What Smells? The Top 10 Trade Show Odors

Please enjoy... I asked Mel White if I can reprint this very fun (and truthful) article- hope you like it like I do. -R

What Smells? Pleasant and Unpleasant Tradeshow Odors

Like me, you probably attend two, three, or 30 trade shows or events every year. Trade shows are mesmerizing, not only for their creativity but also for their visual and auditory overstimulation. You are constantly bombarded by images, information, music, voices, and lights. The larger the show, the more the sensory overload. It can be exhausting, but for most of us, it’s exhilarating — especially for those two or three days.

It’s tempting to focus on the sights and sounds, but trade shows are about other senses as well, such as taste, touch, and smell. We don’t often think about the familiar “smells” of trade shows, but there are many, which we all recognize as both pleasant and unpleasant. Indulge me for a minute as I explore the olfactory sensations common to most trade shows and events. In other words, what stinks and what doesn’t.

The Top 10 Trade Show Odors:

  1. B.O.: You knew this would be on the list. Go ahead, call me a brainwashed, overly-sanitize consumer of the antiperspirant consortium. I accept that label. But I don’t think I’m alone in being repelled by the acidic pungency of B.O. I can deal with mild, slightly sour B.O. but the clingy stench that leaps from the B.O.’er to your clothing in milli-seconds is totally unacceptable.
  2. Peppermint: Mints are the 6th food group at trade shows. They are everywhere from standard star mints to licorice mints and from packaged promotional mints to over-the-counter mints. Thank goodness for mints. I am especially thankful for Altoids, the nuclear bomb of mints. One Altoids has the power to create a nearly impenetrable minty force field (with one exception – see #10).
  3. Hangover: This smell varies from person to person. On a scale of 1-10, with one being OK and ten being gross, here are three examples:
    • #1 – Slight musky. This person got home late, had a few too many drinks, and may have been in a smoky bar.
    • #5 – Vodka sweats. Not only is alcohol still in their bloodstream but they are perspiring booze. Whether you like it or not, you’re sharing every fancy martini they had last night . . . but with a hint of salt.
    • #10 – Vomit. Enough said.
  4. Propane Fumes: Most forklifts and hi-lifts at convention halls use propane as fuel. The smell isn’t necessarily offensive, particularly if it’s only momentary. It’s the combination of the smell and the heat from the exhaust at a summer show which can be overwhelming. I know they make electric forklifts. With all due respect to Hank Hill and the Strickland Propane Co, I prefer electricity.
  5. Windex: This smell varies depending on the brand and the cleanser, but the unmistakable aroma of cleaning solvents permeates every show hall when the doors officially open. If you’re a germaphobe, it’s the equivalent of crack cocaine.
  6. Fresh Baked Cookies: Fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies have become a trade show staple for many exhibitors. It’s a smart idea, but you have to be willing to feed not only prospective customers but also every other exhibitor within a 500 ft. radius Just writing about it makes me want to drive to the mall and purchase a half-dozen cookies at Mrs. Fields. Yum!
  7. Men’s Cologne/Women’s Perfume: Before anyone corrects me, I know there is some hoity-toity difference between cologne and perfume, but I’m lumping them together anyway. Personally I don’t mind the scent of cologne/perfume, but I emphasize “scent.” It should be subtle. Recall my earlier observation about B.O. This applies to perfume and cologne as well. If your cologne causes someone to visibly wince in pain, then you may want to scale it back a gallon or two.
  8. Feet: Your feet. Not others. Most of us are desk jockeys. We’re not accustomed to walking the show floor or standing for hours. We’re weak. I’m not saying your feet stink, but your may want to add a little talcum powder to your shoes before and after the show EVERY SINGLE DAY. And don’t even think about wearing those socks more than once. Show some mercy.
  9. Carpet and Visqueen Vapors: Visqueen is the plastic covering used to protect carpet from general abuse and tire marks during installation. Both carpet and visqueen give off vapors. New carpet in particular can be vapor intensive. Some folks love that smell. Then again, some folks love the smell of gasoline. I don’t get it frankly.
  10. Bad Breath: Yikes. Combine alcohol, coffee, late nights, and a travel toothbrush and you have the perfect petri dish for bad breath. Mints help to mask the odor, but even mints can’t subdue halitosis that’s become a living, breathing organism. With family you can hand them dental floss, a toothbrush, and Listerine, but with colleagues and strangers you pretty much have to gut it out. I once had a colleague hand a customer three Certs and then smile. I’m not that brazen.

Printed with permission from Mel White, VP of Marketing & Business Development
Classic Exhibits Inc. classicexhibits.com