Murphy’s Law: an observation that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

If Murphy’s Law applies to any industry it’s trade shows. When walking into an exhibitor’s booth, very few  understand the amount of people and vendors behind the scenes that make the exhibit possible. Before show time, bringing a booth to life includes designers, transportation, properties, giveaways, staffing and labor – just to name a few. In short, exhibitors rely on a chain of people and chains sometimes break. Here’s an example, that’s funny in retrospect, but at the time had us scrambling. This story illustrates why you have to think creatively and act quickly when Plan A fails.

The Story

In January 2004, Debbie Satala (TPG’s Marketing Analyst/Program Manager) and I were in Phoenix to oversee the booth setup for Ford Motor Company at the National Cattle Industry Annual trade show.  The exhibit properties were minimal, there were four display vehicles, literature/bags and branded giveaways for a conference our client was speaking at.  Everything was to be delivered to the Phoenix Convention Center for a stress-free setup.  Easy breezy, right?  Wrong.

1,000 of these cute little stuffed bulls for the conference session were shipped to our hotel instead of the convention center in error.  The boxes were extra-large and we did not have a van on-site to transport. Plan B?  It’s Phoenix, its 60 degrees and beautiful outside.  Let’s use a luggage cart from the hotel!  This was not an easy sell with the concierge, he would not give up the cart, but eventually agreed to go with us on our 1/2 mile trek to the convention center through downtown Phoenix.  Luggage carts must have been a hot commodity and high-theft item back in 2004, I guess.

You can only imagine the looks and stares we encountered, and we were laughing hysterically the whole way, but we had to get these bulls to the conference for set-up.  Another funny thing was, the concierge was complaining the entire time how cold it was at 60 degrees, while we were basking in the warmth because back home in Chicago it was snowing and freezing.

The End

Yes trade show professionals, Murphy is alive and well. This story may not exemplify a life or death trade show tale, but it is an example of how you must act fast and be creative when your best plans go astray. You may think that the absence of a giveaway wouldn’t mean all that much, but believe me everything included in Plan A matters to the client and the trade show manager. Would you know what to do if your freight didn’t show up, or your properties were damaged? What if a principal company presenter couldn’t attend at the last moment? Do you have a master list of all of your important vendors? It’s your job as exhibit support to execute Plan B when Plan A fails.  And that’s no bull.

 “When Plan “A” fails, you have 25 more tries to go, plus a whole mess of numbers.” ~ Unknown

Mary Kemmer, CTSM, TPG Operations Manager