By Elizabeth Fenlon
The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas is the trade show of trade shows. Literally. It is the biggest trade show in the promotional products industry, spanning two full floors at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. With close to 3,250 booths and 11,500 industry attendees, you can imagine that this might be a tad overwhelming if you were a tradeshow newbie, like myself.
As a Merchandising Specialist for Pinnacle Promotions, it is my job to stay on top of industry trends and be ahead of the curve as new products launch into the market. Attending the PPAI Expo is a must. So, I packed my comfortable shoes and headed to Las Vegas for 4 days of nothing but talking about promo products.
Our team met at the airport at 6AM the day of the trip. I’d been packed for days, terrified of being late or of being the one to hold us up with my lack of business travel experience. Luckily, I’d recently gotten a Zebra Convertible Computer Messenger Bag and it turned out to be my most prized possession on the trip. Seriously, this bag has it all.
My Zebra Bag has both a padded laptop compartment and a padded tablet pocket. Which made getting my chunky, old, Toshiba laptop through security a breeze. It also converts easily from backpack to messenger bag, and not in that cheap 2-in-1 kind of way that you might expect from a ‘promotional bag.’ But, when it was a backpack it was a backpack, with padded durable straps. It also features a zippered pocket with RFID protection. Which if you travel for work, especially out of the country, becomes a necessity. Unless, of course, you like the idea of getting your identity stolen or your bank accounts hacked.
Upon arriving we were able to check in, get a feel of the layout, view the exhibitor list and map and come up with a game plan to tackle all those booths over the next few days. If you’ve never been to a trade show, especially one of this magnitude, there are a few essentials you HAVE to have on you at all times:
• Comfortable Shoes – 8-10 hour days of walking and standing
• Refillable Water Bottle– Las Vegas is a dry climate. It is important to stay hydrated. They’ll price gouge you for bottled water at the show. So, being able to refill from the water fountain is a must.
• Pen/Notebook – Because you will NEVER remember everything.
• Camera Phone – There is no way you will get 2 floors and 3,250 booths of samples on the plane. Take pictures.
• Business Cards/ Business Card Holder – Again, you will never remember everyone’s name.
• Snacks – ok, maybe this is just me? Avoid getting cranky when it’s 5 o’clock and you realize you still haven’t eaten lunch.
For the show, I converted my Zebra Bag into a messenger bag since I had less to lug around than the airport. The main compartment has a removable file organizer, which turned out to be essential in keeping all the literature I was collecting in the booths organized. Everything on my tradeshow essential list had a perfect spot in this bag, allowing me to be hands free and focus on the real reason I was there, to scout out the newest and most effective products to help your brand Make the right impression™.