Exhibiting at Expo West: An Operations Manager’s Perspective

by Trevor Schmidt



Exhibiting at Expo West

Exhibiting at Natural Products Expo West can be a daunting challenge for any company, but is perhaps even more daunting for a small company with limited resources.

Natural Products Expo West is an annual trade show in Anaheim, CA specializing in natural food and beverage products. It boasts more than 85,000 attendees and is the ‘IT’ place to be for buyers and insiders in the consumer packaged goods industry.

Expo West is often seen as a place for salespeople and marketing professionals, and this may be true, but it is not the whole story. There is an incredible amount of logistics involved in exhibiting at a trade show if you want to do it well. All of your trade materials (product and booth needs) have to be sorted out months in advance and you need to know your load-in and load-out schedule down pat. Large companies have teams with varied responsibilities and each employee largely stays in their lane. But what about smaller companies or startups?

In my experience, the smaller the company, the more hats each employee wears. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does come with its own challenges. When exhibiting at the biggest trade show of the year in our industry, the challenges compound.

Exhibiting at expo west 2018

Small Company, Big Impact

How do you make the biggest splash with the fewest exhibitors? Clearly define your trade show roles and know what you’re trying to accomplish. If there are specific buyers you need to talk to, write down their names and companies beforehand. Know who on your team is the closer on larger accounts and who will handle the smaller, but still important accounts.

Selling For Introverts

It’s no surprise that most salespeople are extroverts. When you walk around a trade show everyone is putting on a smile and presenting their best selves. The difference? In situations with tons of talking an extroverted person will be energized while an introverted person will be drained. This, however, does not mean an introvert cannot be successful in this environment.

The best method I’ve found to deal with this is really quite simple. Take frequent breaks and step away from the booth and out into the hall if possible. Five minutes every 1-2 hours is often enough to reset. Go to the restroom, sit in a less crowded area, and process everything that’s happening around you. After a few minutes, head back to the booth and get ready to talk, because the lines never seem to stop (which is great news for business). Still, don’t forget to eat and drink something…

Was that just Jennifer Garner over there? Yes. It was.

Operational Show Tips

Long before the show, make sure you have planned sufficiently for trade materials (sales sheets, handouts, stickers, or anything else you plan to have handy). Make sure the design work is done and everything is at the printer by the first week in February to make sure it’s done in time. Expect delays!

One to two weeks before the show, write a checklist of everything you intend to bring with you and stage it somewhere convenient to be loaded at a later time. Depending on the size of your booth space, whether you’re physically building something or just setting up banners, and other factors, you may want to ship a pallet of materials to the designated location (available from your Expo West rep).

In our case, we typically take a truck down to Anaheim since we’re only a day away and so far everything has fit. Then, once we check in, we put everything on a pallet for loading into the venue once we reach the convention center. This process is typically pretty smooth as long as your paperwork is in order. Pro Tip: Keep all of the documents given to you at check-in handy to make load-in faster.

Exhibiting The First Time

The first time I exhibited at Expo West was more than a little daunting. Some companies had been going for more than a decade, while still others were many times our size. There was so much going on it took a while to find our booth, even though we mostly knew where we were going. Exhibiting at any trade show can be taxing, but one as large as Expo West comes with its own challenges.

The first year we exhibited was the first year that the North Halls opened at the Anaheim Convention Center and the attention was insane. Parking on the first day was so bad that our marketing manager had to hoof it from over two miles away! We learned a lot that first year, which made subsequent years easier to strategize. For instance, even if you can drive from your hotel, it’s easier to just Uber or Lyft and get dropped off at the front entrance. Keep it simple! We put together some more tips for surviving Expo West which can be found here.


Stop On By

I will be in the Hot Products section of Natural Products Expo West 2020 at the Tahoe Trail Bar booth! Stop by the North Halls 2nd floor at booth N1839. Tahoe Trail Bar sells gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO energy bars with an incredible taste like you wouldn’t believe. Our decadent flavor offerings include Peanut Butter Chocolate, Caramel Chocolate Chunk, Mango Coconut, and Dark Chocolate Cherry.

Let me know in the comments below what your experience has been like at Natural Products Expo West. Who had the best exhibit? What new brand rocked your socks off?


If you are looking for non GMOvegan, gluten free energy bars for on the trail or off shop Tahoe Trail Bars. Read about our mission to build 1,000 miles of trail in 10 years. If you’ve never tried a Tahoe Trail Bar, now’s your chance to see what all the fuss is about. Use the coupon code: PlantBasedFuel and receive $5 off your order. Buy Bars here. Savings never tasted this good!

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