There never will be a shortage of advice, paid or free, when it comes to managing a successful trade show program. Go ahead, Google it or go to your choice of exhibit industry social media groups.
They are all there: ship to advance warehouse, take advantage of discount deadlines for ordering show services and audio visual, get the better carpet padding, bring extra extension cords, wear comfortable shoes, blah, blah, blah, and on and on.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re all good, usable snippets of information and direction. To the experienced pros who post these on Facebook, and repost and like on LinkedIn, thank you. Don’t let it ever be said that our industry doesn’t put it all out there. Everyone has a story, a “plan b” scenario or experience to share.
Probably one of the most comprehensive books I have ever read is Show and Sell by Margit Weisgal, longtime industry professional and past president of the sorely missed Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA). It’s still available on Amazon. Or, get in touch with Margit (firstname.lastname@example.org), she might be able to get you a copy. It’s worth a read and handy to have around. Tell her I sent you!
Where is all this going? Well, to a few more pieces of advice!
We found ourselves a little short-handed in our display inspection and prep department last month, during a very busy fall show season. Hiring a new associate in the middle of show season would be like handing the ball to a fan in the stands when your professional baseball team has run out of pitchers. This was also not a time for on-the-job training.
If anyone has ever run a company or organization, you jump in where and when you can. I volunteered to come in after hours and help get us up to speed on inspections. Inspections include checking, cleaning and repacking display properties when they come back from a show or event. It also includes getting them ready for the next use, making any repairs, adjustments or additions, as needed.
Performing inspections was a great reminder to me that, just like your car, in order for your display properties to function properly, you have to check the oil, rotate the tires and make sure the windshield wiper fluid is full. If not, you’re destined for a breakdown and will be unprepared when it happens.
So based on getting my hands dirty and my back stiff, while inspecting several 10’ and 20’ inline displays:
1. Always, always, always, check your display properties when they come back from one show, before they head out to the next.
2. Make sure to remove all old shipping and show-related labels from cases and crates.
I know, I know - time is tight, there is no one to do it, there isn’t enough space. There are plenty of excuses not to complete an inspection. But when the best fix for repairing a ripped graphic on the show floor is carpet tape, and you have to beg the general contractor to let you pay $100 to rent a 15’ extension cord, maybe it’s time to find the time or the right people to do it. I mean, it is perfectly understandable that everything doesn’t come back the way it was sent out. It’s just a simple fact.
I cringed when I saw a newspaper photo of a logo table throw that was used during a pre-election debate between Illinois’ two Senate candidates. Doesn’t anyone know how to iron anymore? Is that the impression you want to make to your customers and other attendees - that you’re wrinkled and unprepared?
A word about shipping labels. Here are a set of cases that came back from a recent event - yes, just one event. There are outbound labels covered by inbound labels and routing stickers. If you reshipped these cases and just slapped a label over one of the old labels, who knows where the display would end up if the labels fell off.
My advice: take the time to thoroughly inspect and maintain your properties after each event. After all, you want everything to be in its place and looking the best it can, and you want it delivered to the right place.
If you need the name of a great spray solvent that takes off gummy labels like melted butter, just let me know.
And don’t forget the comfortable shoes. Feel free to repost or like, folks.