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10 tips for navigating Expo West as an attendee

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This will be my fourth year attending Expo West in Anaheim, CA and each year turns out to be more productive and fun than the last. I am fortunate to be able to attend as a media representative for Examiner.com, which also means that I receive a heads up from public relations firms on their client's new gluten-free products. Since this is my fourth year, I wanted to share some great tips I have learned that make Expo West an event I look forward to each year.

  • Exercise - about a week before the event, I start exercising with weights to get my arms/back in shape for carrying around bags full of product samples. I also start walking more frequently to get my legs stretched.
  • Research - use the tools provided by Expo West to research vendors/products and plan out your days. Make sure to download the show app, so you can quickly locate a particular vendor. I tend to spend a good amount of time with the first time exhibitors and in the Next Pavilion exhibit space.
  • Footwear - everyone wants to dress professionally, but remember to be kind to your feet. You will be walking for miles each day, so make yourself comfortable. I always bring two pairs of comfortable shoes, one for each day I will be walking, so my feet don't get fatigued.
  • Hydrate - you will need to cleanse your palate between food samples and there may not be anything available, so bring a water bottle.
  • Supplies - don't leave your hotel without: phone charger, laptop charger, pen, paper, hand sanitizer, and business cards. I like to bring my own lanyard that fits my show badge, business cards, pen, drivers license, and cash. Keeping my hands free usually prevents me from leaving anything on vendor tables, like my phone, and having to back track.
  • Sample - product samples will be everywhere, so there is no need to sample everything that is put out. Stay away from samples that aren't in individual cups because not everyone will use the tongs, or the scoop provided and you don't want to get yourself sick from others germs. Limit sweet consumption unless you want to have a full on sugar coma. Also, a number of vendors will heat/prepare/cut gluten-free products on the same surface as wheat-based ones, so pay attention. Don't forget to read product labels to check for additional allergens too.
  • Schedule - there is so much going on at this event that it is easy to get bogged down with requests to set up meetings. I find a better use of my time is to be added to the media list, rather than to schedule a meeting, because something may pop up that needs immediate attention.
  • Interact - this is a prime opportunity to introduce you/your brand to vendors, so take full advantage. I usually ask to speak to a marketing/media person to ensure my business card makes it into the right hands and to pick up a media kit.
  • Socialize - after a long, long, long day at the show, take the time to post photos to your social media accounts. People want to see what you have been eating, what trends you are spotting, and of course check out your selfies.
  • Pack - when packing to attend the event, I always bring a lot of zip lock bags of varying sizes. I used them to pack up my samples and save them from getting broken or smooshed in my luggage. Bars, chips, cookies, tea bags, candy, etc., fit perfectly into the zip lock bags and can be packed up with clothing.

What are you most looking forward to finding at Expo West? Will this be your first time attending?

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