You’ve just arrived at the exhibit hall to inspect your booth and complete setup. The booth is there waiting for you, all promotional items ready to be put out, all show materials seem to have arrived, everything looks to be in order… What could go wrong? It looks like you have everything you need, but do you? Is that a tear in the front left booth panel? Noooooooooooo!
It happens at every trade show. It seems that there is always that one thing missing, that one little thing, that if you had it, it could have saved your ass. Could have helped you fix that booth panel. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered for your next show. All you need to be prepared for those little unplanned surprises is a Trade Show Survival Kit. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a kit of items to help you survive a trade show. We’ll help you create your very own kit and we’ll even give you some ideas to help get you started.
Building Your Trade Show Survival Kit
Let’s get started by building a list of items we think we should include in our trade show survival kit. Having a set list of items to include in your kit is essential for a smooth sailing trade show. Trade shows are long. Typically running 3 days on average and the exhibit halls are often open 5-8 hours each day and can feel even longer if you don’t have the right supplies.
Before we get into the details of the kit, let’s also keep in mind that no two trade shows are alike. Some are small, and some feel massive in size, so feel free to add what you need to this list if your specific show circumstances call for it. Make this kit yours. It’s your survival at stake.
How much should you spend on your survival kit? Not sure you can fit it in your show budget? Don’t worry, your survival kit also shouldn’t be too expensive. Plan to spend about $100 to include all the things that you might need to save your ass. Your kit will also end up saving you money, as many items will be reusable and far cheaper than having to pick them up onsite at an expensive hotel convenience shop. Remember, only having your trade show display might not be enough to have a successful trade show.
Now let’s dive into the list. We’ll start off with the absolute essentials, then add in some optional and personal items to help you get a good start in building your very own trade show survival kit. The following is the ultimate list of things we believe you’ll need to make your next trade show as smooth as butter.
The essential items, these are the must-haves of your survival kit and will save your ass. You will seriously need all of these items at some point. You will also find yourself adding even more to your essential list after each show. Here’s what we have included in our essentials list:
- Duct Tape – We think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Duct tape can be used in just about any situation you can think of and is at the top of our ass-saving essential items. Your custom exhibit needs custom fixing potential, and duct tape can do that. We suggest having a multi-roll pack on hand for quick kit refills. We’ll cover kit refills at the end.
- Power Supplies – Always be ready to keep your devices charged. Make sure you bring these three critical electronic components:
- Multi Charger – We suggest packing a few of these. It’s likely you’re going to have multiple types of charging cable needs for your necessary trade show electronics such as laptops, phones, tablets, etc… A few all-in-one multi chargers on hand means you never have to worry about running out of juice. Just be sure you have an adapter that can handle all of your devices. If you bring nothing else in your survival kit, be sure to bring this.
- Power Bank – Now that you have your multi chargers, you’ll need a power bank in case there are not enough outlets available to you near your booth. Plan to be able to share with your team, power banks are a popular item to have at trade show booths.
- Power strip – Never trust that there will be one or two provided. They rarely are.
- A Real First Aid Kit – Have you ever gotten a papercut at your booth that went out of control? The hunt to find first-aid options on an expo floor is like finding a needle in a haystack. This is why you need a real first aid kit, so you do not bleed all over the expo floor. Besides bandages, make sure your real first aid kit includes other items like Alka-Seltzer®, allergy and headache pills, aspirin, antiseptic wipes, all standard first aid kit items.
- Anti-Blister Products – Friction Block Sticks, Anti-Blister Sticks, Blister Bandages, all of these you need. We put this up here in essentials because someone always suffers badly from blisters. Trade show days are long on the exhibit floor, lots of time spent on your feet, keep them protected and comfortable.
- Sewing Kit – Booth rips, they happen but don’t let them get you down? Fix up small tears on the spot with your essential sewing kit. Great for personal use too, fix up any tear at any time.
- Utility Knife (Swiss Army Knife) – You’ll find lots of purposes for this handy gadget, you’ll wonder how you managed for so long without one. Be sure to get the one with the little scissors.
- Cleaning Supplies – Surprise stains can ruin your show, you need supplies like stain removers, Magic Erasers®, paper towels, glass cleaner, and lint-free cloths to keep your booth looking sparkling clean.
- Business Cards – Be sure to have a generous supply of your business cards on hand. You never know when you’re going to run out. Also having a handy business card carrier might come in good use when you’re handing out your card.
- Flash Drive or Thumb Drive of Trade Show Marketing Materials – Bring a thumb drive with FedEx-Kinkos® print ready versions of all of your marketing trade show printed materials because you will always run out of something. Be ready to get more printed on the fly at your friendly FedEx-Kinkos locations.
- Office Supplies – A small box of office supplies is a must! We promise you that you will need most of these items at some point during the trade show. Bring whatever supplies you think you’ll need for your shows:
- Binder Clips, Paper Clips
- Notepads, Sticky Notes, and Note Cards
- Packing Tape
- Pens, Pencils, and Markers
- Plastic Ziploc® Bags in miscellaneous sizes
- Rubber Bands
- Stapler and Staples
- And so much more… as you can never have enough office type supplies at a trade show, but be sure to keep it manageable, you don’t want to turn your kit into a giant shipping container.
Optional, But Still Great to Have
- Container – You need something to contain all of your trade show survival kit items in one convenient place that can easily travel with you to each show. Buy a tote box or small storage container from your local discount store or order one from your favorite online retailer. We like the ones that have different sized compartments.
- Small Exhibit Repair Tool Kit – Loose panel in your booth? Can’t locate exhibit repair staff? Be prepared and bring a small exhibit repair tool kit to handle on the spot minor booth repairs. We put this under optional because this can drive up the cost of your kit, but if you decide to include it we recommend the following items:
- Allen Wrenches
- Box cutter
- Cable Ties
- Double-sided Tape
- Glue (All Purpose and Super Strength)
- Hammer and Nails
- Measuring Tape
- Screwdriver and Screws
- Touch-up Paint
- Twine or Cord
Now that we’ve covered the essentials and some optionals, we want to make sure that you don’t forget about yourself. Both you and your colleagues need to look and feel as perfect as you want your trade show to be. Here are some personal items our team uses to help us feel our best at trade shows:
- 5 Hour Energy – Because you will need an energy boost. Trade show exhibit show hours are long, you’ll need that midday energy boost to survive.
- Non-Perishable Snacks / Protein Bars / KIND Bars / Trail Mix / – Always have a good nutritional energy boosting snack available to get through those tough moments when breaks are hard to come by.
- Nail Clippers – Someone always breaks a nail. We’re also sure you’ll find other clever uses for them that we never thought of.
- Emergen-C®, Airborne®, Zicam® – To help protect yourself from cold germs because someone will likely have a cold, someone always does.
- Hand Sanitizers – For those moments at trade shows when you feel the need to sanitize. Lots of people equal lots of germs to protect yourself and your teammates against.
- Hand Cream / Hand Lotion – Air conditioning and heat at exhibit halls often run high and dry. Keep some hand cream or lotion on hand to prevent your hands from drying out. No one wants to shake dry, cracked hands.
- Lip Balm / ChapStick® – Again, that dry exhibit hall air, keeps those lips protected with some lip balm.
- Eye Drops – That darn dry air in the exhibit hall, dries out your eyes too, be prepared.
- Gum and Mints – Because you forgot and had lots of garlic in your lunch today.
- Disposable Mini Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, and Flossers w/handles – You want to put your best self forward, you want to make sure your breath is minty fresh when talking to clients and prospects.
- Lint Remover – To help keep that exhibit hall carpet lint off of you and your black fabric booth chairs.
- Throat Lozenges – To help soothe your throat after a long day of talking to people at your booth.
- Tissues – If you do not have these at your booth, you will be looking for them all day. Tissues always seem to be needed at trade show booths for a variety of uses.
Staying Trade Show Ready
Now that you have your items list, you can go build your very own trade show survival kit and be ready for just about anything. Once you’ve built your survival kit, be sure to include it in your regular trade show checklist and check its inventory before each show. You’ll have it down as part of your regular show routine in no time and may even have several trade show survival kits for each different type of trade show you do. Staying prepared for any type of situation will help you feel more confident during the show. Knowing you can tackle any problem that comes up is a great feeling.