What does your conference tote say about you?

You see a flock of tourists near the Washington Convention Center, all wearing nametags and schlepping identical carry-alls. “Ah, conference-goers,” you think. “But what species?” Different industries tend to favor certain styles of totes. We asked Jen McCall, a trendspotter with the Promotional Products Association International, how to classify conventioneers by their bags.

grocery
Brightly colored reusable grocery bag

Worn by: People who run in condo board elections

Where spotted: Washington Metropolitan Chapter Community Associations Institute Expo, March 22

Identifying characteristics: A pastel- or jewel-toned tote indicates an “informal, friendly, relaxed group,” McCall says. Thrifty, too: “Smaller associations prefer these lighter-weight bags because they are affordable.”

Barracuda
Briefcase-style bag

Worn by: People to whom you owe money

Where to spot: Property Management EXPO 2014, April 17

Identifying characteristics: The “Barracuda Briefcase,” as this svelte, multipurpose model is known, is meant for serious businesspeople who “work on the road, or spend a lot of time out and about visiting places,” McCall says.

textbook
Textbook-size tote

Worn by: Do-gooders who believe the education system’s not broken

Where to spot: The National Service Learning Conference, April 9-12

Identifying characteristics: “This is the kind of shape and size that reminds you of writing and books,” McCall says. “It’s a little short on aesthetics, but they are still trying to be cute, with the sweeped pocket on the outside.” Educators also like pen pockets.

APA
Logo messenger bag

Worn by: Positive thinkers with decent paychecks

Where to spot: American Psychological Association Annual Convention, Aug. 7-10

Identifying characteristics: Nice messenger bags with big logos are found on people who “are proud of the work they do and excited about the opportunity to be with their peers,” McCall says. Red is popular with advocacy groups, because “you get this feeling of activism and movement and change.”

ACCConventionBag001
Basic black sack

Worn by: People who are richer than they look

Where spotted: American College of Cardiologists Conference, March 29-31

Identifying characteristics: “The health care industry has been under fire for the way they spend their promotional dollars,” McCall says. “So they’re trying really hard to show the consumer that they really are invested in health care and in the well-being of their patients.”

Sadie Dingfelder is a features writer for the Washington Post Express.
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