In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be attending my fifth #ExpoWest (Natural Products Expo). I’m on a mission to find products for this blog as well as my business. I’ve learned a few things when it comes to weaving through the maze that is the expo floor – or floors, rather. Expo West is held at the Anaheim Convention Center and by the time you end your day, you’ll likely have walked at least 15,000 steps… or double that!
I’ve compiled some tips that have been tried and true to me. Trust.
Tips to Surviving the Natural Products Expo
1. Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes. I have worn running shoes, Clarks Cloudsteppers, Tory Burch flats – changing it up every day I’ve attended. You’ll be on your feet almost the entire time you’re there, not to mention the walk to the parking shuttles. Don’t wear heels when you have to canvas a 1.6MM+ square feet convention hall. Closed-toe because people don’t care and will step on your feet as they run to grab a free sample of [insert free food item].
1b. Business casual or clean casual. It goes without saying – you’re representing your brand/publication. Bring a light sweater or light jacket because layers. It tends to be chilly in the early morning and evening when you walk to the parking shuttles. I wear dark jeans because I need my pockets, and fashion designers hate women and refuse to add functional pockets in women’s pants. I’m always reaching for my phone, pens and business cards in my pockets.
2. Bring a charger. There are outlets everywhere but not much seating. You’ll see people sitting on the floor, hovering over outlets. There is likely more space in the Press Room and upper floors of the Convention Center. If you’re on a time crunch, bring a portable charger. Bonus: bring a mini surge protector if you can afford the extra weight and be a hero to your fellow attendees!
3. Bring your business cards. You will be meeting the brands’ senior staff, PR agency staff managing the brands, and fellow press and attendees like buyers and store owners. I do very well with my Moo cards. This “motto” has gotten me chuckles and they always remember me.
3b. Know your pitch/do your research. The staff at each booth meet hundreds (thousands?) of people each day. You may only get a minute or you may get 10 minutes with them. They’ll pitch you – so pitch back. Is this a brand you’ll want to follow-up with regarding a product review, interview or giveaway?
4. Establish a game plan for each day you’re there. There are thousands of exhibitors. I’ve got a mission this year to find coffee products (as usual), baby products, products sweetened without stevia, and so on. I’m also covering for a second publication so I’m looking for portable foods for travel.
Trust me – you’ll hit your 10,000 steps on your Fitbit very quickly! I’ll be wearing my favorite tracker, my Withings.
5. Don’t stuff 10 samples in your bag just because they’re free. Don’t weigh yourself down with stuff you’re never going to use. Do not grab for the bag of eco-friendly kitty litter when you don’t have a cat.
6. Don’t bring big bags – plural. I’m bringing my backpack with me and that’s it. You will be able to find and pick up a reusable bag from exhibitors. Plus you’ll be parking at Angels Stadium and shuttled to the Convention Center – it is not a walkable distance with 20-lb bags of swag. (However, you can get back on the shuttle to your car and back to drop off your bag(s) and shuttle back.) Note – every attendee is carrying at least one bag of samples, so beware of shuffling through aisles!
7. Bring a pen that works on glossy paper. I like my Sharpie pens a lot. Some exhibitors will give you a glossy flyer with price lists and product info, and ballpoints or gels won’t work. Sharpies, y’all, Sharpies.
Optional – these work for me:
8. Bring a small notebook. I never remember everything I see or everyone I meet, so I bring a small Moleskin and write down my notes. Tip: You could also bring a sticky notepad to attach to each business card you receive – write your notes there, stick, boom.
9. Bring a water bottle. There are water stations – look for them in your map and refill! Don’t be stranded with a mouthful of gluten-free crackers and nothing to wash it down with.
10. Eat a real breakfast with protein. Nothing beats a real meal before you tackle a bajillion-square foot convention space. It is possible to eat your way through the expo but why start the day hangry? Eat breakfast.
OT: There are many vendors offering food samples as well as food trucks outside the building.
If you’ve attended the Expo before, what are your tried and true tips? Which brands and products are you interested in seeing at the Expo?
Have a super time at ExpoWest! I’ll see you there!
Here’s a throwback of all my past posts on Expo West!
Disclosure: Post contains affiliate links.
Hi there! Thanks for this info! I will be attending for the first time and I have a few questions about traffic, parking and shuttle service. What is traffic like during this time? I’ve spent a good amount of time in Anaheim in the past, but haven’t been while a convention of this size is going on. Do you know if the shuttle that goes from the Angel Stadium to the Convention center makes stops? How long is this shuttle ride? Is this a different shuttle from the ART shuttle that does make stops? Thank you so much!
Hey Patricia, Sorry for the delay. Traffic… do you mean car traffic? It’s same old traffic you get because of the morning crush and those tourists who are visiting Disneyland, which is next door to the convention center. The Shuttle from Angel Stadium and the drop-off does NOT make stops. I’d say it took about 10-15 mins from hopping on the bus to getting off and walking out. It’ll drop you off across the street from the Convention Center – there will be traffic cops out there helping move people along. I’m not sure what ART Shuttle is – Anaheim Transit? My reco is to get to the parking lot early, park, get on the shuttle and head to registration. (From what I recall, you CAN pick up your badge at the parking lot but you might as well just go straight to the con to get your bag and badge.
Bring a water bottle – there are stations to refill. I’d bring a backpack but I’ve seen others just bring a large tote. Bring business cards and a pen! Have a great time!!
I carry an apple with me to eat right after I try a yucky tasting sample. Nothing worse than hating the taste in your month as you stand around chatting.
Smarty pants. Looking forward to cruising the madness with ya!
stevie wilson says
for 2015… the press area has been moved to another Hotel in the ACC complex! WILD but smart.. so you aren’t going all the way up to 3rd floor and down again.
Send yourself an email with the appts you might have made or a list of the booth #s of brands you want to talk to and send it to the email tied to your smartphone. This will eliminate carrying copies of multiple emails.
Use the space in the back of your badge to stow business cards OR take a single ziplock lunch bag to stow those cards. They are golden.. and you don’t want to lose a single one!
Thanks for the update! I’ll make sure I note that!
Lindsay Tredent Mauch says
Great advice! I am still mapping out my plan of attack for the event. Can’t wait!
GiGi Eats Celebrities says
OMG YES! This is just what I need. I am going on Friday and I looked at all the vendors who will be there and got so very overwhelmed! ha ha ha!
Cynthia Duarte says
Great advice, this is my first year going. Hope to seeyou!
Good point about 3b, your elevator pitch. I have yet to perfect mine and have only a few days to do so. See you there.