The full nitty-gritty list of what you need to bring
The Meadowlands Regional Chamber will once again present BizFest in May of this year (stay tuned for further details!) so we are publishing this comprehensive list of what to bring so you can best show off your business! We highly encourage you to reference this list as you prepare for BizFest and other tradeshows you may participate in.
When I worked as an employee, exhibiting at tradeshows was part of my job. But since I was usually a speaker and schmoozer, I did not really deal with the nitty-gritty like setting up the booth, unpacking boxes and hanging signs—we had a tradeshow division for that!
I started my own business in 2008, and the first tradeshow I attended as an entrepreneur was a big reality check. With no “tradeshow division” to help out other than my two inexperienced partners, I was unaware of so many little things that could have made a big difference in my tradeshow experience.
With that in mind, here is my nitty-gritty list of 35 things to bring when exhibiting at a tradeshow.
In addition to the basics —registration information confirming your booth location and other details, your booth signage, your marketing materials and any promotional items — you will want to contact the venue to find out what is available from them, including what they provide as standard and what is extra. For example, if you need a dolly to bring your boxes into the venue: Will they provide one? Will you have to rent one? Will you have to bring your own?
Items you can often rent include curtains, lights, TV stands, chairs and tablecloths. One thing you should never rent: any type of computer equipment. Bring your own tech tools—that way you know they will work properly.
Pack the items the venue is not providing, as well as:
- Duct tape, electrical tape, masking tape, Scotch tape. This will sound like overkill until you find yourself standing on a chair struggling to tack your banner up with used chewing gum.
- Refreshments: Bottled water, soda, nuts and other snacks that travel well will keep you and your team going. Pick foods you can eat unobtrusively and without dropping crumbs or getting sticky (nuts are ideal).
- Stapler and staple gun (or a heavy-duty stapler that serves both purposes). Make sure it is full of staples.
- Pens: Take five times as many as you think you’ll need. You won’t believe how many people will walk away with your pens.
- Sharpies or large markers: Can be used for signage in a pinch.
- Business cards: Again, take five times more than you think you’ll need. Also bring some blank ones (with just your company’s logo, website, address and main phone number, but no one’s name on them) in case anyone runs out. They can just write on the blanks.
- Post-It notes.
- Legal pads or blank note pads to write on.
- Clipboards: If you will have people fill out forms, handing out clipboards means you can take several people’s info at once, instead of everyone crowding up to the table.
- Containers for your giveaways: Having your brochures, business cards or flyers in attractive displays looks a lot better than scattering them on the table. Simple clear acrylic holders work great.
- Tablecloths: If bringing your own, be sure you know the measurements of the booth tables, and bring cloth, not plastic, tablecloths—plastic looks cheap.
- Twine or heavy-duty string: Invaluable in tying up banners or looping around cords.
- Cord keepers: Big plastic trash-bag ties work well to keep cables and cords out of the way.
- Rubber bands and paper clips.
- Boxes/containers: Something to put all the paper you’ll gather into, like lead sheets, survey forms or business cards.
- Small tool kit with screwdrivers, a box cutter to open all the boxes you shipped, and other basic tools you might need to set up.
- Laptops (always have a backup computer).
- Tablet computers (ditto).
- Chargers for the above.
- Phone charger.
- Phone backup battery.
- Cables to connect devices to each other.
- Extension cords (several).
- Surge protector/plug-in strip.
- Jump drives or other portable data storage.
- Small first aid kit with bandages, cough drops, ibuprofen/acetaminophen, cold medicine, nail file/clipper.
- Hand sanitizer and lotion: Stay healthy despite shaking all those hands. Keep your hands smooth despite all the hand sanitizer.
- Breath mints: Do not chew gum in the booth.
- Safety pins: Prevent wardrobe malfunctions.
- Cleaning supplies: Glass cleaner, cleaning spray, paper towels and trash bags help you keep the booth looking good.
- Floor pads: Pads (like those sold for kitchen use) can make it a lot more pleasant to be on your feet all day.
- Change of shoes: You will want comfortable shoes for setup and breakdown.
- Plastic container: A big plastic tub with a lid is a better place for the booth staff’s personal belongings, such as purses and jackets, than shoving them under the display table. (More theft than you might think takes place at tradeshows).
- Plastic zip-lock bags: You never know when you will need one.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She ha been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades.