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All the Things That Can Go Wrong During a Trade Show

23 Apr 2019

We have stressed on the necessity to plan ahead for a trade show, and spare no detail when it comes to ensuring your success once you’re on location and have to start work. Nevertheless, the universe is a cold and uncaring place and no matter how much initial planning you’ve put into your business trip, things will go wrong. There will be crises in need of solving and you need to figure out what to do in any possible unfortunate hiccup that arises from the moment you book a stand at the trade show.

As we don’t want you to learn these lessons the hard way, we’re going to run a few scenarios that occur with enough frequency to give you an idea what to look out for and how to best resolve it in as little time as possible. Before we begin, you should know our general rules about dealing with emergencies – Do not give into panic! Take a deep breath and always write out the problem and the solution so your brain doesn’t overthink.

Now, ready? Let’s dive head-first!

The Mistiming of Transportation & Other Travel Mishaps

The first place where you can encounter difficulties on your business trip is at the airport. There’s the real possibility that someone might miss their flight – a very, very undesirable situation to have to resolve. Depending on the destination, the route and the time of year, there may not be a chance to book a next flight soon enough and the delays on your schedule will be severe. If that happens, the first step is to, nevertheless, secure safe passage of whoever is left behind and only then look into what can be done to offset the delay. Distribute the remaining duties among the other people in your team, until the delayed person arrives.

To avoid this particular crisis, we implore business travelers to have an itinerary with a set meeting point for the entire group prior to going to the airport (this should be done well in advance). Don’t have people travel individually to the airport at the last possible moment to check in their luggage. Also, have a checklist of all the important items to bring with you before you leave – your ticket, your passport, any other official documents of paramount importance, your charger. Double check before leaving your house. Check in for your flight online for further convenience, too.

Transportation issues happen once you arrive at your destination. You could have issues with the airport transfer to the hotel, as well as difficulty travelling in the city to the exhibition centre, if you’re not close enough to walk to the exhibit. In those case, it pays to double check with the firm in charge of your transportation and confirm your arrival – plan for any delays as they happen. For public transport, we advise to know the schedule well in advance and have planned out a route for the duration of the show. This will definitely help out with budgeting as well, because some cities have special ticket offers that last several days.

The Complicated Matters of Logistics

It’s hard to keep track of every single thing during your business trip, but it’s your job to make the best impression at the trade show, so you have no say in the matter. You need all your supplies to arrive on time. In some cases, if you have luggage space, business travelers will bring supplies along only to discover that someone has not packed them in their suitcase. If you’ve followed our rule about the meetup early before going to the airport, then you will have enough time to pack up anything that’s missing before you leave. It’s going to be even easier, if you do this at the office.

In case your supplies are delivered to the trade show warehouse and they’re lost, late or delivered to the wrong address, there’s little to be done, but you have options. Start making calls to everyone involved along the shipping chain to locate where the link breaks, and see what can be done. This way you find out when exactly they’ll arrive, or at least an approximation of, (if they’re late), what can be done, if they’re delivered to the wrong address, and if you need to find substitutes in town in case the shipment is lost and there’s nothing to be done about it. Have an emergency fund to be able to cover these costs, but also keep all the documentation from the shipping company to ask for compensation after you’ve returned from your trip!

The Unreliability of the Human Body

We’re human. It’s in our nature to either make mistakes or our bodies to give up on us during the worst possible times. You can’t control, if someone gets sick, and you can’t expect a teammate to perform adequately during the trade show sick. The best course of action is to keep them in their room as a form of quarantine (you do not want the virus to spread) and divide their duties amongst the remaining people at the trade booth. It’s why we advocate that everyone should know the duties of every single team member and also know how to perform them, if they should step in that role.

Food poisoning is a common culprit. You should definitely select where you eat with care (ask for recommendations from friends and colleagues who have been in this city, or look into TripAdvisor for good dining spots) and what you eat (seafood in a landlocked city with no freshwater bodies of water is a big mistake). Everyone on your team should also try to order different dishes to avoid this scenario.

Alcohol poisoning and hangovers are also a possibility, if the trade show’s program has a heavy slant towards social events and parties. Although socializing is important outside the purely stiff and professional environment of the event, it doesn’t help to stay up too late and drink too much. You will be worse for wear and show it to potential buyers. Have a set bedtime on the nights when you know you can’t afford to stay late, and set rules on how much drinking is too much drinking.

Your Stand Is Right Next Door to Your Competitor

This is perhaps one of the worst things to happen at a trade show. Yes, competition is healthy, but not when you’re placed adjacent to your direct/main competitor. If you find yourself in this risky situation, there are a few rules to adopt:

  1. Do not be antagonistic. Laugh this faux pas off and try to make the best of the situation. Just because they’re your competitors does not mean you should be rude. Do not make enemies.
  2. Do not try to put down your competitor, when you make your sales pitch, because it’s unprofessional and doesn’t have a positive effect on your brand. Of course, if your competitor has no such scruples, then feel free to approach the situation anyway you wish.
  3. Listen to what they’re saying and how they’re selling. Take down any information you find to be useful for you in the future, though do not implement right then and there. At the same time, be careful not to talk too loudly so your competitor can hear how you sell. If you wish to avoid this delicate predicament, be careful when you select a booth and choose the spot where you see related companies (though not direct competitors) have booked theirs.

Trade shows are unpredictable. Your problems might be entirely unique from what we’ve talked about here, but with a cool head and a phone in your hand, there’s not a problem that can stand in your way.


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