In the last post, I gave you some resources and ideas on how to get your product and booth stuff into a convention center and what to do with your product at the end of the show (how to get it out, and where to keep it if you're like me and just you don't want to take all home with you).
You might be asking yourself some questions at this point?
What will happen to my empty boxes or bins during the show?
Where can I leave my pallet?
What about all my extras, like my tool box? ladder? or my big bulky winter coat? where can I hide it?
No worries...I've got you covered. I've lived through it and I have found solutions (if you have better solutions, be a sport, let me know! thanks.)
First thing is storage during shows.
"Empty" is what the shows call your shipping boxes, cartons, bins, etc...they will want to give you big bright stickers to place on your empty stuff, so that they can take it away and store it for you during the show. Very kind of them, and, at many shows, this will be the simplest solution, so do it! ....However, (yes, there is a huge HOWEVER)...If the show you are exhibiting at is, for example, off the top of my head, how about at...THE JAVITS CENTER in nyc...this will be a BIG BIG pain in the ass!
Simple answer. The Javits Center can take up to 6 hrs after the closing of a show to get you your Empties back...If you are anything like me, this will not be good news to you. Trust me, these guys are not sitting around having lunch or sleeping in your cartons, they are working around the clock to get you your stuff, but there are 1000's of exhibitors, gazillions of boxes/ crates and pallets and, shocking as it may sound, YOU are not their priority, even though we all know that YOU should be! (don't they know who YOU are?????). As a matter of fact, many of the Empties at the Javits are taken outside and packed up in long trailers during the show, so you have to understand that it's a process to get it all back to you.
*As an ASIDE- and this is important and not everyone tells you about this...At any show, if you are going to store your Empties with the show management (as they usually require you to), shrink wrap everything you need securely to your pallet. Otherwise you just might not get back all that you sent away a few days prior. Trust me on this. When all you want to do is go home after a show and as they say in Canada "get the puck outta there!" the last thing you want to do it run around and try to find cartons, shrink wrap, a new pallet and bubble wrap...just trust me! The more organized you are the faster you will get home!
I can tell you from experience that where your trade show is storing your empties during the show will determine how fast you will get them back at the end of the show.
Chicago Living and Giving show? empties come back FAST...Atlanta, depending on which building you are exhibiting in, can range from speedy to "OMG I am just going to walk out of this place NOW and never look back!", Boston, a small show, never waited long. So be safe, just ask. Ask someone who knows and if they are not sure, ask someone else. If you can, ask to be taken to where they will be storing your empties, or simply follow them, and then you'll know. (Although, this will probably not work at the Javits Center!, but at the least, they will tell you where they are taking it).
Let's say you are at the Javits, the show wants to take your empties far far away to a far away land of cartons and pallets and bins and you decide - "OH NO YOU DON'T, BlueDogz Design told me this might happen!" What should you do?
Here are some of my tips.
If you packed in cardboard boxes, break them down and flatten them out, it's always easier to hide a flat cardboard box than an actual 3 dimensional box. If you have packed in bins, like I do, stack them one inside the other as much as you can and then if you need storage for bubble wrap or extras, put it all in the top box.
Usually, during my booth design layout process, I account for my empties. I know, maybe a little too anal for some, but from experience, this kind of organization works for me. As you can see, my last booth in NY had a 4 foot table used as a display piece, I actually had my 4 empty (or relatively empty) bins hidden under this table, all my extra bubble and packing wrap and my tool box.
As you can see, I incorporated my fabulous silver trunk into my decor (I hate to brag, but the trunk is to die for! what's worse? I only paid $20 for it at a flea market...HA, a shopping coup!).
Not only does it look cool, and add some sparkly and shine to the booth, it is great for storage of coats, bags, extra shoes, catalogs, pens, bottles of water and order sheets, supplies that we need on a daily basis during the run of the show. Believe it or not, between these 2 pieces, all of my extra stuff is hidden away...except for my pallet. Ah the dreaded game of hide the pallet!
Ok...Scooch in closer now and keep what I am about to tell you quiet...
You can actually hide stuff in the Javits Center...The show would KILL me if they knew I was telling you this, but if you are quiet, cool and a teeny bit ninja-like, it is a relatively easy thing to do, here's how.
Often, at the very end of aisles, there are empty areas or areas where the show has put up extra pipe and draping to hide ugliness or extra show junk. Take a look behind the curtains, you might find the perfect spot for your pallet...the time to do this sort of thing is as late as possible at the end of set up day, or even early in the morning on the day of the show's opening...this is because, chances are, most things have been put away and not much else will be moved around or packed up at this point...usually you are safe and your stuff will be untouched. You might want to clearly mark your booth number, name or cell number on your stuff/pallet, so that if someone needs to move it, hopefully they will be kind enough to let you know.
Another option is to make friends with an exhibitor that has all or some of the following;
a booth at the end of an aisle, against a wall, or with an area that looks like it could be easily used to hide stuff, often these areas have a dead space behind them, perfect for hiding...BE NICE, BE POLITE...you know the old expression, "you get more bees with honey than...", yeah, you know it...LIVE IT! offer to buy them lunch, a bottle of wine, a few water bottles, something....they are doing you a BIG favor! Plus, let's face it, being nice, is, well, nice!
Another option? seek out an exhibitor who does one of those drapey decor jobs. You know, the booths that use numerous long tables all draped in fabric...if they are not hiding stuff under every single one, you can ask if they would mind if you hid a few things under one of them...getting the idea now?
Don't worry if an exhibitor snubs you or tells you NO...there are creepy people everywhere, but most are really nice and you can capitalize on the whole good karma trade show vibe that goes on pre-opening. Yep, it's alive and well. It should be! It's kind of like the trade show world's version of paying it forward in a screwed up trade showish way.