Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Published on Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Lose Some Weight in the New Year

It started as a quick, “How are you doing?” phone call. Our client just finished her first full year of managing the company’s trade shows and events (among other things).


Carpet padding“If you told me a year and a half ago all the things I didn’t know, that I know now, I really would not have believed you.” She went on, “And all the unknowns? For my first show, I thought it was insane to pay for padding under the carpet. The sales people called me at the show open on a Sunday and started yelling at me about how their knees and feet were killing them.”


“Talk about a lesson learned,” she said.


She went on to tell me that her CFO ordered every department to eliminate 10% from their 2016 budgets. They were still doing the same four shows using a 20’x20’ island, and a handful of hotel shows. “How am I supposed to cut 10%? The costs for space and labor are definitely not going down.”


Scale“Lose some weight,” I said.


“What?” I could sense the mean stare, even through the phone line.


“No, not you. Your exhibits. All that stuff you’re sending.”


Her company’s island properties were about five years old. Previously, the original manufacturer stored the property, but now the four crates were stored in their own warehouse out east. At this point, our only involvement was to provide new graphics for an existing hanging structure, a simple backwall and banner stands for the hotel shows.


“Let’s look at your freight and material handling bills from last year. Just the four large shows,” I said.


Trade show freightOver the next few days, she pulled the invoices and bills of lading for shows in Las Vegas, Anaheim, Orlando and Chicago. The shows were in the same cities this year. Freight and material handling alone totaled $60,000 for the 5,000 pounds of exhibit materials.


By examining the weights and shipping, I was able to reduce those costs by over one half. Yes, over $30,000 in estimated saving in just freight and material handling. This could be accomplished if they simply discontinued using the old properties and incorporated lighter-weight aluminum structure and large fabric graphics that packed into smaller crates.


Further savings could be achieved by shipping their properties from the Anaheim show, directly to the advance warehouse for the show in Las Vegas. Last year, all the exhibit crates shipped back to their warehouse in the east.


Fabric graphic trade show displayThe $25,000 design proposal included new display properties, a redesigned hanging sign, storage area and two work stations with monitors. All of this using aluminum extrusion and fabric graphics. And, since the new properties would ship from our warehouse in Chicago to the west coast for the first two shows, 1,000 miles were eliminated from that initial journey. Miles are money! Just ask any trucking company.


A thorough review of all other trade show expenses followed. Literature, which was mostly returned after a show, was reduced. Renting monitors and furniture was more cost effective than the repeated shipping and material handling costs of owned furnishings.


Before you knew it, she found the 10% budget savings, even with a proposal in hand for a new display.


Guitar and amplifier“You guys are rock stars,” she wrote to me in an email.


“No,” I replied, “You are the rock star. We just showed you how to plug in the guitar to the right amp.”


Oh, and never, ever skimp on carpet padding.


Steve Moskal











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Steve Moskal
Steve Moskal

Steve Moskal

Other posts by Steve Moskal
Contact author Full biography

Full biography

Steve’s journey in the trade show and event world started in 1983 with one of the original Nomadic Display sales organizations in North America. In 1994, he co-founded Prairie Display/Chicago.

Steve was an Allied Board Member of TSEA (Trade Show Exhibitors Association) from 2007 to 2011 and recipient of the TSEA President’s Award in 2009. He also served as Financial Chair of the Midwest Exhibit and Event Professionals (formerly the Chicago chapter of TSEA) and as a commissioner with the Elmhurst Economic Development Commission from 2011 to 2016. Currently he is Vice President of Education for the Addison/Elmhurst, IL Toastmasters Club.

When not working with customers and co-workers at Prairie, you can find him trying to spend more time biking and pursuing other creative endeavors. Steve lives in Oak Brook, IL with his beautiful and equally understanding wife of 26 years, Shelley.

Steve is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a B.A. in Journalism and a Fine Arts minor.


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