When The Show Organizer Moves Your Booth
If the Show Organizer moves your booth without
consultation with you,
your entire pre-show promotional campaign can be destroyed.
It happened to
(DO readto the end of this article to see
what happened when we tried to take the Organizer's
offer up too!)
We have a sister company, Captain Coffee (www.captaincoffee.com.au).
| At the Good Food & Wine Show in Melbourne, Australia in June
2010 we arrived for set-up to find that the Organizers, Diversified Exhibitions, had moved our booth.
They wanted to accommodate a large last-minute exhibitor so we were “bumped” without
notice nor any communication.
This is what happened. And after much thought, what we might have done to avoid the
Captain Coffee is a very new organization. Initially we were not so sure that we really wanted
to exhibit until we could generate cash flow & build a more solid financial base.
However the sales person was helpful, persuasive & persistent (which I admired) &
created a spot for us in a great location. Quoting from one of her emails “Let
me know if you are not happy with this site however as discussed I have created it especially for
What service! What a great spot! How could I refuse? I signed the contract…
Our promised location was right outside a major coffee pavilion & the sales person commented
“I’m pleased you like the site, it will be perfect for your first foray into our shows.”
A little before the show she wrote “Please note that we have had to change some stand
numbers to ensure they are logical in that top row, your stand number is now D52 as opposed to D54.
Your location has not moved and I have attached an updated floor plan for
This is the booth location we were sold.
Through Best of Show I had worked with the Organizer as an Exhibitor trainer many times. They
had always insisted that they would NEVER move an exhibitor without consultation
& I totally believed them.
So to attract an audience for Captain Coffee we did extensive (& expensive)
pre-show promotion mostly focusing on Google Adwords plus direct promotion to our Customer
& Prospect Base.
The message was “Meet Captain Coffee to discuss YOUR FRESH Coffee Supplies! Booth D52 right next
to the Bean Scene Coffee Experience”. We directed as much of our precious budget into that
promotion as we dared. We based it around our web page & directed people to that. It included
the floor plans you see above.
When I arrived for setup I could not find our booth.
Where the floor-plan & our pre-show promotion had said that it would be was a large blue
truck promoting a transport ticketing system! In front of that was a motor company – neither of
which being remotely related to food & wine! Certainly there was no sign of our
This is where we were moved to – nowhere near our promoted location.
As you can see we had been re-located far from our promoted location.
To make it even worse (FAR worse), the Organizer retained our booth number – yet placed us in a
location completely out of sequence with the numbering system of the show.
This combination rendered our pre-show promotion worthless. It also rendered
the Show Guide worthless to us as our booth location was between the A & B
rows. There were large exhibitors & a wash area between us & the rest of the D row
exhibitors so we could not be seen from row D.
The new aisle itself had been hastily created & not planned well at all. It reflected that
this had been a very last-moment decision on the part of the Organizers so they could accommodate
the large new exhibitor & was a truly bad location to be placed in. It
NEEDED to be rejected, doubtless why the Salesperson decided not to communicate the decision to
It was a “dead-end aisle”, not very common at shows anywhere, with no
destination to draw traffic past us. We were also shielded from sight down the main
aisle - hidden behind a book signing stand. So we could not even use very much passing
traffic nor attract visitors with our signage. What a mess!
When I say “no destination” to draw traffic past, I mean no “browsing destination” – like more
booths. It WAS however in the corridor to the book signing table. So hundreds of people
lined up behind a barrier to get their books signed. They could not leave
the queue as they would lose their queue position & also because they would have
to climb over the barrier.
View from Attendee's Viewpoint
View from Captain Coffee's Stand
Adding insult to our already smarting injuries the
Organizers also extended the crowd control barrier
between us & the show floor - thus
totally isolating our booth (picture above).
Thankfully sanity eventually prevailed in the face of howls of
protest from ourselves & other exhibitors in that row & they removed some of the barrier –
but we were still isolated by the line.
Truly – if I had not experienced it I would NEVER have believed it
possible in a professionally run Show!
What was the Solution?
I have thought about this a lot since this experience. What could I have done to prevent this -
if I had seen it coming?
There may not BE a perfect solution. But if you - & I – are to avoid such a situation in the
future these thoughts should help.
- Keep a very close eye on your booth location as the show draws near.
I do NOT advocate becoming a nuisance to Show Organizer staff. But with Good Food & Wine in
Sydney coming up this week I have certainly been emailing the new Salesperson for assurance
that Captain Coffee is still where Captain Coffee is supposed to be!
- Create a relationship with the Organizers, especially the Salesperson.
Show them how you are promoting, share your wins, share your goals, share your excitement. The
larger the show the harder this is but when Organizer staff feel that they know you personally
they begin to share your project & it is FAR more likely that they will feel bound to
communicate “as a friend”.
- Arrive early for setup. In fact I did but then I wasted valuable time
politely waiting. Read on…
- Can you live with the move? It could be that the new arrangement
works for you. Suppress feelings of panic & other unwelcome emotions – COULD this be an
advantage to you?
- If you must move, ACT QUICKLY! You will probably need the Organizer’s
Contractors & you need to invoke them urgently. When their job is done they vacate the show
& your options become far more limited.
Seek alternatives that will work for you & that you have a chance
of winning. Later in the show Diversified allowed a VERY last-moment exhibitor to locate
where the blue arrow indicates. (This was a day into the show! The “big blue truck” only
took up a part of the space noted on the new floor plan). If I had acted quickly &
decisively we MAY have been able to have been re-located to where the red arrow indicates
& the picture shows – within view of our contracted space & “row D". (Our
contracted location was where the woman is standing).
Possible location if I had not
- Time is vital! If you don’t get action quickly, do NOT be “polite”!
While I would NEVER advocate being a bully, my “good nature” turned out to be a BAD mistake.
Organizer staff brushed me off as their being too busy. Visits to the Organizer’s Office met
with polite promises that “someone would call”. Hours passed & no-one did. I & fellow
displaced exhibitors gradually became angry & resentful. Meanwhile the various Contractors
that would have been needed to move the booth left the show so then nothing COULD be
- If all goes wrong, invoke highest authority. By sheer coincidence I
encountered the Show’s Australian Country Manager (Managing Director) on the show floor &
related the problem. Within ten minutes of that conversation senior Organizer staff arrived at
my booth. In truth it goes VERY much against the grain to write this, but regrettably sometimes
it must be considered. I hasten to say that this was after some hours of being ignored & at
a point where I was having serious concerns that an adjacent exhibitor in the same situation
might invoke arrest!
- Don’t assume that the Organizers care. Many Organizers are fantastic &
DO care – very much indeed. But sadly some don’t. Just don’t ASSUME that they do. If they have
“bumped” you without consultation it’s a fair bet that those ones don’t! The sales-person’s
comment was “I wondered if I should tell you but decided not to”. The Exhibition Manager sent
text messages while I was talking with her - & was indignant when I objected saying that
she had “security matters” to attend to! She also complained that if they gave me what I was
asking for – free entry into the Sydney show – that would cost them $3,000 in lost revenue –
Captain Coffee, a tiny start-up company - had lost FAR more than that!
- Don’t assume that you have legal remedies. You don’t. The Organizer
wrote the contract’s Terms & Conditions so there is unlikely to be a way out for you.
Anyway, who wants the aggravation? You want to market – not fight!
- Negotiate the best “remedy” you can. You may or may not be able to save
your show from disaster this time. But what can you negotiate? And if other exhibitors are in
the same situation & have accepted “deals” to placate them, you are NOT bound to
accept the same deal, no matter what the organizer’s “policy” is! I’ll leave it
to your own negotiation skills but remember that your losses are not the same as theirs and nor
should there be a “one size fits all” accommodation.
- Look for new opportunities. We went along the book-signing queue &
handed out our fliers & discount vouchers. Sure - it's against the rules to work off your
booth but who was going to stop us at that point? Besides, it's always FAR easier to ask for
forgiveness than permission in such situations! Another exhibitor who was selling snacks, was
able to have the queue redirected slightly so that they could sell directly to the waiting,
imprisoned & hungry crowd.
- Watch your own reactions. What I have described is a truly dreadful way to
begin & indeed continue a Show! If you are working the booth, be very careful that your
attitude to visitors is 100% positive! I kept finding my own arms crossed & defensive &
had to consciously relax & smile.
- Leave on the best terms you can with the Organizer. Sure, you may decide
that you’ll never exhibit with THAT show again! But you DID decide to exhibit there for a
reason. When the dust settles you may want to re-consider. Make that easy to do – we’re all
just people doing the best we can!
The Final Chapter
Our negotiated remedy was that we could exhibit at two Diversified Australia
shows for half price at each.
In November 2010 we tried to book our booth for the next Good Food & Wine
Melbourne, 2011 & claimed the promised 50%.
We were stunned to be told that it had expired - that it had to be used
in 2010 - never stipulated or even mentioned.
Impossible of course as there IS only one Good Food & Wine Show in Melbourne
each year. (There are other Diversified shows in Australia & we did exhibit in
Sydney to good effect, but our business model does not include other states at this
The lesson? We're not sure that there IS any final positive lesson to take from
this & we don't especially want to dwell on negative ones.Caveat Emptor!
(Let the buyer beware...)
Do YOU have a story to share? Let us know - maybe we'll publish it. Especially if it started
badly & ended up on a high note for everyone concerned!
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