If you’re a trade show newbie, knowing what to have on hand at your first show may be a mystery. If you’re an old hat, then this list may be a refresher. Nevertheless, having comforts at an arm’s length is something you’ll be glad for when the need arises.

Here are eight trade show essentials we feel should be at the top of your packing list—first rodeo or not.


There are many items that could have started this list, but let’s be honest: if your devices die halfway through the show, you’re pretty much up the creek. To avoid the dreaded device death, make any and all chargers the first thing you put in your traveling bag. Heck, add a few backups just in case you leave one in your room during the conference (which can happen when you’re focused on not forgetting your attendee badge…).

Comfortable Shoes

Yes, you’ll likely be sitting in session after session, but unless you’ve visited the conference location in the past, you might be wandering around aimlessly trying to locate restrooms, food, and show spots. If you are wearing a comfortable pair of trade show appropriate shoes (nothing raggy, please), you’ll be focused on the reason you’re at the conference and not on your hurting hooves.

Tote or Book Bag

If you’re one who drags around a laptop or tablet, having a comfortable bag handy is a lifesaver at a trade show. Having your hands free from bulky devices leaves you able to meet new people, grab vendor swag, and sign up for giveaways. Without something to tote your goods around in, you risk setting your items down somewhere and walking away without them (or worse, someone else walking away with them).


Some conferences bring an array of bad food and late nights. Be prepared for anything by packing relief medicines like pain relievers, acid reducers, etc. If one of these symptoms hits you in the middle of a session, and the nearest drugstore is miles away, you’ll be thankful you thought ahead. Oh, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to bring a small hand sanitizer. When hundreds of people are in the same space, germs are bound to lurk. The last thing you need is to get home, pumped up from the conference, and then wake up the following morning with an illness.


Trade shows are cold; like meat freezer cold. Like most offices and classrooms, trade show facilities crank down the a/c to compensate for the hundreds of people roaming the space. Come prepared to bear the frigid temps by bringing and dressing in layers. For women, camisoles and a light-to-medium sweater work great. For men, an undershirt, polo and maybe a pullover are best. Layers also keep you from having to drag around a bulky coat that can become heavy.


Most trade shows have designated meal and snack times, but if you’re a health nut or just enjoy light snacks throughout the day, bring your own grub. Vending machines aren’t usually available, but if they are, you’ll likely spend double what you would spend at a grocery store before the show. If stashed in your tote or book bag, finger foods will give you a quick afternoon pick-me-up without disrupting the rest of your day’s schedule.


Although many trade shows can be back-to-back craziness, sometimes there is lag time. If you’re caught between sessions or find yourself waiting on transportation to or from your hotel, it’s nice to have a bank of podcasts, audiobooks, TV shows, and music to keep you occupied—but we recommend using your down time to visit vendors and meet new contacts. Isn’t that what tradeshows are for, after all?

Lots of Business Cards

The main reasons to attend tradeshows are to learn and network. When you meet a new connection, it’s customary to exchange business cards. Trade shows offer you an opportunity to meet people from all over the world, so be prepared: that new connection may be a valuable resource in the future.

At the very least, bring cards for giveaways. Business cards keep you from having to fill out giveaway forms at vendor booths (but be sure to stick around to at least find out what the vendor is selling).

So, that’s it! Our list of trade show essentials. Think we missed something? Tweet it to us at @getstorylift!