Can you say CHAA CHING? …wait Why?


The magic wand does not set up the booth or manage the budget! I know this is a long post – but the adventure has some great pointers and can HELP you keep from being kicked out of the Clan! (aka your company)!

Building a booth can be quite interesting and intense when it is a large booth with 20-30 crates worth of structure. With a mass of architectural drawings and labor that is spinning them around trying to figure out what direction they should go; a show manager can be extremely overwhelmed and the price of building your booth can more than triple in estimated costs! Having your exhibit house/booth vendor/I&D team on-site at least the first time to train the manager on the booth build, is extremely important. (Taking notes/pictures/video of the booth being built is critical.)  Even smaller intricate booths can be a challenge as discussed in earlier post!

With that said, I arrived at my hotel a couple of days early to take in the sites of the city and enjoy the great extended weekend show rate.  I was attending a large mil/defense show and ran into a friend that had been “promoted” and was managing his first show. He was so excited about how great it was going to be. Once again wrong chair and wrong time; or right chair at right time; it truly is all a mystery how show gypsies are selected. He said he had not been to the show floor yet, but was excited because they had a 50 X 100 space with equipment. He was enthusiastic about the whole thing and asked me if I had time to go check it out. I didn’t have an exhibitor badge so we worked our magic and got one for me…there are ways!

When we arrived at the booth, there it was, a huge truck with the tires way taller than I am, not difficult I am 5’ 3”; but for a tire, that is a BIG vehicle. Unaware of what I was looking at other than a big truck; I noticed the color in his face drain when I asked, “Where is the booth freight?”  All the crates were stacked behind the vehicle with no access to the front half of the space where the booth was to be built.

With reassurance and deep breaths I escorted him on a trip to the service desk. Requesting fork-lift help he got the entire 28 crates moved after 2 ½ hours of everyone waiting, (Cha…Ching!) As they began to build the booth I asked him how many labor staff he had hired, he had no idea he just knew they had a cool booth and it really didn’t matter, right? (CHAAAAACCCCHING!) I also asked him where his exhibit vendor was, he said they didn’t need them, the booth crates had the plans and it was up to labor to figure it out!  I almost couldn’t watch as I knew no one had trained him in his new role as show manager and he was really going to catch it when he got back to his group with the bill. Trying to tread lightly I asked him if he knew his budget and was that a part of his responsibility? He said, oh yeah, I am on a strict budget this is a major part of this position!

My instincts couldn’t take it and told me to ask if he would like some advice, as it was paining me to know what was going to happen (flogging or banishment!). He said, I am sure I have it covered, but sure if it will give you something to do, ha!ha!, it was after all, a big booth.

When I told him he had probably blown his budget already and there was more bad news to come, he looked completely ill. We rounded up his labor manager and asked him exactly how many staff were going to work at the booth full-time; and an approximate number of hours. I also told the labor manager that we were going to be helping give direction as there seemed to be a bit of confusion with the drawings; I asked to see the pictures of the set-up booth; he said none were sent. My buddy said, he saw it but didn’t remember everything…hum time to call the exhibit house. Voila, a local office could send someone over right away for a negotiated amount with pictures etc.  This effort alone saved money because labor was able to get the crates unpacked in the correct order and the booth pictures were clear and in sections; direction went much better saving time, over-time, money, and sanity!

While booth-build labor (show I&D) was on lunch break we sat down and went over all of his orders and made sure everything had been accounted for, and that the orders were received by the service company.  Once a few corrections and alterations were made, we determined he was way over budget because of several late receipts of freight at the show, incomplete orders, and extra labor charges already incurred. This did not even include end of show pack-up and outbound freight, and all the issues that can still eat up more $$$$$.

After lunch we were able to let 2 of the labor staff go and jump in with the little things ourselves (cleaning; putting literature racks together, small things (time-eaters)). I had him call a staff member to go out and buy a vacuum and cleaning supplies for the week. This is not ideal, as usually those things can be negotiated if you have a large of a booth.  The EXHIBIT house/I&D company setting-up know what the details are and do them. In this case we were scrimping!

Once the booth was built, there was another issue, the TRUCK was parked behind the booth, and due to the nature of the booth design it made it look as though someone had abandoned the truck outside the booth!  The correction took getting the show organizers, service-company, and an extremely careful operator to reposition the thing and meet all the safety/fire rules. Just keep adding in more UNION labor time! (OOOCCCH …CHA CHING!)

With the day at an end at midnight, I am afraid my guy looked like he had been hit with a baseball bat. He felt embarrassed that things had gone so wrong after what he thought was all done beforehand.  I consoled him and let him know that often we are a bit neglected as gypsies and that training is rarely an option and even still all the planning in the world cannot stop every issue.  You have to be like the willow, as the wind comes you bend or change directions you don’t break! I really did use that analogy. 😉

The next morning I met up with him at 7:00 am in the lobby and asked him if he thought he had a handle on it as this was the last day of building. He said, yes I am going to go through my notes and make sure it all happens, I CAN DO THIS!  I am the WILLOW!

I went about my day and did not set my foot back into the show hall until show day. I went to his booth and he was completely in charge, giving direction and making sure someone else in the booth got vacuum duty every morning of the show! I wanted to burst with pride in my new gypsy in charge!

We met for breakfast the last day of the show, I told him to get ready as everything we did to come in, he now had to do in reverse, and I gave him some pointers of the pitfalls that can happen during tear-down. While we were walking over to the show hall, he called his exhibit vendor and asked them to send the same person over for tear-down and to prepare for a long-night.  I asked him to call me and let me know how he did on his budget when it was all said and done, as there may be areas that could be renegotiated. I also instructed him not to sign off on the bill without questioning the “late” shipping on ALL the crates; and other charges that may have appeared he did not understand or order.  If the service agents at the desk did not have an answer, I advised, with a pen that can go through several copies, press hard; CIRCLE the costs in question and note – not in agreement – need to discuss and then sign. GET A COPY and keep it with you until you hit the office. Negotiate immediately while the show is fresh. Service-agents are dealing with so much it is incredible, and they are incredible in multi-tasking for hundreds of people in many cases! So asking questions is not out-of-line.

Let’s just say he was on the phone quite a bit, and was still over budget but not nearly as much as he would have been had he just let “things” happen. We are great friends and he has since moved out of the show gypsy area and is now a marketing manager, but has a strong appreciation for shows and all it takes to put them together.

Going to workshops etc., to learn about being an exhibitor or show manager is certainly a luxury so fight for it if you can! There is also the issue of organizational nuances that only your boss will point out that are done incorrectly if you do not know what to look for; so ask questions, as many as possible if you are in the chair and someone says, “you, you get shows”!

I hope this helps the gypsies out there with their show and meeting demands and gives an idea of the issues that can occur and trample your budget! There are fantastic exhibit/I&D companies that can manage all of this for organizations; but it has been my experience that with the economic pressures of late, companies feel this is something that can be managed internally or is unnecessary. Certainly gypsies can do anything! But not efficiently without training, as the costs can add up faster than a Vegas slot machine called FEED ME!

Ok, questions anyone? 🙂


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Darrence
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 02:02:39

    I could watch Schilendr’s List and still be happy after reading this.


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