A peek inside the room revealed our mangled monitor lying on the floor. I needed to find a way to whip our exhibit back into shape before the show opened.
Work in trade shows long enough, and you're bound to experience an event where it feels like everything is collapsing around you. Several years ago, when I was a trade show manager for a company that offers tech solutions for retailers, things literally fell apart during the National Retail Federation show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
We'd scheduled a series of in-booth meetings with key prospects inside a spacious oval conference room comprising an aluminum frame and Sintra walls. Frosted Plexiglas panels around the top of the enclosure added a nice touch, and inside was a mounted 50-inch monitor where we could demo our retail solutions.
Setup was complete by Sunday afternoon, the day before the show opened, and I took a few moments to glance at the other exhibits – including one directly across the aisle featuring a tall column topped with an element that resembled an inverted bowler hat with several large monitors attached to the "brim." Just then, I heard an ominous creak. I whipped my head around in time to see the monitor-laden construct begin to topple over. A woman directly under the structure also caught sight of it and threw herself out of danger. Unfortunately, my conference room didn't share her mobility.
When the dust settled, our once-oval room was still standing, but the narrow end was smooshed. Plus, the entire space had skidded about 3 feet across our carpet (causing ghastly gouges), several frosted panels were shattered, and a peek inside the room revealed our mangled monitor lying on the floor. Miraculously, nobody was hurt, but I needed to find a way to whip our conference space back into shape before the show opened the following morning.
Since there was no time to fabricate a new room, we had to make do. My crew leader got the toppled tower out of our space, after which we cleaned up the shattered Plexiglas. Meanwhile, we sent a resourceful staffer to track down a local glass cutter able to make replacements on a Sunday afternoon in New York – no easy task, I assure you. The crew leader then rallied a team of laborers to shuffle the exhibitry to its original placement and carefully stretch the aluminum frame back into an ovoid form. Finally, our negligent neighbor agreed to rent a new monitor for us.
It certainly wasn't perfect. The distorted frame didn't allow the door to close, and no amount of vacuuming could remove the trauma to our carpet. On a positive note, the gumshoe staffer was able to source new frosted panels. Although our conference space was functional, it was still less than beautiful, so I decided to move most of the meetings to other areas of the booth.
I still don't know how that nearby exhibit passed inspection, but the ordeal did teach me a few lessons. I now assess my surroundings to figure out if any neighbors' problems are likely to become our own. And I don't assume safety inspectors will catch everything. Now when I see something that looks suspect, I start asking questions before I get bent out of shape.
— Valerie Jennings, trade show manager, Irving, TX