ost exhibitors wouldn't go looking for inspiration at the 2010 National High School Cheerleading Championships. But most exhibitors likely haven't heard of Greenup County High School either. During the homestretch of the squad's performance in the final round of competition, there was a technical glitch with the sound system. The cheer team stood still for an elongated pause, waiting for the soundtrack that would never come. Following that anxious moment, a team member instinctively began counting off the rest of the routine in beats of eight. With no music - only the increasingly deafening counting of the squad and the enthusiastic crowd - Greenup finished a flawless routine and won the national championship.
Greenup's story has "made-for-TV movie" written all over it. But what do team spirit and pom poms have to do with trade shows and promotions? Anyone who's ever worked in this industry knows that Murphy's Law is alive and well in trade show venues around the world. In fact, face-to-face marketing is so rife with trials and tribulations on the trade show floor that EXHIBITOR has a monthly column devoted to exhibitors who have encountered unexpected obstacles and lived to tell their Plan B tales.
The point I'm trying to make is that exhibit managers, like the Greenup County cheerleaders, are generally prepared for anything that might come their way. Whether it's always traveling with a CD containing backup graphics and literature files, or just being ready and willing to troubleshoot solutions on the fly, exhibitors with any amount of experience know it's not a matter of if something will go wrong, it's a matter of when, what happened, and how they're going to handle it.
Several years ago, when I worked as a brand ambassador for consumer trade shows and events, I had a client in the food industry chastise me for purchasing and expensing a laundry list of items (such as Advil, duct tape, paper towels, etc.) in preparation for a show. Thankfully, the trade show gods were smiling on me at that event, and the supplies went unused. So rather than argue with the client, I agreed to eat the expense of those items myself.
A month later, however, while managing an event for the same client in New York, those supplies came in handy when a staffer showed up hung over (cue the Advil), a banner arrived torn and in need of repair (duct tape, anyone?), and a piece of equipment that dispensed product samples malfunctioned, pouring liquid all over a table in our exhibit (pass the paper towels). I resubmitted my receipt for the aforementioned samples. This time, the client came through with a reimbursement check - no questions asked.
Walk down any aisle of any trade show, and you're likely to encounter dozens of exhibit managers with similar stories, from minor mishaps to full-blown trade show tragedies. But if you and your team are as adequately prepared as Greenup County's cheerleaders, you'll either have a backup plan ready to go or you'll be able to improvise a solution that will have you navigating those obstacles in no time. And that kind of resilient, never-give-up chutzpah is more than just something to cheer about - it's inspirational affirmation that when life gives you lemons, it's possible to make a lemon meringue pie.
So e-mail me or visit the EXHIBITOR
Facebook page and share your story of when you sidestepped certain disaster, and how you managed to make the most of your company's exhibit-marketing investment despite the snafu. In exchange for telling your tale of woe, we'll send the first 50 participants a limited-edition Plan B book full of stories to let you know you're not alone. After all, in an industry where anything can - and likely will - go wrong, we need all the inspirational happy endings we can get. e