With the blizzards that pass through the East Coast every season, I thought this would be a good time to talk about weather, how it affects our industry, and what you can do to make sure you’re covered in the event of a serious weather event.
You see, there’s a harsh reality that you learn very quickly when you’re in the exhibit business. And that’s that the show opens on schedule whether your exhibit arrives on time, or at all.
This is the single most frightening thought to exhibitors, exhibit producers, and show promoters alike… And understandably so, just look at the monetary impact.
When businesses decide to attend a trade show in full force, the money spent for the project can become the single biggest marketing cost of their year. On top of the costs of producing the exhibit and providing event services, you need to consider so much more. Hotels, travel, per diem, entertainment, lost hours in the office are just some of the obvious ones. The amount of internal preparation and marketing efforts put into a true exhibit program can cost months of preparation and salary expenses as well.
Keeping the staggering loss at stake should an exhibit miss a show should be a powerful driving force behind all logistical decisions related to an exhibit program by both the exhibitor and the exhibit producer.
The main thing to always keep in mind is the geography and the time of year you’re shipping in when you’re deciding to ship your exhibit. Are you building in the Southeast during hurricane season? How about the Midwest or the Northeast during winter? Shipping from overseas? Wherever you choose to build your exhibit, it’s always important to consider these factors and to discuss plans for shipping and production should there be a weather event that may impact your best laid plans.
Despite the odds, in 18 years, I’ve never missed a show. Here’s a few tricks and points to keep in mind to help you make sure you never do either.
Be sure to know exactly how your exhibit is shipping into the show. Are you using a large dedicated truck? UPS Freight? LTL? Team drivers? Each one of these has it’s benefits and it’s downfalls when bad weather occurs. Sure, shipping LTL cross country may be a cheaper way to go, but it takes much longer than a dedicated truck, and may be more difficult to track. I recommend making sure you or your exhibit producer always has a great, reliable and dedicated trucking ready to go should the need arise.
As a general rule of thumb it’s good to know about how long a typical shipment takes to get from where you are building to the convention center. I always add two days to this time frame, and if it’s bad weather season, I’ll add 4 days. As the shipping date gets closer, if there’s no bad weather in site, you’ve got breathing room. But if bad weather comes, you’re prepared.
You Don’t Need to Ship it All!
Remember that smaller items, like your literature, giveaways, etc. don’t have to make it in with your exhibit crates. Of course, it’s convenient if they can, but don’t risk your exhibit being late to the show for it. Most hotels will be happy to hold some boxes for you if you call ahead and let them know, allowing you to FedEx or UPS overnight and giving you more time to prepare. If your exhibit producer has a shop or warehouse near the convention center, you can also consider shipping it there and your producer should be able to bring it in to the show for you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Call the Show
Believe it or not, shows can be sympathetic to severe weather impacts on timing. As an example, the SLAS 2015 show, whose advance warehouse deadline was Thursday, 1/28, extended the deadline to Friday 1/29 this year in order to accommodate those impacted by the blizzard. Show management may seem like ironclad bureaucratic nightmares, and we all know they certainly can be, but behind them are human beings running the operation. Don’t hesitate to call and ask for extensions when they are legitimately needed.
Always Have a Backup Plan
Should the worst case scenario happen, all is not lost if you make sure to have a backup plan. Be sure to be able to work remotely. Keep digital copies of your orders, graphics and information on your project locally stored in case you can’t get into the office or connect to your server. Have alternative production partners ready to call. Rely on the show GC if you need to as they typically can perform tasks such as graphic production, wall rentals, furniture rentals and shipping quickly and on the fly (but at a premium cost!!).
It’s not the end of the world!! Keep calm. You will get through this and you’ll live to fight another day. Watch a funny cat video on YouTube. Go for a jog. Have some ice cream. Seriously. Keeping calm when the going gets rough will help you and your partners get through any issues much more effectively than screaming, blaming, and general freaking out will.
I hope these few points were insightful! Don’t forget that you can always call if you find yourself in a jam 😉
PS – If you didn’t get the title of this blog, it’s from Groundhog Day, possibly the best movie ever made. Check it out.