Craft Test Dummies Guide: How to Pack and Prepare For CHA Show (or any other conference)


It’s time to gather my clothes, biz cards and electronic paraphernalia to head to the CHA Conference and Tradeshow. For some of my first-time team members, it’s pretty overwhelming- so this is the advice I give to them and use myself. These tips work just as well if you are heading to a blogging conference or other tradeshow, too, though. Let’s get started!

Packing Clothes

First tip: pack light. You think you might need a fresh outfit every day- you really don’t. You need  a few items that do double-duty, though! And most conferences suggest “business casual” if you are working or representing a business.  Here are my best tips:

  1. Bring flat/comfortable shoes. No one cares how your feet look at these things- and you will be standing/walking on concrete floors up to 10 hours at a time. Bring extra shoes to swap in the middle of the day if need be. And bring “blister” band aids. They are miraculous. Ask me how I know.
  2. Every  piece should do double-duty. There is no reason you can’t wear those kakhis or black skirt twice. Wear plain, solid tops that you can switch, too. Use a scarf, cardi or statement jewelry to liven it up and make that same top look like a fresh outfit. It saves space!
  3. On jewelry- don’t let it overpower you. You want folks to remember your personality, not necessarily that pin or necklace. Be artistic and let your personality shine through- but too much is too much, you know?
  4. Keep it modest and professional. Just because I mock folks who let their ta-tas hang out or their pants ride down their arses. Also, it can be either scorching hot or frigid cold, depending on the HVAC system. A scarf or cardi for layering is key!

Packing Your Suitcase

I call this the “turduckhen” method of suitcase packing. You will need 2 suitcases, one that will fit inside of the other.

Place a smaller suitcase inside of a larger one for bring home goodies from vacations and tradeshows. From

Place a smaller suitcase inside of a larger one for bring home goodies from vacations and tradeshows. From

Place your *messanger backpack on the bottom of a medium-sized bag and then pack all of your clothes,shoes, and toiletries in it. (This is why I encourage you to pack light!) I usually make sure this suitcase is carry-0n size, so I don’t have to check it on my way home.

Then place the medium suitcase INSIDE the large suitcase. You can often fit your biz cards, jewelry, or other small items in the gaps.

Keep your wallet/electronics/ essentials in your “personal item” bag- which can be a large purse or briefcase.

TA-DA! Now you carry your “personal item” bag onto the plane and check your big bag. On the way home, you pack clothes and loot in the big suitcase, and place your laptop and personal stuff (and maybe some loot) into the carry-on sized suitcase. And you still get away with checking only one bag. HUZZAH!

*I suggest a backpack or messenger bag for the show floors. (Often rolling totes are prohibited.)There is often an exhibition hall that will have tons of vendors that want to give you free samples. It can get SO HEAVY- so bring a bag that can store your haul while you are walking around.

Packing Electronics

  • Bring only what you really need. It’s cool to have that extra iPad or laptop or table, but do you really need it? Do you really need a DSLR when maybe your smartphone will do? Remember, all of this has to go through carry-on TSA inspection, and it’s a bugger to get through the line. I bring a laptop, flipcam and my smart phone these days- that is all! I take notes with my pen because it’s less to carry then my iPad. And trying to take photos or vids with those things just looks silly! Make sure you remember your chargers, extra storage devices, or battery cases, too.

Packing Promotional Items

This is tricky. You want to bring swag and all, but so much gets left in hotel rooms when you are strapped for space. My best advice:

  1. Bring an abundance of professionally-printed cards and a container to store them. Keep it in the same place in your purse or messenger bag so you aren’t fumbling when the occasion arrives.
  2. Keep it simple. I recommend regular-size cards!! (Please don’t hand me goofy-shaped or 3-D cards- while they are “cute”, they aren’t as file-able as the regular ones and they are more likely to get lost.)
  3. Get your elevator-speech ready. That is, have a 30-second “pitch” describing your blog/role/mission to folks you meet on the fly.
  4. Come with a fact sheet or postcard. If you are promoting your small business or blog, it’s great to have postcards at the ready that have some stats/facts about your site. You might want to include:
  • Name of Blog and URL (if different)
  • Tag line or mission statement
  • How many Unique visitors over the past year
  • How many pageviews
  • Dwell time
  • Top Keyword Searches
  • Social sites you have and how many subscribers/fans/followers on each.

…and on that topic, make sure you know what you are looking for from the conference. Looking for guest posters? Sponsors? (If so, then have a detailed media-buy sheet ready with more detailed statistics.) Products or samples? The more you’ve thought through the more efficient you can be both in your “pitches” as well as who you want to spend time with in the exhibition hall.

 Emergency Kit for the Exhibition Hall:

Lastly- Keep these things with you on the show floor!

  • biz cards
  • protein snack
  • small bottle of water
  • eye drops
  • tissues
  • breath mints
  • band-aids
  • safety pin or two
  • hand lotion
  • box/ziplock bag for cards
  • small notebook & pen for jotting quick notes
  • …and I bring a mini stapler so I can staple cards TO the notebook pages to keep it all handy!

OK…now I’ve got to go follow my own advice and pack my turduckhen! : )

About Jenny

Chief Craft Test Dummy, Craft Evangelist, Founder, Editor, bottle-washer, trouble-maker, and creative whirlwind.


  1. Caryn S. (Scrapnsing) says

    Looks like my Christmas vacation packing (need the big case to bring back the gifts!). Hope you have a great time there!


  1. […] For some other practical advice on what to pack be sure to visit Craft Test Dummies for a list of how Jenny packs for the Craft and Hobby Association trade show here:  Craft Test Dummies Guide: How to Pack and Prepare For CHA Show (or any other conference). […]

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