16/09/2021

Exhibition challenges

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Exhibition health

The whole point of an event team is their time at site, by the end of each LIVE I would have lost seven-to-eight pounds in weight and lost my voice. The latter usually termed ‘Earls Court throat’ and blamed on carpet tile fibres, in my case it was a dozen days shouting at people. Your lips get dry and chapped – lip salve is essential. You eat all the wrong things at the wrong times, sometimes having dinner as late as 11pm and then try to sleep – indigestion tablets are vital too. Your feet are a mess and guys often develop an exhibition crutch, similar to jogger’s nipple, but further south.

Sweat-stained shoes

But the adrenalin carries you through. I only ever met one individual, from my sales team, who called in sick to the venue. I was so incensed, and it was his misfortune that his wife was involved with the show so that I could seek her out. I must have still had a voice because I told her that I wanted to see her husband crawl into the organiser office that afternoon, on his bleeding stumps for legs and arms, for that could be his only viable excuse. He did turn up and walked around like a whipped dog for several days, usually out at the edge of my vision. You may read this and think this was harsh, but you spend a whole year putting the show together, if you can’t get yourself up and motivated during the show then I think there is a fundamental flaw in you, and Show Business is just not for you!

Build challenges

Earls Court had a large elevator that enabled trucks to reach Level Two to transport stand fixtures and equipment to a point directly adjacent to the exhibitor’s stand. This required careful planning so that trucks could get in and out without something being built behind them. We had done quite well with this jigsaw-like planning until the elevator came off its cables and jammed while we still had several trucks still up on the floor.

Truck inside hall

The hall called the elevator service organisation who advised they couldn’t get to us for three days, we opened in two. To have any sort of vehicle in a show has a series of requirements, the fuel tank should be as empty as practicable, the fuel cap must be locked, the battery must be disconnected so there is no chance of starting it up, and so on. This would have been a disaster, not to mention very unsightly. We had a superb contractor who dealt with our storage and transportation, one of their guys used a fork lift to raise the elevator and get it back onto its cable. The hall management was unhappy that we had done this – but needs must!

Doug was a nice enough guy but rather than supporting his customer (me) he did cause problems routinely. I got to site early one build-day and learned from the Traffic team that overnight a truck had moved after the 22:00 curfew, that Doug was threatening to fine one of the stand-building companies that he assumed was the guilty party. His assumption was based on the fact that this company that regularly flouted his rules. But I went to see the head of Traffic and watched the overnight CCTV footage, it was not the organisation Doug had assumed. I found him arguing with the contractor and had to halt the squabble.

As we were finishing the build, we hit a snag. Nintendo had a large trailer that arrived late into the build. Another exhibitor who we had told to wait on building their stand until Nintendo had arrived, had ignored us and built their plinth and walls. The Nintendo truck had to be driven across the completed stand to get into an aisle and then drive the length of Earls Court 1. They parked up, then the driver was promptly ill and admitted to hospital.

The next day, hall management decided the truck itself had to be removed from the hall, despite us ensuring all of the usual precautions had been taken. We had no approved HGV driver this late in the build, but one of our security guards said he could and would do it for us. The aisle carpets had been laid by this point and TC, the guard, uncoupled the truck from its trailer and moved it right through the show without disturbing a single carpet tile.

But, as he emerged, he had to park up on the adjacent parking area. One of the hall security team said he’d see him back into a slot. He called out ‘Keep coming, keep coming, Oh shit!’ and had guided him into hitting a parked car. It turned out to be a friend visiting the Finance Director of Earls Court. Doug kept asking me who had been at the wheel and I said I wouldn’t tell him, that it was my fault. He agreed to back-off during the show and meet up after.

For the meeting I parked on the front of Earls Court, a post-show kangaroo court. It was late starting because the Finance Director’s car had broken down and he was towed to the venue by an Earls Court vehicle. As they unhooked his caron the forecourt it rolled off down the slope and smashed into the back of my car. Doug had to apologise and withdraw his complaint.

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