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  • Writer's pictureKen Newman

Did You Pack Your Trade Show Tool Kit?

Several years ago, at a trade show in Las Vegas, I was strolling the aisles during the setup/rehearsal day, and happened to pass a very large booth. IN that large booth was an enormous theatre area with a small thrust stage, about 80 seats, three pipes loaded with stage lighting, an impressive sound system, and a full complement of crew people wandering around looking … well, like crew people.

Although at this particular moment, this crew was in a panic.

Not being the type of person who can ignore drama, I asked one of the tech guys what was going on.

“Well,” he explained to me impatiently,

“The speaker up there is delivering a presentation and it’s being fed to her ear prompter by a disk player, and well, her receiver has a micro-stereo plug and we need a mini-stereo plug. And there’s no place open to buy one, and well … we’re screwed.”

“Ah,” I said. “I think I can help.”

“Oh yeah, RIGHT. I’ll bet!” “What’d ya pack … a soldering iron??”

“No,” I said. “I have a bag full of adapters. And if you’re a little nicer to me, I might just let you have one.”

While he was sputtering away, I opened a small emergency kit I always carry and pulled out a ziplock bag full of adapters. (I’m a bit of a geek that way.) I found the one he needed and held it out to him.

“Oh my God. That’s it. That’s … that’s … I can’t believe you HAVE one !”

“Yes I do,” I offered. “And for $500, it could be yours.”

I let him sweat for a second, then handed it to him with my business card and told him to get it back to me at the end of the show. I also told him to enjoy being the hero of the day.

Which, FINALLY, brings me to my point.


It doesn’t need to be quite as esoteric as mine, but you can be a bit of a trade show hero yourself by having some basic supplies to get you through the inevitable surprises or disasters at your next show.

Here’s a starter list, in no particular order:

  • Packing Tape

  • Scissors

  • Band Aids (First Aid Kit)

  • Aspirin / Pain Relievers

  • Pens (lots of them … they walk away)

  • Note Pads

  • Post-Its

  • Highlighters

  • Stapler

  • Staple Remover

  • Extra Lead Sheets (more than you think you’ll need)

  • Digital Camera

  • Business Cards (You’d be surprised how often these are forgotten)

  • Paper Clips

  • Rubber Bands

  • Nail Clippers

  • Breath Mints

  • Chap Stick

  • Sewing Kit

  • Velcro (Get a roll of the hook and a roll of the pile. This stuff can SAVE you.)

  • Screwdrivers

  • Instructions for Return Shipments

  • Shipping Labels for Return Shipment

  • Extension Cords

  • Facial Tissues

  • Glass Cleaner

  • Cloth / Paper Towels

  • Duct Tape (easily 101 uses just at a trade show alone)

  • The right cables to connect laptops to displays (this from a recent disaster that I might write about someday.)

  • A small vacuum cleaner, carpet sweep (you can’t always depend on the exhibit hall crew to get to your booth in time)

I’m sure I’m forgetting something. So feel free to add to the list as you see fit.

Author’s Note:

(At the end of the show, my new friend returned my adapter in a little bag attached to a VERY nice bottle of champagne. Now THAT’S a class act …)

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