What To Bring To A Trade Show Booth: 7 Essential Items And A Packing Checklist

By Drew Galvin on October 5, 2022

A picture of people walking around a trade show booth in a conference room.

Trade shows present a one-of-a-kind opportunity for you to network and create greater brand awareness with your target audience all in one spot. They let you cut through the emails and cold calls and get face-to-face with potential customers. 

Given the importance of these events, you don’t want to be one of those businesses that show up only to underdeliver. To help you know exactly what to bring to a trade show booth, we’ve compiled a checklist of seven of the best event items, along with a miscellaneous box checklist to help you make sure you’re not missing anything on the big day.

The Importance Of Attending Trade Shows

Trade shows bring the different aspects of an industry together — from consumers and distributors to suppliers and manufacturers. With such a broad audience together in one place, trade shows offer a unique opportunity for businesses to schedule meetings, negotiate orders, collaborate on other projects, and network with potential customers.

One of the most important reasons to attend a trade show is the opportunity it offers to establish a positive rapport with your target audience. Gatekeepers exist — in both the physical and virtual realms — in any industry. From email spam filters to front-desk area workers and software that blocks cold callers, it can often feel difficult to even be a part of the competition.

Attending a trade show allows you to get on a potential customer’s radar — it allows you to meet them face-to-face. Once you’ve established that connection, you’re suddenly not spam anymore — you’re a brand worth knowing.

A picture of a man writing at in his notebook on a wooden desk.

Conference Trade Show Checklist

Now that we’ve covered some of the benefits of attending industry-related trade shows, you may be wondering how to prepare for a trade show. Below is a list, based on our own experience, of some of the most important trade show essentials to help simplify your trade show checklist.

#1 Signage

A crucial component of trade show preparation is coming equipped with printed promotional items like custom signage. Remember, trade shows come with their fair share of competition. Whatever you can do to catch the attention of the show’s attendees will help you positively stand out.

Custom signage like banners, pop-up displays, and tents can help someone spot your brand from halfway across the conference hall, and they add a necessary professional touch. If you’re attending a show that’s outside, make sure the signs and banners you have can withstand elements like light rain, moderate winds, or humidity.

#2 Presentation Media

Giving a presentation to prospects at your trade show booth can help create an interactive experience. In addition to the presentation itself, adding creative design elements like custom brochures and printed materials that accompany the presentation — whether it be about your company or a new product or service —  is a tangible way to keep the audience engaged.

In fact, some studies show that handouts and note-taking can help people better remember a presentation, as the act of following along helps form new pathways in the brain.

#3 Event Promotional Items

Your potential customer should leave your booth with something that helps them remember you — even better if it’s something that’s useful to them. Anyone who attends a trade show without branded promotional merchandise like hats, shirts, and pens is missing out on a major opportunity to leave a positive impression.

When given a free, branded item, approximately 85% of consumers are more likely to remember that brand’s name and are more than twice as likely to leave with a positive first impression. Offering free takeaway items can also help you collect prospective customers’ information — they provide you with their name and email in exchange for a branded hat or shirt.

 Some ideas for promotional items to bring to your next trade show include:

  • Custom apparel like t-shirts, hats, and hoodies
  • Sunglasses
  • Branded water bottles and tumblers

As you select your giveaways, make sure the item and its quality positively represent your brand. You also want to be sure the giveaways are something your audience finds valuable. This is a major reason branded water bottles and custom apparel make such great gifts, as a prospect can get a lot of use out of these types of items.

#4 Business Cards

While this one may seem like a no-brainer in the list of custom trade show items to bring, you definitely don’t want to forget to have plenty of business cards to hand out. Custom business cards are an easy way to help trade show attendees remember you. 

Even if someone doesn’t have the chance to stop at your booth and watch a presentation or speak for a considerable amount of time, simply having a stack of business cards at your booth’s table can help you make a lasting introduction.

#5 Organizers

It’s not just about what you display but how you display it. The business cards and promotional items you’re bringing are important — so don’t waste their potential with poor organization. 

Bringing stands for your business cards, as well as bags, boxes, and containers for promotional items, will help you maintain clear parameters for items on your table. Having a cluttered and messy trade show booth table isn’t a very welcoming look.

#6 Refreshments

Showing up with water bottles and snacks could help make your booth the most popular hang-out space at the trade show. Attendees love trade show giveaway items, and they especially love them in the form of drinks or food. Passing out branded water bottles can create more brand awareness as attendees who’ve visited your booth will then proceed to walk around the trade show with your company’s name and logo in their hands.

#7 The Supplies Box

Not every problem can be solved with duct tape. While we’ll cover exactly what to bring in more detail below, it’s always important to come with a miscellaneous supplies box. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, it’s a good look to trade show attendees if you can offer them a band-aid for their paper cut or a paper clip or binder to help them organize their notes.

A woman sitting on her bed and writing in her notebook next to a packed suitcase.

Personal Comfort And Care Checklist

In addition to what to bring to a trade show booth to attract potential clients and customers, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared to make the most of the experience. Let’s take a look at some essential items to bring in your miscellaneous box that can help make the day easier even if the unexpected occurs.

  1. Box cutter. You’re likely going to bring your promotional items in cardboard boxes — don’t spend half the trade show trying to get them open.  (If you’re flying to the trade show, you’ll want to pick this up after the flight.)
  1. Power strip and extension cords. From powering television screens or monitors for a presentation to keeping your phone charged, make sure you don’t overlook these crucial items.
  1. Pens, pencils, and markers. Don’t forget to bring writing utensils for yourself. Markers will help you black out a typo on a price sheet and pens will help you keep track of your thoughts throughout the day.
  1. Tape. Trust us, you’ll probably need tape at some point!
  1. First-Aid kit. From band-aids for small cuts to aspirin for a headache, you’ll be happy you thought of personal care ahead of time.
  1. Sticky notes. Always have a few of these within reach throughout your booth. When there are a hundred different things going on, sticky notes are perfect for quick little reminders.
  1. Scissors. Snip the tag off a new promotional item or quickly open a box — these are another often forgotten but essential tool.
  1. Stapler and paper clips. It never hurts to be as organized as possible. A stapler or paper clips can help you keep important papers in order when you’re busy working at a booth.
  1. Clipboards. A busy booth can mean fewer writing surfaces. Keep the conversation with prospective customers moving and make it easy for them to provide their contact information even if your booth is crowded.
  1. Notepads. You’re going to need something to write on. Be sure to bring a simple notepad so you can take notes and jot down important reminders throughout the day.

Trade shows are a great way for you to interact with both your current customers and your target audience (or prospects) in one place. If you’re looking for industry-specific trade shows to attend, we recommend finding industries relevant to your business. From there, research each show and contact the event’s team to answer questions you may have.

For more tips on attending trade shows and events, read our blog on how to promote your business at events.

Trade Show Checklist Template

Need a simple way to remember what to bring to a trade show booth? Print out our trade show materials checklist template and use it to help you pack as you prepare for the big day!

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Attend your industry’s next trade show ready to impress. Contact us today to see how we can help you make a positive first impression.