Ask Engadget: What tech can help me survive a trade show?

This week's question asks about technology that can make a massive trade show a lot easier. Weigh in with your advice in the comments -- and feel free to send your own questions along to [email protected]!

I just worked my first CES, and it was a rough learning curve. There was a lot that I didn't anticipate, and I was scrambling most of the time to keep up. I'm also scheduled to be at MWC next month, and I'd like to be better prepared. What tech tips do you have that will help me survive another giant trade show?

Chris Velazco

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Chris Velazco

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Chris Velazco
Senior Editor, Mobile

Trade show life can be exhilarating, but it usually doesn't take long before something goes awry. I've been to CES something like nine times and MWC about seven, and a few gadgets come in handy every time.

When you're roaming the show floor, solid data connections can be hard to come by -- just ask the poor exhibitors around you, trying in vain to get their demos working on lousy venue Wi-Fi. Because of that, a portable hotspot is indispensable, especially when you're like us and need to stay on top of many, many meetings. There's a good chance your phone or laptop will need a top-up after long stretches on the floor, so I like to carry a power bank -- Mophie's Powerstation PD-XL or Powerstation AC are great choices. The latter is honestly very pricey, but it's been a life-saver since it'll also charge your USB-C laptop without fuss.

Assuming you'll have to work at some point, some kind of noise-reducing or noise-mitigating headphones can feel like a godsend. I've been using Apple's AirPod Pros since they strike a nice balance between noise cancellation and size, but Engadget also loves the Sony's WF-1000XM3. Both of these options are small, discreet and sound great, but if you'd rather use a more reasonably priced wired pair, I'm a big fan of the Shure SE215. It uses dense foam tips instead of microphones and algorithms to block out the trade show din, but they're damn good at it and they sound lovely.

Terrence O'Brien

Terrence O'Brien

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Terrence O'Brien
Managing Editor

When I'm traveling, one of my must-haves is a portable humidifier. Now, before we go any further, let me be clear: Basically every portable humidifier I've used has been cheap garbage. But, this is one of those instances where cheap garbage is better than nothing. Every hotel where I've stayed has used forced-air heat, and that just quickly turns a room into an arid torture chamber.

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That issue is only made worse when your hotel is in a barren desert wasteland. (Hello, Las Vegas!) A small portable humidifier can add just enough moisture to a room to keep you from waking up in the morning feeling like someone ran a box grater through your throat and sinuses.

Andrew Tarantola

Andrew Tarantola

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Andrew Tarantola
Senior Editor

I've luckily got that gene that renders me generally immune to most of the cold and flu strains out there, but these 90-nanometer facemasks are a solid choice if you're worried about getting sick and subsequently spreading it around. I used a set during the North Bay fires; they worked great for that too. I'd also recommend zinc supplements and alcohol-based hand wipes for external cleaning.

Devindra Hardawar

Devindra Hardawar

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Devindra Hardawar
Senior Editor

A few things I've found helpful: noise canceling buds (like Apple's Airpods Pro or Sony's WF-1000XM3) are great for blocking out the crowd noise, without being completely closed off like noise canceling full-sized headphones. Extra battery packs are key, especially if they can recharge your computer over USB-C.

Depending on what you're doing at a trade show, you may not need a camera or mic, but if you'd like to record panels for yourself, you can snag a mic add-on like this one from Shure for better quality. Also, bring a good water bottle to stay hydrated (and refill on the go). Oh, and wear good sneakers! That's tech, right?

Amber Bouman

Amber Bouman

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Amber Bouman
Community Content Editor

I'll add a few things: First, Dev is right about a battery backup -- a spare power supply is essential because outlets will not always be available or accessible. I like this one from Anker for phones and tablets.

Other smaller odds and ends that I've found helpful: a reliable calendar app with extensive features; a good note-taking app; and you may want to consider an app that uses your phones camera to take pictures of, and file, business cards. Also I cannot stress enough how useful it is to have a pouch or bag that corrals charging cables and cords into one place. (I use the Arkiv tool roll.)

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