I was an ocean from home in a booth with a printer that didn't print and a client that was utterly deflated. My job was to make the best of this awful situation.
As president of Global Exhibit Management, an international exhibit and event-management company, I'm used to solving a lot of last-minute glitches. Sometimes I can seemingly transform mud into rainbows and butterflies. Other times I feel like I spend hours trying to clear paper jams. And at the Federation of Screen Printers Association (FESPA) World Exhibition in Europe, I had a serious paper jam of sorts.
A U.S. client had spent a great deal of money to fly the firm's newest printer to FESPA. When I say printer, I don't mean your average shoebox-sized desktop inkjet. I mean a massive machine that was going to consume the majority of the company's 10-by-20-foot exhibit. It was so large, in fact, that the client had a custom crate built to ensure its safe delivery.
At the show, the booth was set up in record time, and the printer's crate was hauled in. But when we opened the container, we found an unhappy surprise: The printer had been damaged in transit, and the control panel was dislodged from the framework. Needless to say, the client was stunned. Springing into action, we reattached the control box, but when we hooked up the printer for testing, we found the damage was more than superficial. The circuits were mangled, and the machine didn't work at all. Worse yet, there wasn't a duplicate model available anywhere on the European continent.
So there I was an ocean from home in a booth with a printer that didn't print and an utterly deflated client. Since I was charged with managing this stand, it was my job was to make the best of this awful situation.
First, I had the mangled machine hauled out because there was no way we were displaying a broken product. Next, I asked the electrical contractor to adjust the billing because the connection and consumption charges were no longer applicable.
Once that was done, I took a look at what we had to work with. Because the printer was going to be the focal point, the rest of the booth was pretty bare. The space had a storage room with a logo, a standard meeting table and chairs, and a back wall that was primarily cabinets. It wasn't much, but I tried to look at it like a blank canvas.
Luckily, we had digital versions of the existing artwork from the product brochure, so I ordered a large graphic for the front of the storage room to highlight the features of the printer. While the graphic was getting printed, I acquired a high-top table and some stools to create an informal space for impromptu meetings, kept the conference table for booked appointments, and added a handful of potted plants to soften the atmosphere.
I'd be lying if I said the client was completely rejuvenated by the modifications. However, I assured him that attendees wouldn't know the machine broke in transit and would have no idea that the new arrangement wasn't the original plan. Reluctantly, he put on his best face and manned the exhibit. Indeed, attendees were none the wiser, the show went off without another hitch, and we made the most of a tough printer jam.
— Jeannine K. Swan, president and owner, Global Exhibit Management, Fort Worth, TX