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fixing snafus

A Low Blow

Everyone likes to get it right the first time, and I am no different. So when I started my new position as marketing director for Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants Inc., I wanted the first show I planned to go flawlessly.

And what better way to start than with a small show in a hotel ballroom? While the show was in San Francisco, I would manage it remotely from our office in Charlotte, NC. I had set up shows sight unseen many times, but in hindsight, this is one ballroom that I wish I'd eyeballed before the show.

On the Friday before the show opened, I was in my office feeling confident. All my shipments were confirmed, and my folks on the West Coast were ready for a great show. An experienced sales consultant would run the booth and, as an added bonus, my company's CEO would be speaking at the show, where he could witness the great job I had done managing our exhibit program.

But at 9:30 that morning, our receptionist got a call from the salesperson who would be manning the booth I'd sent her. The message she relayed from the show's general services contractor was this: "Freeman is concerned about your booth height. The ceilings are sloped and start at 7 foot, 3 inches moving to 7 foot, 8 inches closer to the entrance of the room. Please call me to discuss."

Immediately, I called her cell phone, but didn't receive an answer. I checked the exhibitor packet, but there was no information or restrictions regarding ceiling height. Plus, I had previously confirmed with show management that a standard 10-by-10-foot booth would fit in the space. Since 10-by-10s generally measure 8 feet high, I had assumed the ceiling wouldn't be a problem.

Running on borrowed time, I called the hotel, where I eventually got transferred to the catering manager who confirmed my fear. The low ceiling was not going to allow my booth to stand up straight.

Since I couldn't raise the ceiling, I needed to find some sort of exhibit that would fit under a 7-foot-3-inch ceiling. Calling all hands, I phoned our exhibit house's warehouse. The exhibit house had a booth for rent that was just under 7 feet tall. If we sent our graphics by noon on Friday, it could print them and ship them with the 7-foot booth for Saturday delivery in San Francisco.

Once I got a basic description of the short booth, I grabbed my old booth plans and began sorting through graphics. I found three graphics that, if put together in a certain order, would make sense, not look awful, and represent us well. I then quickly called our ad agency. Luckily, the designer was able to stop what he was working on and put the graphics together at the right size.

We uploaded them to the exhibit house by 12:02 p.m. The graphics folks sent a proof, printed the graphics, and gave me tracking confirmation for my shipment by late Friday evening. I was on pins and needles all the next day, checking for confirmation of the booth's arrival. But finally, it arrived safe and sound, so I had the too-tall booth sent back to the exhibit house.

Since the new booth didn't require an installation crew like the old one, I also contacted our salesperson on site, providing detailed directions for setting up the shorter booth. On Monday morning, my salesperson easily set up the booth, and when the CEO ambled by later that day, the booth fit in - like a glove - with the rest of the exhibits.

Thankfully, I had discovered the height irregularity in time to come up with a shorter substitution, or not only would my booth have bumped its head, but I might have lost mine.

- Kristen Bostedo-Conway, marketing director, Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants Inc., Charlotte, NC

Remember The Alamo

Considering how often booths are shipped across the country with no problem, I had little concern when I shipped my booth and graphics from Houston to San Antonio, a distance of about only 200 miles down Interstate 10. Unfortunately, this short Texas trek gave me a bit of trouble when my graphics were a no-show for the show's opening.

With the 2006 Society of Petroleum Engineers Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition set to open at 9 a.m. Monday, I had sent my 10-by-20-foot exhibit and collateral to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio in the middle of the previous week. I then sent my graphics separately on Thursday via DHL overnight delivery.

Since everything shipped in time for the show, I fully expected to find it in my booth space and ready to go on Sunday. But when I arrived in my booth and started examining my freight, I discovered that my graphics were missing. After a quick call to DHL, I received mixed news. The good news was that DHL had found my graphics and they were now on their way to San Antonio. The bad news, however, was that they wouldn't arrive at the venue until about three hours after the show began.

While three hours may not seem like a particularly long time to deal with missing graphics, I was more than a bit concerned. First, my boss was due to visit the booth on Monday, and I didn't want him staring at blank walls in the exhibit. And second, no graphics meant attendees would walk past my bare exhibit to other graphic-filled booths.

Not wanting to show off blank walls for three hours, I decided I just needed some other eye-catching items on those back walls. After all, something would be better than nothing, especially since I only needed it for a few hours.

Fortunately, the convention center in San Antonio is within walking distance of the Alamo and several other tourist destinations. So I headed over to the tourist shops to see what would catch my eye - and hopefully the eyes of passing attendees. After perusing a shop or two, I settled on five posters that showed San Antonio sites such as the Riverwalk and Alamo.

Back in the exhibit hall, I taped the posters to my walls. They weren't graphics featuring our products, but I figured a series of shots of the Alamo City were better than nothing. When the show opened the next morning, my boss dropped by and loved the exhibit, never seeming to notice the fact that our product graphics were replaced with giant prints of San Antonio.

By the time my graphics arrived around noon, I almost regretted having to stow the posters. Still, as I took the posters down and put the graphics up for the remainder of the show, I knew I'd always remember the Alamo.

- Matt Beltz, senior marketing manager, Hart Energy Publishing LLP, Houston


Send your Plan B exhibiting experiences to
Brian Todd, btodd@exhibitormagazine.com.

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