how that relates to your offerings.  

Trade shows can be mentally exhausting and physically draining. But if you take the right approach, they can be really positive for both you and your organization.

Hayley Atwater is a Marketing Specialist at Connectivity.


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