HOLY SHIP, my Show freight is lost!! Trade Show Armageddon Survival Guide
What would send you into a full blown panic? What sequence of events would have you gravely concerned about being fired from your job. If you are an exhibitor, your worst nightmare would be your entire exhibit, product samples and promotional materials not arriving at your booth for set-up.
You just raced from the airport to the hotel to check in then scrambled over to the show site to hit the show floor to set up the best booth ever… You are in charge and the adrenalin is flowing. You convinced your boss that this was the show to be at and thousands of $$$’s d have been spent. You have done your homework and have preset appointments with attendees that are existing clients plus you have set appointments with excellent targeted prospects for new business. Add the cherry on top that your booth is killer cool, you have great promotional giveaways AND your company product lines are better and cost less than any competitor. You are poised for the Grand Slam, ready to bowl that 300 game, get a perfect 10 in Gymnastics…pick the analogy because all heck is about to break loose.
When you show up and absolutely nothing is in your booth other than that fantastic plush padded carpet you ordered from the General Service Contractor (GSC), you must take a breath and keep it together. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. It’s not the universe lining up against you to destroy you personally and crush all your future dreams. Hitting the panic button is only going to make things worse. Yelling at everyone who will try to help you will only delay, impede or completely derail the solution. Don’t be the guy screaming his head off. Don’t be the woman who is threatening to sue and bring down the wrath of your local church and all of your Face Book and Linked In friends if this isn’t fixed NOW!!! You aren’t here to incite a riot.
Your goal (with my soon to come great preplanned Doomsday Preppers action plan at your side), is to get your booth ramped back up as quickly as possible with cost restraint (forget constraints, that just won’t work for this type of problem) so the focus of your exhibiting experience isn’t telling everyone about the jerk wads that lost your booth. It is relatively easy to overcome this challenge. The first step though is to cool your jets and file this unfolding fun-fest under the “stuff happens” category. Remember, nobody wanted to lose your materials. It’s kind of hard for the trucking company/freight carrier or the General Service Contractor (GSC) to get paid when the service has not been performed, so they really do want to help. However there is a Grand Canyon of difference between you being able to marshal the resources and shepherd the process OR being clueless, obnoxious, and angry and alienating all of those on show site and back at the corporate office that can be your best tools for repairing the situation.
We can always decide who’s to blame later. If there are costs involved that you don’t think you should be paying you just might have to pony up more money before the process of refunds from services not performed or insurance claims and the whole murky mess can be dealt with post show. You are going to have to pull out that credit card and get this fixed the old fashioned way. Being well prepared, resourceful, flexible, nauseatingly nice with a sprinkle of charming and some wicked gallows humor, complete the persona you need so that people rally for you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Ms. Savvy Exhibitor or Mr. Newbie, this series of awful events can happen to anyone. It’s best to put your head down and keep digging until you climb out of the pit.
Start by going to the Exhibitor Service desk. They will help. Ideally you have been tracking the shipment throughout its movement to destination. You have the tracking number, you have confirmations of delivery both by the General Service Contractor (GSC aka drayage contractor) and/or the trucking company that claims they delivered it and the General Service Contractor (GSC) lost it. We are not here to talk about that (because that is tale for another day) but we are here for concrete action steps on how to get this problem fixed:
Have the cell phone # of your nearest customer that would have inventory of your product in their retail store or warehouse. Have E files of artwork, branding graphics or any current publication advertisements or promo materials that could be turned into over sized large format images (8’ tall or taller).
No close-by customers? Have the shipping department of your company, or whoever could get to the office on standby (you know this type of thing happens on the weekends because maybe the universe is really against you for not calling your Mom before you left town). Before you go, make sure you have a direct 24/7 line to the person that can get in and get your stuff ready to be shipped by the carrier (overnight airfreight by the guys you think lost it sounds awesome) or by direct curb to curb service via domestic airlines. Shipments can be brought to the airport (certain materials excluded) and though you have leeway depending on the airline, you would be surprised at how much they can transport. Should none of these be viable options due to oversized pieces or other factors, you still can use tandem teams of drivers for time critical shipments (there goes that budget); at this time only you know what you need. What must you have in the booth and what you can live without?
The larger the equipment or products are then the more obstacles there shall be to overcome. The good news is that the bigger the product or displays the less chance of having it lost. We are trying to examine the most likely common scenario; we have helped many people, many times over the years get what they need into their booth in mere hours or overnight. It’s not miraculous or Houdini-like; it just takes dogged determination, pragmatism and a list of every contact person that you will need in an exhibiting emergency.
The general service contractor/decorator will rent you a Modular exhibit; I guarantee it. If they think it’s their fault, you could wring out a comp booth or at least a waiver of the show site up-charges to only pay advance rate. “ You da man tip #641”: Enlist the help of the show manager and their staff. They want you to have successful exhibit experience whether you are a 10’ x 10’ new booth or a 50’ x 50’ Island; the show manager has a vested interest in helping you. Since you are a captive customer of the General Service Contractor (GSC) but a commodity that the show organizer had to pursue, they want to help. AND, they have clout. The General Service Contractor (GSC) will respond to their requesting you all become allies in the fight to keeping your world from collapsing. Whatever you do, don’t ask for a sign that says BFN Truckers lost my stuff. Nobody cares, you want to sell products or services, not be the whiny complainer. Too bad, so sad. Move On. Get Over it, like Now.
Think Modular Exhibit Rental Unit with discount when the show manager puts some pressure on the contractor. Think graphics either from the GC or FedEx office or Staples, go hit Google, ask iphone Siridiot a local source for the graphics local without the crazy 100% or higher rush charges, One man’s misery is another man’s gold. Chaos = cash, so even though you are up against the wall, you always have time to ask for a better price.
Let’s start reviewing the solution steps: It’s going to cost bucks. Realistically a minimum of $2500 for bare bones fixes if you are missing your freight and exhibit for a 10’ or 20’ booth. Then add any video or graphics in addition to replacement specialty advertising items and the Armageddon cost will increase exponentially in line with whatever you originally spent. Don’t you wish you had found about the insurance coverage a few months before you executed your exhibit marketing plan?
Sweating bullets works only if you channel the adrenalin fueled pressure and stress into working through these tasks as efficiently and economically as possible. You must keep knocking out items on the check list, tasking and be instantly flexible and maneuverable. In the best cases, you are getting some product from a nearby customer, some is going on a Southwest flight as we speak, the General Service Contractor (GSC) is going to help you crush it with a modular rental unit and the graphics will be ready 3 hours before the show. You have just gone from zero to hero. Everyone loves to brag a little; No matter how humble, you want to tell folks what a great job you did and all the people who helped or worse… didn’t help. Now that its unicorns and rainbows again, you might want to let people know which Dolts almost completely ruined your professional career. My advice, shut up, don’t talk about it. Get back to your marketing game plan and all those nice customers and prospects. Don’t waste their time on this nonsense. Shut it down and keep the conversation positive. Sympathy or empathy won’t get the sale, so leave this where it belongs, a good horror story to tell another time.
Once the show opens and definitely before it closes, in the quiet time, start working on the insurance claim or invoice reductions from the suppliers that didn’t perform. You will never recoup “lost revenue” it doesn’t work that way but if you have insurance coverage (inland marine or temporary riders for trade shows and again, a subject in itself), or must file claims with other suppliers, start the process on site. It is easier to this going on show site while you have all the guilty, innocent, not so innocent and good Samaritans there to collect names and detailed copies of everything so you can kick butt later. Next year at the show, you’re the person who was “the nicest they ever met” (did you send thank you notes?) and not the “oh crap …..Here comes that maniac who didn’t know what they were doing”.
People do want to help you. I know my team thrives on making new friends by rallying in situations like this. If you had an experience like this but think nobody helped you even though you did everything right, then you got fired and now work for another company, I only ask if you could pass my name along to that show manager because they might need a new General Service Contractor (GSC).
Do you have exhibiting implosions or problems you want help in resolving or want to ask a question? Send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed By: Mitch Isaacs – Sales & Marketing Manager – General Contracting Division