All of the freight had inadvertently been sent to a show in Canada, and there was no chance that we could get the errant shipment rerouted before the show opened the next day. We were, in effect, boothless.
It's not all that unusual for part of a shipment to go AWOL every now and then. But when the only thing that shows up at your booth space for installation is your sole exhibit staffer, you've got big trouble.
This is exactly what happened to my company, statistical-software firm Minitab Inc., at the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) show this past October. Our local sales rep arrived the day before the show opened to install the exhibit. But when he sauntered up to the space, it was completely empty. There was no freight, no collateral, nothing.
After a quick call to our internal shipping department, which handles transportation for several of our smaller shows, he discovered that all of the freight that should have been shipped to this show had been sent to an expo in Canada, where we were also exhibiting. Apparently, our shipping folks had gotten a little overzealous with the Canadian shipment and completely forgot about AIAG. And given the fact that AIAG opened the next day, there was no chance that he could get the errant shipment rerouted in time for setup.
The staffer immediately called me, as I manage the company's trade show program. We decided to replace the collateral and graphics, and to demo the product, he'd whip up a makeshift statistical analysis with a Halloween theme. Granted, it wouldn't replace the beautiful 10-by-10 parked in Canada, but it would be far better than an empty space.
As soon as we hung up, I sent him PDFs of poster-sized graphics and all of our collateral so he could have them printed. On his way to a print shop, the rep stopped at a local dollar store and purchased Halloween-themed pencils, a plastic neon skull, and scads of holiday candy.
Later that night, he used our software to perform some last-minute, yet nevertheless entertaining, statistical analyses of Halloween candy. Combing data from various candy companies, he put together an electronic graphical analysis (using an orange and black color scheme) of which brands sold the most during the spooky season.
The next morning, he stopped at the show's equipment-rental desk and secured a couple of easels, a monitor, and a 6-foot-long draped table. He then positioned the table front and center and placed all the accoutrements atop it, including the monitor with the candy graph, neon skull, holiday pens, and candy. Finally, he fanned out the collateral and inserted the posters into the easels. Voila! Instant replacement booth!
The sparse space made it obvious to attendees that something had gone awry, but our candy giveaway and Halloween-themed product demo lured showgoers like sugar-starved kids to a freshly cracked piñata. In fact, the tactic not only brought in more leads than we'd scored the previous year but also demonstrated to attendees that we're a company that goes with the flow - and knows its way around a dollar store.
— Dana L. Tilghman, CTSM, CMP, senior trade show and events planner, Minitab Inc., State College, PA