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fixing snafus
illustration: Regan Dunnick
Tower of Destruction
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.
Plan A
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.


Plan B
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


TELL US A STORY
Send your Plan B exhibiting experiences to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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