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Tradeshow continuity plan

As a tradeshow consultant that loves working with my Trade Show clients and trolling show floors in a wide variety of industries, I have learned a lot over the years about what works well and what doesn’t, including how to creatively deal with unforeseen emergencies.

While it is important to be diligently working on strategy, objectives and analysis to help maximize tradeshow ROI, it is just as important to have an organized contingency plan to prepare for any emergency that should arise. Just like many companies now have business continuity plans for emergencies, you should have a tradeshow continuity plan that helps you be prepared to deal with tradeshow disasters. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at two scenarios that have to do with shipping related mishaps, and show you some tips and strategies you can apply to your next tradeshow.

Overview of the two scenarios
You have nailed your exhibiting objectives, targeted your marketing message, selected the most unique and memorable promotional item ever, created stunning graphics, designed the most visually appealing, crowd stopping booth in history, packed and labeled everything, and shipped it to the show. …

Scenario 1
Upon arriving at your booth to unpack the crates, you realize that your crates are in shambles and your magnificent display has taken a severe beating.

What do you do?

Since running out to the nearest office supply store or home improvement center is not always a viable option, it is in your best interest to pack some tradeshow survival gear in your crates. You wouldn’t go on a camping trip without a first aid kit would you? This is really the same, except it contains bandages for your booth.

An emergency supply list will have you well prepared for just about any emergency as long as the majority of your booth arrives to the show.

Scenario 2
Upon arriving at your booth to unpack the crates you realize there are no crates to unpack; the booth is mocking you with its emptiness. Your mind starts racing and you start imagining the worse.

What do you do?

For starters, stay calm and start investigating before freaking out, calling your boss or losing your sanity; there is always time to panic later. Most of the time the shipment is delayed for simple reasons; ranging from your booth location on the show floor to the time your shipping company checked in to drop off your shipment.

The Top 5 things to do on your shipment hide-and-go-seek search:

1. Take all of your shipping and material handling paperwork, including the shipping company contact information, to the general contractor’s service desk and inquire on the status of your shipment. Ask them to track it down through their computer system and give you an estimated time of arrival to your booth location.

2. If the service desk can’t locate your shipment ask them to call the freight foreman who can tell you whether the shipping company driver has checked-in, and if he has done so. He can also tell you where the driver currently is and give an estimated time as to when the truck will be unloaded.

3. If you still have not located your shipment, call the transportation company or your shipping agent; give them your PRO number, progressive numbering system used for tracking, billing and identifying freight, to find out the status of your shipment. Ask about the driver’s location so you can estimate how long it will be until the driver arrives on-site. Also, ask if you can get the drivers cell phone number so you can contact them directly.

4. If there has been some unforeseen emergency that has delayed your shipment ask the shipping company what their plan is to rectify the situation to have your delivery arrive a.s.a.p. Keep notes on your communication with the shipping company, including the date, time and name of who you are speaking with; you may need this information later on in subsequent conversations with the shipping company.

5. If there has been some mishap and you realize your worst nightmare has come true, your shipment will not be arriving, there are several things you can do to scrape together a display and still have a successful show.

Inquire with show services about renting a display.

Arrange printing of the display and collateral locally.

Tip: Always have a CD with your display and collateral graphic files travel with you personally.

If you have a partner or reseller located locally, contact them to see what display and/or collateral items they may have on hand.

If your budget doesn’t allow for re-printing or rental of a booth, then hold your head high and poke fun at your missing shipment.

Create a handmade sign indicating the shipping mishap; attach it to the pipe and drape, including your company name and a few key benefits. Act like business as usual by engaging, qualifying, closing and getting leads from attendees. You are sure to gain sympathy points.

About Linda Musgrove, the TradeShow Teacher
Linda Musgrove is president of the Trade Show Training firm, TradeShow Teacher. She focuses on teaching companies to significantly improve tradeshow results through strategic, customized Trade Show Training for individuals, departments or entire teams. Learn more at

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