n my 21-year career, I've been on both the winning and losing ends of insurance claims. I got into big trouble when a 3-by-3-foot, four-color mounted graphic - which cost $300 to produce but had coverage of only $0.90 based on its weight - was lost in transit. On the flip side, I came out looking like a hero when I had $4.2 million worth of replacement coverage on a rack of supercomputers that turned suicidal on the shipping dock and took a nose dive. Fortunately, the equipment was not damaged.
CEM, CMP, CMM,
is an independent exhibit-management
consultant, trainer, speaker, writer, and an Exhibitor conference
Have you ever stopped to consider what might happen to your career if the unthinkable occurred? For example,
what if the truck carrying your exhibit was in an accident on the way to the show? Or the trailer containing all of your monitors and computer equipment was hijacked in a truck-stop parking lot and never recovered? And what would you do if a gust of wind came in the freight doors of the convention center and blew over your exhibit, knocking it to smithereens?
Here are a handful of other worst-case scenarios, some of which have happened to me, some I've witnessed firsthand, and others have been well documented in reputable trade show publications and on national news:
A tornado wiped out entire exhibits before a trade show.
The ceiling of a convention center leaked during a rainstorm, soaking an exhibitor's computer equipment.
A power surge toasted equipment on the show floor.
A case containing an expensive piece of equipment was launched off the forks of a forklift during move in and got damaged.
An exhibitor's crate arrived to a show with new "ventilation" holes
and looked like it had lost a battle with a forklift.
A fire ignited on the convention-center dock, effectively cremating an exhibitor's crates.
An exhibitor sent its spare monitors
to empty storage, and the cartons came back empty at the end of the show.
A plasma monitor disappeared somewhere between being loaded in its case at the end of the show and arriving back at the office.
An exhibitor's demo laptops were stolen during a show.
The scenarios are all similar in that the exhibitor experienced a loss. The good news is that insurance is designed to offset the financial impact of such catastrophes, assuming you have adequate coverage.
After a disaster happens, the finger
pointing inevitably starts. You begin asking yourself, "Who's to blame? Who's liable? And who will pay to replace it?" It's no secret that general service contractors (GSCs) and show management take little to no responsibility for losses, damages, and theft at shows. Just read the fine print on the back of your exhibit-space contract and the even finer print on the back of your material-handling agreement.
With that in mind, now is the time to
look into your current coverage. Take control and be proactive; otherwise, you'll be scrambling to find resolution to one of the aforementioned problems,
most of which will likely cost a pretty penny. What follows is an overview of the basic types of coverage, followed by tips on how to evaluate your options
and choose the appropriate plan for your situation.
To find out about existing insurance coverage, head to your company's risk-management department, which is typically a part of the finance department. Some corporate policies automatically cover 10 percent of the company's physical assets when they are away from the corporate offices. Other policies require that any off-premises assets be itemized separately down to their serial numbers, and that the insurance company be informed whenever the properties are on the road so it can activate the coverage. Since your exhibit is probably listed on your company's books as capital equipment, it will be covered to some extent. That said, some companies are self-insured, which means there is no insurance, and it's each department for itself. If this is the case, you may want to purchase coverage through an independent insurance company or your transportation carrier.
If you insure your exhibit property through your transportation carrier, the coverage is not technically insurance, as such companies are not licensed to sell insurance. It only covers your exhibit properties and equipment during transit to and from the show, not while your exhibit is on the show floor.
There are two types of coverage for your exhibit during transit:
1. Released value or limited liability. Limited-liability coverage is included in your basic transportation charge and covers your shipment at a minimal amount, about $0.30 to $0.60 per pound, per article. It covers the
shipment only while in transit. If you go this route, ask your transportation carrier how much it would reimburse you if there were to be a claim on your shipment.
2. Additional valuation or trip transit coverage. This type of coverage is sold by the carrier in increments of $1,000 and covers the freight only while in transit.
Sometimes called all-risk insurance, door-to-door coverage is often sold as a rider on your corporate insurance policy, as an add-on by your carrier through an insurance company, or through an insurance broker that specializes in exhibit and trade show coverage. All-risk insurance covers the shipment from the time it is loaded on the truck before the show until it is unloaded after the show, including all the time on the show floor.
You might be asking, "Why doesn't everyone take out an all-risk insurance
policy?" Well, it can be difficult to obtain. A few years ago, a client of mine signed up for all-risk insurance through the show's GSC, but as we got closer to the time of the show, the GSC informed us it was no longer available. In another case, my client's risk-management department told me it was unable to insure thousands of dollars worth of computers on the show floor because of the GSC's disclaimer that it is not responsible for loss, damage, or theft beyond the minimal payments quoted in the exhibitor kit.
While difficult to obtain, it isn't
impossible to purchase an all-risk policy. Talk to your company's risk manager, who can ask your corporate insurance broker for a list of agencies that offer such policies in your state.
After you've determined what kind of coverage you need, evaluate whether or not that amount of coverage is enough. How much would you have to pay if your exhibit components were damaged or lost? Consider
the replacement cost of your exhibit, not its depreciated value. Could
you replace it for what it originally cost to produce? If you rent exhibit properties, does your exhibit house require insurance coverage?
In addition to your exhibit property, make sure the equipment and products you ship are covered. What if some of your equipment is on loan from business partners, but is under your care and control when it's damaged?
Check for exceptions to coverage and investigate factors that affect it. Coverage may change based on the value of your exhibit property, where the loss occurred (in storage, in transit, or while at the show), who owns the property being claimed, if you have the paperwork to back up the replacement or depreciated value of the property, and if the loss was caused by a number of uncontrollable factors (aka "force majeure"), such as a natural disaster. Finally, determine how difficult it will be to file a claim. Does filing a claim require a police report, or will the report from show security be sufficient?
Regardless of the type of coverage
you acquire, most policies will have a deductible. The $10,000 question is who would pay that deductible? Does your company have an internal fund for this, or will meeting the deductible come out of your exhibit budget? If it has to come out of your budget, you may want to purchase a separate policy to cover the deductible.
It's impossible to prevent every calamity that might befall your booth, but you can mitigate the risk by carefully assessing the worth of your exhibit program's components and how they are insured. If you don't, you could lose more than your exhibit should something happen. You could lose your job.e