It’s no secret that exhibiting is hard work. Even if you have a custom stand builder like us on side, you still have long days of thinking on your feet and travel to do, which can make for an exhausting few days. Given we do our fair share of travelling to setup exhibits for our clients, we are no strangers to life on the road. 

The thing is, it isn’t just about surviving the show itself… Time doesn’t stand still, life goes on and your inbox still fills. When the show is over, you will still be running around chasing leads and taming that inbox so here are our expert tips to make life run smoothly when you find yourself smack-bang in the middle of trade show season.

1/ Take 2 pairs of shoes

Sounds weird. Especially when you’re trying to travel light, but if your feet are happy you will be too! I’m not just talking to ladies with heels… This applies to both sexes!

Comfort is a must when it comes to shoes.  Make sure they’re broken in and try to bring at least one extra pair. 

If your stand staff roster is particularly punishing, make sure you have 2 pairs of shoes for the show itself. (New socks too for blokes). You will temporarily feel like you have fresh feet and when you’re standing all day, you will be thankful.

If you’re helping with bump in and bump out, save your dressy shoes for showtime and pack for comfort. Most venues will require you to have enclosed footwear for these times anyway. 

Even better try to have a different pair of shoes to change into after the show and another pair of shoes for the next day. This way it gives your shoes a chance to dry out and if you happened to get a blister the second pair is less likely to rub directly onto it.

Who knew shoes could be such a talking point?!

2/ Prioritise Sleep

For our team we do tend to laugh at this as early/late bump ins often rob us off a good lie in, but there are a few tricks we have learnt along the way that may help you in your quest for stable energy levels.

If you are travelling interstate or across country then please don’t act like Superman and think that you can power through for the next 24 hours with no rest. Even if you only manage to grab a 20 minute nap here and there you’ll really feel the benefits of this as the day goes on. Even if you don’t sleep and just have some quiet brain time, it really helps. Close the blinds in your hotel and be sure to set an alarm!

If you go out with the team for drinks/dinner, try to keep it tame. First night fever is a bad idea before a show! Your solo mission on this trip is to do business. The social aspect is a bonus so limit your alcohol (sorry) and make it an early night. Remember you want to look and feel as good as you can – first impressions count right! So if you get the opportunity before the show for a quick power nap then take it.

Big shows bring big crowds and it’s possible you may be spotted by delegates outside of the show hall. You are representing your company so you must behave! Also, it’s good to avoid an awkward moment on the stand if they recall you making a dork of yourself. 

If you’re crossing time zones, pick up some melatonin tablets from the health food shop. Apparently they can help with melatonin production so can help you sync up with a regular sleep cycle again.

3/ Dress Smart!

Make sure that you dress with lightweight layers that can be added to or removed depending on how you are feeling. There’s nothing worse than getting on a plane or getting to an exhibition venue and suddenly feeling super hot or cold and not having options. Not all venues are a lovely 23 degrees. During bump in/out the loading dock doors can be open. 

You want to feel comfortable and relaxed enough throughout the day that your clothes don’t become a distraction from interacting with visitors. 

Don’t forget to bring a safety vest for every person who will be on the stand. If the show isn’t open you are required to wear one. Opt for the standard thin ones that can fit over any type of clothing. If you forget one, most venues have vending machines so you can purchase them.

4/ Time Management Tips

Time doesn’t stand still while the trade show is on. Your emails will continue to grow in your inbox and family life forges on. Take the load off by addressing these as well. 

Set your out of office on your email explaining that you will have limited access. This is important because you don’t want to feel the pull to respond when you should be working your stand. 

You’re going to want to hit the ground running when you return and it’s nice to have the domestic stuff under control. Whether you are partnered up or an eligible bach, think ahead and make sure the fridge is stocked with basics for when you return. Grocery deliveries are a godsend and you can easily time them for when you return. (It’s worth the $10 delivery fee). 

If you’re really organised, do a big cook up before you go to help ease the strain when you’re back. The show can be demanding, but the real fun starts when you’re back home and converting the rest. It’s a marathon! 

While you’re away, save any to do’s or things that pop into your mind in your phone so you can stay present. Either keep it basic by using the notes/reminders section of your phone or use an app like Asana (my personal fave) to keep track of your many tasks.

Consider using meeting software (Zoom is my fave) so you can still have face-to-face catch ups and not fall behind. There is nothing worse than feeling like you have a long list of meetings to attend when you come back. The best part is that you can record the meeting if you’re the host and don’t have to worry about taking notes.

5/ Food choices

Ok, we know how tempting it is to treat yourself while out on the road. A coffee and muffin deal is my soft spot too, but if you need to have good energy levels for an extended period of time, sugar is empty carbs are the enemy because they drop you. Hard. Making some healthy swaps you will prevent people meeting the “hangry” you (hungry-angry).

[Official disclaimer] …

I’m not a nutritionalist, I just take a general interest in health and well being. Many of my suggestions in this post are a bit “Mumsy” and driven by common sense rather than being certified. If this is an area you want serious help with, please go seek the advice of a professional!

This takes a little prep beforehand but trust me, if you can take your own snacks and food you will feel miles better than getting stuck with the limited options available when travelling and at the venue. Opt for basic fruit and veg… My faves include apple, banana (conveniently has its own packaging), boiled eggs, veggie sticks, cheese and boiled eggs. 

If you’re flying, stock up on muesli bars. Decent ones like “Carmens” will have a good balance of protein and fats to keep your blood sugar levels stable and stave off hunger pangs. 

If you can’t pack your own food, then make sure that you opt for the healthiest options available. Don’t discount a fruit and veggie shop or a supermarket. I know it’s very mumsy advice but especially if you travel around a lot and do a lot of shows the food available soon becomes tiresome and makes you feel worse. You want to keep your energy levels on point. 

Travelling is hard on your body so make sure you are covering the basics like drinking lots of water, making healthy food choices and if you can eat some yoghurt! This keeps the friendly gut bacteria topped up in your body which makes you much less likely to fall ill from some travelling cold/sickness bug. This may be TMI but if you’re away for a few days, pack some extra supplements… Fibre caps, probiotics (the type that don’t require a fridge), some Berocca! 

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – It’s good for your joints, your skin and even your breath. Don’t forget you’re going to be talking to people in close proximity, you don’t want to give them a reason to want to leave. If you’re thinking you’ll survive on caffeine alone, you will be in for a rough time. 

I always carry my 1L Insulated bottle with me. In summer it keeps my water cool and in the cooler months I fill it with warm herbal tea. It’s easy enough to empty for plane rides and there is nothing worse than being busy, but having to leave in search of a stupid vending machine that demands $4 for a bottle of water. Water is such a basic necessity, but often overlooked.

6/ Flying Tips

Travelling by plane? Then make sure that you check your cabin baggage weight and size before you leave. There’s nothing worse than getting to the airport and realising you have to check your cabin bag in because it’s too big. 

Sounds simple but this can often get overlooked and lead to delays that you may not be able to afford. Not to mention, it’s a massive annoyance and you feel like a dork! 

If you’re lucky enough to hold a club membership with an airline definitely make the most of the facilities. Use the time to charge your devices, hydrate and catch up on life. This next bit sounds weird, but it is seriously THE BEST! … If I’m flying back at night, I always make sure I have a spare change of clothes and have a shower. I take my contacts out (fun fact, I wear glasses), remove any make up and make it as easy as possible to fall into bed upon landing. Makes you feel like you’re saving so much time! 

What are some of your favourite travel tips? I love learning about how I can be more efficient and save time. (OCD/Recovering Perfectionist). Please share your gems!

If you’re going to be planning your next event and want tips to smash it out of the park. This post is one you definitely need to read.

Yours in Exhibiting,