By Michelle Graff

Having just returned to the office after covering two trade shows (Vicenzaoro and JA New York) in two weeks, I have never been happier to sit down in my cubicle. Lucky for me, I get a few weeks downtime, but I know that many in the industry will be off to Tuscon next week for round three. I thought I would offer a few quick pointers about successfully navigating a show:

Wear comfortable shoes: This by far represents the first rule of thumb for me. I love looking good as much as the next person, but wearing heels to a show inevitably leads to aching feet, which makes everything a bit more unbearable. Luckily, flats and wedges are in this year, and they're available in a slew of chic styles.

Make a schedule but be flexible: Lining up appointments is the best way to make sure you see key vendors, but if the appointment before you runs late (or if you run late), have the ability to wait or reschedule. Also, allow some time between appointments to just take in the show, and don't forget to schedule time to eat.

Walk down at least one new aisle: New vendors often end up in areas on the show floor that get the least traffic. Taking a stroll down an aisle where you don't know anyone can help you find an up-and-coming designer or corroborate a key trend you've been seeing.

Bring plenty of business cards: Think about how many business cards you need and double that number. Running out of cards means scribbling you name onto scraps of paper, which can appear unprofessional and can also be lost.

Attend a party or two: Many trade associations, vendors or even the shows themselves will host parties on evenings following the show. Even if you are tired, try to stop by for at least one drink. Meeting people outside of the show floor can help you build stronger relationships.

Get away from the show for at least a few hours: For most people, trade shows mean travel. Don't waste an opportunity to see (or revisit) a city. Taking in a museum or a play or shopping for something other than jewelry can help get your mind off any stress that's associated with the show.

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