Tips of the Trade

Last week I attended my first trade show – Windpower 2009 – on behalf of some of my clients in the wind industry. Not only was it a great experience to see everything happening with renewable energy and wind power throughout our country, but simply attending the show was a valuable learning experience.

Before I left, I asked the question to my Twitter followers to provide some tips. Not only did they prove a valuable resource, but I’ve come up with some of my own tips. Here are 5 of the best tips, compiled from my coworkers, some tweeple and my experiences:

1.  Wear comfortable shoes

I was told by many Twitter followers (thanks @Hirsh @BenBrugler @ActivDefiance84) to wear comfy shoes at the show. But don’t just save the shoes for the standing at the show booth — wear comfy shoes at the airport, on the airplane, walking around the trade show floor, etc. You see the trend here? With so much going on at trade shows, pain is the last thing you want to worry about.

2. Bring lots of cash

I’m not the type of person that carries around a lot of cash – I’m often guilty of using my credit card to pay for a pack of gum! You cannot assume that every place you go will be able to take credit cards, and you never know when you’ll need cash to tip people (i.e. the people who carry your bags to your room). In our situation, we took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, only to find that the credit card machine was down, forcing us to pay cash. Thankfully, we had planned ahead – because that taxi ride was not cheap!

3. If you’re bringing press kits, flash drives, folders, etc., ship them ahead of time

I prefer to bring a small suitcase and carry my luggage on with me. My coworkers prefer to check their bags and carry few items on the plane. Whatever your packing system is, who wants to lug anything extra than they have to? We ended up packing two boxes of electronic press kits (flash drives), one box of firm collateral and a box of print press kits. Because we shipped them ahead of time, we didn’t have to worry about any bringing extra baggage.

4. Bring a sharp object to open those packages you shipped

While we had planned ahead and shipped those packages to our hotel, we didn’t plan a way to open them! Between the three of us, we had some nail files, nail clippers, tweezers, and other less-than-sharp objects. Next time: bring a knife or razor blade or package opener! (A warning: If you’re only carrying your luggage on, you probably do not want to bring a sharp object through security)

5.  Know what’s essential to have with you at all times – and have a simple way to carry it all around

I found myself dragging two bags and three large boxes into McCormick Center. I was able to store most of these items at the booth, but what about when I met an interested member of the media when I was away from the booth (eating lunch/in the bathroom/walking the floor) and was without my supplies? You need to devise a way to carry some essential items with you. My solution: I had a good-sized purse with me, which carried my essentials (hand lotion, antibacterial wipes, mints, chapstick, my phone, and some press kits). Thanks to some great advice from my boss, I used my trade show badge (draped around my neck at all times) as a way of carrying the rest of my essentials: business cards and tickets to events.

Tradeshow tip honorable mentions:

  • “Don’t let the client see you in your jammies” – Definitely true. Be sure to pack something “presentable” just in case there are late-night client needs!
  • “Arrive early – even earlier than they tell you to” (via @monkeygrrl) – She’s right –you never know when your taxi driver will go the wrong way, when you’ll get stuck in traffic, or when the time difference (if there is one) will throw you off!
  • @AR_Robbrown used Mahalo Answers to give me tons of great responses to my twitter inquiry. His responses are found here.
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