To Do: Prepare for Optical Trade Shows


This is for those attending Vision Expo, SECO, AOA, Optowest or  any other optical trade show. vision expo booth

One of the worse things that happens you go to a trade show you forgot your business cards, chargers, no To Do List and if more than 1 person going did not assign ‘go sees’.

Trade shows while fun, educational and a tax write- off can be expensive and it is best to be prepared when you go to maximize your time.

Here is our checklist For Trade Show preparation:


  • Pre-register- Registering in advance saves you money. It will also insure you get the classes you want. Many trade shows offer deals.
  • Don’t step over a dime to pick up a penny- if you are attending your local state trade show- book your room in the hotel. The cost of driving and parking to save $20 a night are not worth it. In addition, trade shows are good networking events. If you are drinking, you don’t want to be driving. It is much easier to network at the hotel bar and just have to walk to the elevator. Trade show organizers have reserved rooms at a discount. Take advantage of it early. Many times the hotel will sell out of the reserved rooms.
  • Bring Staff- especially those who are buyers, administrators and office managers. Trade shows are great learning and training venues. Plus it’s a good motivator!
  • DOWNLOAD CE NOTES– most trade shows are going paperless- eliminating all white paper and even eliminating CD’s. If you need or want lecture notes- download them at home, rather than waiting in line at the Cyber Booth and printing. You can also use a thumb drive. iPads have made note taking easy.
  • Arrive in plenty of time- nothing is worse than being stressed out by being late. In many CE classes- you will not receive credit if you are more than 10 minutes late.
  • Plan on attending trade events. This can be a fun event and an excellent time to network and learn in casual surrounding.
  • Make a list of the exhibitors you want to see, both old and new. Even if you aren’t into equipment, check out what is new. If staff are going, you can split up the responsibilities. Setting appointments in advance insures you have scheduled time, especially if you are on a tight budget. You can use use  show planners to help you map out appointments.
  • Check out Show specials to assure you have the time to take advantage of them and pre-plan to go to the booth. (Better yet, set an appointment)

Set Goals

  • You probably will be taking CE – but is there any other topics you want to learn about? We recommend you take a course out of your comfort zone especially on business planning, marketing.
  • What do you need to accomplish? What vendors to visit? What products you need to research? What equipment do you need?
  • Know your inventory needs before the show. Efficient purchasing will save you money by being able to take advantage of show specials and special offers, plus keeping you in budget.
  • Set appointments with vendors.
  • Set appointment with vendors you don’t usually see. This is the time to take advantage of new products. One of the reasons for trade shows is the ability to preview NEW Products. Make sure you plan a walk-about time.

What to Pack

  • 50-100 Business Cards- This is not just for vendors, but new contacts you may meet at the show. It shows professionalism. You might consider getting new business cards with your Twitter handle, Facebook page and QR code for easy referencing and more likes and friends.
  • Laptop or iPad. Most shows are going paperless now- take your laptop and have your notes saved for later referral. Also you can make notes right in your device for easy referencing.
  • Your Goals and Objectives of Show
  • Appointment book/calendar
  • Cell phone and or Camera.. you will want to take a lot of picture to post on your website, or Facebook.
  • Extra batteries.. just in case.
  • Pens, paper for notes ( better yet, your laptop)
  • Briefcase/Tote/Reusable bag for your notes, orders and literature.
  • Flashdrive with your artwork and other types of files, you might be needing for custom merchandise.
  • Cell Phone charger, camera charger to take pictures so you can share on Facebook, YouTube, your blog or websites.
  • Upload any apps you may need in advance. Apps like Bump are great in case you run out of business cards.
  • I always carry several plastic bags to keep notes, receipts, business cards. It saves me from searching after the show.
  • I also reuse a frame bag for safety pins, paper clips, rubber bands, it goes in my rolling office.

What to Wear

  • Pack comfortable shoes, wear business casual clothing, and remember you are a representative for your business.
  • Depending on the locale and the event planning- Golf bags, tennis rackets and evening clothes might be appropriate.
  • Allow enough room in your suitcase(s) for bringing back more than you take. This includes literature, freebies, and product samples.
  • Some exhibitors provide bags, but come prepared by bringing a comfortable carryall for all that literature.
  • Remember- airlines charge for extra baggage- check your airline before you bring extra luggage.

At the Trade Show

  • Show guides are usually provided when you arrive.
  • Make sure your badge is in plain sight while browsing trade show booths.
  • Take advantage of show specials, discounts and sales where they are truly bargains and needed in your store. Check freight costs and delivery dates.
  • Keep track of orders placed so you’ll stay within your budget. (You can put this into one of your plastic bags.)
  • Time is premium at trade shows- eat breakfast and take snacks with you. Depending on the trade show, food may not be provided, and if bought at the Convention Center, could add unnecessary expense.


  • Bring plenty of your own business cards (again)
  • Talk to people, a lot of people- this is a fantastic networking events.
  • Attend seminars and workshops if available. These educational presentations are why you came.

Vendors Appreciation The vendors exhibiting at the show help to fund the cost of your education

  • Be courteous with all vendors
  • Don’t waste their time if you are not interested in their product.
  • Thank them for attending the show
  • If you are looking for that special red frame for your mother-in-law, know that a rep’s time is valuable at the show.
  • Be honest- if you can’t buy for another 6 months- tell them.
Aspire MidPage June 19


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