It’s that time of the year again – the moment where that tiny point in your life in which you relished in a somewhat easygoing schedule has been ripped away from you. Being in the office on Monday by 9 a.m. has now been replaced with getting to the airport by 5 a.m., and a quiet lunch at your desk is replaced with swallowing a granola bar while you’re running from one booth to another.
That’s right, business travelers – it’s trade show time. While trade show season can be a brilliant season for establishing long term connections, it’s also excruciatingly tiring and, if you’re not careful, can ruin any healthy eating habits you’ve acquired in the beginning of the year. But we can help you make your time from early morning to late evening as flavorful as possible with just a few adjustments to your usual trade show schedule. So, grab your forks and dig into our tips for trade show survival from breakfast to nightcap.
First, we prep. Before we think about the morning of the trade show, let’s discuss what you should bring to your trip – and what should be left at home.
Things not to pack: Wow, those new heels are super cute. Now put them back in the closet. The last thing you’ll want to worry about as you network from one booth to another is how much your feet hurt. Keep tight-fitting designer clothes at home, too – it’s about function more than fashion in this environment. It also isn’t prudent to bring makeup that’s hard to apply. You won’t have 10 minutes to touch up your matte red liquid lip stain in the afternoon after a cup of coffee. For the men out there, keep those three piece suits at home. Not only are they uncomfortable in a busy setting, but a nice pair of slacks and button down with a blazer will do.
Things to pack: We are a big fan of the black belt and navy pants combination for men – if you’re concerned with matching your clothes, this is always a way to go. Bring shoes that are presentable but easy to walk in for eight hours at a time and business attire that is breathable and wrinkle resistant. Be prepared for extreme indoor weather changes as well – you’ll be sweating up a storm on the trade show floor and if you’re seated for a conference presentation, you’ll feel like you’re in the arctic tundra. Other essentials that we’ve always found important include band-aids, safety pins, ear plugs and hand sanitizer.
Now that we’ve covered some packing essentials, let’s dig into the basics to get you through a day of booth hopping.
Breakfast time. The absolute worst thing you can do is skip breakfast the morning of a trade show, especially if you are working in one of the booths. Allot 30 minutes for a nice sit-down meal of nutritious essentials including fruits, oatmeal and proteins. Utilize the complimentary buffet at your hotel to your advantage for the whole day; prepare for the moments that you’ll feel like you’re crashing in the early and late afternoon hours and stock up on nutritional bars, almonds and a healthy muffin.
On the Floor. Your time on the trade show floor is the whole reason why you’ve made the trip, so it’s important to keep yourself fueled and energized during these prime hours. Would you go for a walk on a hiking trail for over five hours without a bottle of water? Didn’t think so. The same rule applies for a trade show – always keep a refillable bottle of water with you. Don’t rely on a complimentary water station; if you’re working at a booth, you won’t have time to visit, and if you’re roaming the room, you won’t want to lose your spot. Staying hydrated throughout the day will relax your muscles and joints and your brain will function better. Snacks are also important while you’re on the trade show floor. Remember that muffin you stashed? This will come in handy especially at 2 p.m. when you’re feeling the crash hit you, and fueling yourself with free candies from the booths will leave you feeling empty and dehydrated.
Lunchtime. During a trade show it’s more than likely that you’ll be eating in the hotel venue or convention center for lunch. Make the most out of the situation to network with prospective new clients and establish connections. When you’re choosing your foods, stick to simple and fresh fare that’s easy to eat while you chat up the people near you. Most importantly, don’t forget the business cards!
At Dinner. You’ve been trapped at the trade show all day and your dinner plans will probably involve mingling with co-workers or wining and dining clients. Under no circumstances should you default to the restaurant right there in the venue – the last thing one will want to eat is what they perceive to be more hotel food! Unless you are already familiar with your guests’ dining preferences, choose a nearby restaurant that offers fare appealing to a wide audience, such as a hip metrotainment diner. For a smaller group, you can make a great impression by seeking out a local gem! If you’re booking a cocktail hour and dinner together with multiple parties, keep both events in the same location so that it’s easy for your guests to locate. Be sure to make your reservation in advance as well – nearby restaurants fill up fast during big trade show events! You can use Dinova’s web search and app to find the most flavorful cuisines near you and book with ease.
Nighttime. It’s almost the end of the day and you’re exhausted. If you’re mingling late at night, keep it to only one or two drinks, even if it’s an open bar. Everyone has a story of that one executive on that one trip who had to be escorted into the Uber by a bouncer, and you don’t want to be that person. Stay hydrated during this time too for a better night’s sleep. Finally, don’t be afraid to call it a night earlier than others. You don’t have to close down the bar to make a good impression, and you don’t want to be too tired when you catch a flight tomorrow or hit the floor running all over again.
Do you have any trade show survival tips that we may not have covered? Mention them in the comments below, and we can’t wait to see you at your next booth!