Skip to main content


Shannon O'Dowd

Published on

September 11, 2018


marketing, PR

According to PwC, there are on average 284,600 tradeshows in the U.S. per year, bringing together millions of attendees. Whether you’re in PR, marketing, sales or a subject matter expert, conferences can be a challenge to navigate—there is so much to see, many people to talk to, swag to grab and parties to attend. How can one really do it all?

Don’t forget the important stuff: Business cards, phone charger, pen and paper.

Imagine this: you’ve been chatting with a potential new client, you two have really hit it off, debating the hottest new trend going on in the industry, when suddenly they ask for your business card, and you are fresh out. Now what?

When it comes to business cards, you can never have too many. So pack them all or get new ones because you never want to miss a lead. Though, if you do run out, the best tip is to tell them you have run out and ask for their card or connect on LinkedIn.

With all this networking, it’s also important that your phone is juiced to stay up to date on work emails, contact any new leads or clients about getting drinks later and live tweeting the show. No matter where you are going, don’t forget a phone charger. Bonus tip: back up battery packs are incredibly helpful if you are an avid tweeter.

Lastly, don’t forget a pen and paper. Taking notes while attending sessions or jotting down ideas will always be useful. I like to write down any pitching ideas or aspects of booths that clients will find resourceful. There’s so much going on at tradeshows that it can be difficult to retain it all when it’s all said and done. You can also use that pen and paper to give out our contact information if you run out of business cards!

Everyone wants to be best dressed

First impressions are so powerful that they can override what we are told about people. Dressing well at a conference is important for your credibility. However, it isn’t required that you also be uncomfortable and on your feet for hours on end.

At first, nice dress shoes or heels sound like a great idea, but a couple hours into the first day your feet will be screaming at you. Before heading to your next conference, be sure to pick up some comfortable, and sensible, shoes. Alternatively, invest in insoles or orthotics to give your feet the arch support they need. Reward yourself with a job well done post conference with a pedicure—guys can get one too!

As someone who considers shopping to be a hobby, I strongly encourage buying at least one new outfit for upcoming conferences. Pick business casual outfits that are comfortable and truly fit. You never get a second chance at first impressions, so go to conferences looking and feeling your best.

be reasonable sign

The Don’ts

Trade shows like RSA Conference and Black Hat offer an overwhelming amount of opportunities to meet new people and learn new things, but there are a few things attendees don’t want to do.

  • Don’t forget why you’re here– Sure, you’re in a new and exciting place, there’s free food and drink everywhere, it’s like a vacation. However, you cannot lose site of the reason you are there. For PR and marketing people, that’s bringing in new leads, networking, bringing back strategies or media ideas to existing clients, among other things. So, when at cocktail hours or on the show floor, don’t forget to network!
  • Don’t skip the show floor – As a PR/marketing professional, clients ask us all the time for ideas to make the booth stand out at a conference. Taking in all that the show floor has to offer, the general feel and energy has helped my teams and clients really make an impact on attendees by being memorable.
  • Don’t wander aimlessly – Take a few laps of the show floor, get your steps in for the day, but after a few times through, it is important to make a list of all the booths you want to stop by. You don’t want to regret not stopping by and possibly skipping an opportunity to make a connection.

When it’s all said and done

The show is over, your feet aren’t aching, and you have a pocket full of other people’s business cards, but you’re not done yet making the most of your tradeshow experience. Don’t forget to follow up! After the resting period, typically a couple days following the last day of the event, shoot the contacts you are interested in building relationships with an email. If it is a reporter, give them a rundown of the clients you and your colleagues represent. If it’s a potential client, let them know about the communication, marketing and research services your agency offers. Whatever the case, if you want to keep the conversation going, don’t forget to follow up.

Get in touch