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Bob.McGlincy Tradeshow Times
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An Exhibit Manager’s Nightmare

by Bob McGlincy

In 2019, CBS News reported that an event planner’s job was one of the six most stressful ones in America.  A decade earlier, poll results had stated, “Move in and move out is the most dreaded aspect of a corporate exhibitor’s job.”

One Exhibit Manager’s nightmare:

I wake up late. 

I cab it to the show floor, and dash to my booth space. 

There’s no-one there. No labor. Nobody.

I call my contact number. It’s disconnected.

I walk the show floor, asking if anyone has seen people from “Tradeshows R Us.” I get some responses: “No.”  “Never heard of them.”  “I think they’re out of business.”  “Isn’t that the guy who used to own ‘I&D is Me’?  I heard he fled the country.” 

It’s 9:45 a.m. I talk to a company on the show floor, plop down my credit card—I have this sick feeling like I’m signing a blank check—and am told I will have my labor after lunch.

Silly me. I’m thinking that “after lunch” means one o’clock. I guess not.  Labor shows up at 3:00 p.m. A bald-headed, toothless guy with tattoos tells me that it’s break time, and they’ll “be back in 15.” Twenty minutes later, the four of them return. I ask, “Who’s in charge here?” and toothless laughs under his breath, “Well, we know it’s not you.” A heavyset guy to the left of toothless says, “I am. Name’s Whitey.” 

 I start to explain the prints, but Whitey stops me, holding up his hand, “This ain’t our first rodeo, bub.” I ask him, that since we are getting such a late start, what can we do to speed things up a bit. Whitey looks at me like I’m an idiot or something. “Yo,” he says, “we got two speeds here. Slow and reverse. Which one you want?” 

The crew returns after dinner. (Did I mention they broke 15 minutes early, “to wash up”?) The carpet’s still not down, but as I glance around the booth, it’s then that I notice that all my flatscreens are missing. As I report this to security, they make me feel that it’s somehow my fault for tempting people by shipping in original cartons, and not having a guard or a locked cage. When I return to the booth, I’m informed that because I am working late, I have to “pick up” the union steward. I wouldn’t mind so much, but not only isn’t he working in my booth, I never see him and don’t even think he is in the building. 

Day Two. We worked past midnight the night before. Nobody bothered to tell me until this morning that I’m being charged double time today because the crew did not have “an eight-hour turnaround.” The budget’s blown; but at least we’re almost on schedule.

I ask Ron (that’s “Toothless”) not to smoke in the booth today. He says it’s okay, because he can work and smoke at the same time, and it doesn’t slow him down. Not five minutes later, he drops hot ashes into wood shavings made by his drilling, and the panel starts smoking … of which, of course, he is unaware. Whitey rushes to put it out, but in his haste knocks John’s ladder, who drops the Plexi header, which swings into the aisle and smacks an exhibitor. Matt, still holding onto the other end of the header, is pulled off his ladder and crashes into the back wall.  Ron looks up, tokes on his cigarette, glances around, exhales and says …“Break time.”

 Of course this nightmare is pure fiction. Too many service companies work too hard to allow anything like this to happen.

 A second exhibit manager’s nightmare:

I wake up in darkness. I’m not sure where I am.  Or what city it is.  I think I travel too much.

I’m sweating. I move my head and feel dizzy.  I reach for my phone; the apps are spinning.  I take a breath. And then I remember … Covid-19; millions of people in the industry are laid off or on furlough. 

 Fortunately, the second nightmare is ending. Shows are happening, or scheduled to be happening, in many sectors of the country. It will still take time, but tradeshows are returning.  And for that, we can all be grateful and dream a bit easier.

Willwork LogoBob McGlincy is director, business management at Willwork Global Event Services.  Willwork creates engaging, energized, and exceptional event experiences. He can be contacted at Bob.McGlincy@willwork.com


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