How to Navigate a Trade Show

trade show Aug 20, 2022


Let me begin by asking: Does anybody recall a time when two CA esthetics trade shows were held on the same days? ICES Long Beach and F&B San Jose are both being held this weekend, August 21-22. In my 23 years of attending trade shows, I can't remember when that has ever happened. So the vendors had to choose between shows? Or send separate crews to staff their booth at each show? Interesting. And weird. 

Because a lot of CA Estheticians will be attending one of these trade shows this weekend, I decided to write a blog about the system I came up with for navigating the trade show floor. (More details on this topic are in my book "The Heart of Esthetics.")

You are probably wondering why would I need a system? Well, I was still in Esthetician school when I went to my first trade show (Vegas), and it was a disaster. If you want to read about it, here is a link to a previous blog I wrote about that experience: My first trade show. But after many years, lots of mistakes, and much wasted time, I finally found a formula that allowed me to get my work done AND have a lot of fun. This formula will most benefit self-employed Estheticians who will be on a mission to place orders and shop for specific items, etc. So if my system helps you, by all means use it! 



First of all, I suggest you buy your trade show tickets early so you will receive the program prior to the show. But if you haven't done that, event programs can be found either in the bag you are handed when you check in/enter the exhibit hall, or in stacks placed near the entrance.

Event programs vary of course, but generally you will find two important things inside the program: One is a complete list of exhibitors in alphabetical order which includes the booth number where they will be located in the exhibit hall.

The other is a diagram of the exhibit hall which includes all the booth numbers. (For purposes of this explanation, I will refer to these items as “List of Exhibitors” and “Diagram of Exhibit Hall” but they are often referred to by other terms.)

  1. A complete List of Exhibitors with their booth numbers, presented in alphabetical order.
  2. A Diagram of Exhibit Hall which gives the exhibit hall booth numbers, presented in alphabetical order.


The steps:

Make your own list of “priority vendors” which means anyone you absolutely must see. Maybe you need to purchase supplies, or renew your liability insurance, maybe you want to talk to a vendor about something, or perhaps there is a new product you have heard about and want to check out.

  • In the show program, go to the List of Exhibitors and put a check mark by any vendors who are on your priority list and circle their booth number.
  • In the show program, go to the Diagram of Exhibit Hall and circle the booth numbers that correspond to the vendors you have check-marked on the List of Exhibitors. 


If you are not yet familiar with the exhibit hall, here's what you can expect: When you enter, you will see very large signs overhead which indicate the aisle numbers. For example, over the first aisle might be a sign that says 100, the next aisle will be 200 and so on.

You can keep your Diagram of Exhibit Hall open and simply hit all your priorities in numerical order which will keep you from jumping around all over the exhibit hall. (That’s the mistake that will wear you out!)

You can always refer back to the List of Exhibitors that you have check-marked if you want to know in advance which vendor is at which booth.

Once I have completed my priorities, I take my goodies back to my hotel room and free up my hands. And then I go back to the show, and I am free to wander the aisles and browse to my heart’s (and feet’s) content. If my brain or feet get tired, it won’t matter so much because my priority tasks have already been completed.

Rolling bags. (I hate them. I have been injured by them.) You may not realize that there is a bag check very near the entrance to the exhibit hall. And you also may not know that you will be handed a large bag when you arrive at the trade show. So I highly recommend you check your rolling bag before entering the exhibit hall and make use of the large bag which you can carry on your shoulder and keep both hands free to pick up all the wonderful products and equipment that are waiting for you inside the exhibit hall.

Then just fill the large bag as you go and periodically pop over to the bag check to dump your goodies into your rolling bag. And repeat as needed. When your shopping is done, roll your rolling bag right on outta there. (The shins and feet of the other attendees will thank you!)

Have a wonderful time at the show!! 

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