Keep Calm and Booth On: How to Survive Trade Show Disasters in 3 Easy Steps


Sometimes, a giant water main will burst all over your production shop. Or 110 mile-per-hour winds will threaten to launch your event tents into the stratosphere. Then there’s the truck that will decide not to start for that trek from Indiana to Tennessee to make a critical show site delivery. Despite your vast attention to detail and superior logistical skills trained on preventing all forms of trade show disasters, from time to time, the universe will still decide to serve up these platters of existential panic the moment your top VIP is scheduled to walk through the hall.

We’ve been there (those things really happened), done that, and lived to tell the tale.

Here’s our advice for how to survive trade show disasters and event emergencies with aplomb.

Keep calm and carry on. Really!

Grace under fire becomes more than a pithy expression when you’re dealing with 2,000 gallons of water per minute pouring down onto your production facility. That’s what happened to Robert Young, Group Delphi’s Director of Operations, years ago. “Since the rupture occurred at 2am on a Sunday, no one noticed until we found a waterfall pouring from the loading dock,” he shares.

A Disaster Recovery Team, all employees on deck, and a lot of floor squeegeeing later, operations were up and running again within the week. Exactly zero clients received their materials late. Your shoes might be ruined, but your clients will be happy. The key is making the decision to stay calm and work together as a team. Trade show disaster averted.

Sometimes, outsourcing really works. Other times? It’s about as helpful as a hipster in a lumberjack beard when you really just need someone to chop wood. One of our sales reps recalls the time a client wanted to handle the graphics for a show directly—and promptly delivered them with a glaring spelling mistake, moments before a presentation.

“Off I went to determine the font type and size, recreate the lettering with the correct spelling, and to apply the new graphic over the typo,” he recalls. The client was happy, and our team member was reminded that “going the extra mile to create the perfect experience—no matter who or what caused the mistake—is a Group Delphi differentiator.”

No action is too big when it comes to damage control.

Imagine working with the world’s most famous technology company. And then imagine finding out that the 20-foot-by-20-foot banner you ordered would not be arriving on time in Paris because of a printer fail. In the scheme of trade show disasters, this may seem small, but not to a client. You spring into action, contracting a printer in a nearby country to do the job. Since the internet is as cooperative as a cat on a catnip bender, you start the file upload, charter a plane from said neighboring country, and fly in to personally hand-deliver the banner, just in time for the CEO to come strolling into the exhibit hall, admiring your work.

Finally, imagine that you are Group Delphi’s CEO Justin Hersh, as this is how he recounted the experience of chartering a plane for rogue deliverables. Be prepared to go the extra mile, even when it means a lot of them, traveled by plane.

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