A Blog from ELITeXPO
w/Commentary from David Mihalik, ELITeXPO President, C.E.O.
Keeping Your Freight Family Together
Recently I received an email from one of my reps describing an issue he had with a recent shipment. It seems that the customer prepared 10 pieces for their outbound shipment from show site but when the driver came to pick them up, the General Contractor was only able to locate six of the ten pieces. The client was frustrated because this had happened to them once before previously under similar circumstances. They understandably were concerned but I received an email from the customer asking if there was anything that they were doing wrong or could be doing better to assure that these pieces wouldn't go astray on the show floor once they labeled the boxes, turned in their MHA and left the building. It occurred to me that there are some things that a shipper can do to improve their odds of keeping all the pieces in a multiple piece shipment together. Because like our families we want to make sure that all the pieces in our shipment, stay together.
Here are a few tips and ideas that ELITeXPO believes will assist any shipper in keeping their shipment intact.
Think Pink - I believe that having our bright pink ELITeXPO pre addressed labels on your packages greatly improves your opportunity for the shipment to stay together. Everyone in the industry knows the ELITeXPO "PINK" label. We've been using them since 1987, when our company was born. We designed software that allowed us to print these labels on show site both for our Official Shows where we are the Preferred Carrier or when we simply are there to service multiple clients with multiple shipments on high volume events. It also makes it easier for dock crews to locate the packages because we reference the airbill number on each label. If you are adding piece counts to your labels, (ie; 1of 10, 2 of 10, etc) then this will also greatly aid the handler with knowing what the complete shipment should look like.
When A GSC Is A 3PL - The reason we need to assist the show site loader is that for many General Service Contractors, (GSC) aside from their work as a GC, they are also a 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) provider. This means that they ship freight under their name but give those shipments to other, "3rd Party" Freight carriers. (like ELITeXPO) That is potentially why it will take longer for a 3PL to locate your packages because they first need to locate which carrier they sent the shipment on. You further compound that issue with the volume of freight that they are moving at show close back to their warehouse. GSC labels can also designate that particular GSC's shipments and it does make it easier for someone to group together GSC labels thinking that they are part of the same order. Even if our Pink labeled shipments become "cross routed", we stand a better chance to located the errant packages sooner and also have greater flexibility as an indirect air carrier to expedite them on their correct routing. Remember at this stage of the game, there are no bar codes involved and that means for everyone, FedEx included. So we are trying to perfect the human element at this point on the show floor.
Keep The Smaller Kids Together - Next, it's not enough to have any label on the package to assume that they were properly labeled. Even without the optimum method that ELITeXPO provides labels for, its not much to expect everyone in the chain to do their job and read the label. One piece of advice I can give is to condense the smaller pieces in order limit the potential for multiple pieces to be separated from the rest of the lot. In many cases smaller pieces such as graphics or banners are shipped in smaller individual cartons. Banner stands or simply banner graphics may be packed in longer narrow cartons. I would recommend to condense those pieces depending on their size and weight to one or two pieces. We would be happy to assist in developing a shipping case for these items that would limit damage and make it easier to ship. ELITeXPO can assist you in locating an economical shipping case to properly pack and condense your shipment to make it a smaller piece count. We work with a number of vendors and provide this service to our clients, or we can simply repack these items into a larger, yet manageable corrugated box. .
When A Mohawk Is A Good Thing - Anything you can do to make your shipment stand out and be recognized is a good thing. We have had customers, name their cartons and crates in order to be able to locate them better. They have had fun with this by naming them after employees, or even recognizable icons such as Paul, John, George and Ringo. It may seem cheesy, but tell me that you wouldn't want to know where Ringo was, if you only had the other three. Other times customers have us paint a logo or use a company color to designate their items. A large band of purple for instance can be used to identify one carton from another plain generic carton of which there are thousands on the show floor. For example, if your company makes permanent waterproof surgical markers in multiple colors, we can use the colors you provide in your product as a way to identify your cartons. (Red, Blue, Green, Black) This also can serve as a constant advertisement of one of your company products. People are still on the show floor and if you are like our company, you can sell to other exhibitors as well. If you always ship the same amount of cartons you can then add carton numbers to whatever unique identification you wish to use. ELITeXPO has a new service which we call "Package Personalities" and we can develop a "personality" for your cartons or crates. ELITeXPO can perform that work next time anytime we ship your items back to our Chicago warehouse. So what happens if you have, say, 10 boxes, crates or cases? If we add Alice and Sam the Butcher to the Brady Bunch, we can have 10 names ! But you get the idea. An economical and fun way to keep your Freight Family together. I guarantee that your shipment will get noticed and will stand a better chance of not being separated without a custody hearing.
More Than One Babysitter? - I don't wish to make light of a potential serious situation. ELITeXPO will always do everything we can to locate missing or separated pieces on show site and our experience in tradeshows will give us the best opportunity to locate the potential places where they may have been diverted. Let us know if there were any other separate carrier shipments in the booth at the time. Sometimes one shipment is picked up before another and pieces become crossed. The first place to look is with another carrier who also may have picked up too many pieces from your booth. This is also a great time for me to plug that for this reason alone, it makes perfect sense to have ELITeXPO handle all of your event shipments. Comedy aside, ELITeXPO offers a complete and full range of transportation services worldwide, as well as storage, online inventory and Installation and Dismantlement. Check with your account rep and let us keep track of all your kids all the time.
Make Sure Your Kids Get New Shoes & Clean Clothes - Cartons that are in poor condition and falling apart are candidates for the dumpster. A show floor worker may not know your good box from your garbage boxes. Boxes with labels are thrown away ALL THE TIME on show floor. If the cartons become haggard then they can be mistaken for garbage, especially if they become separated from the rest of the shipment on the show floor. At the same time, don't advertise really expensive, high value, high desire items. For example, a carton that is marked "iPads, iPods and Giveaways" is show floor lingo for "Steal Me". I much prefer, Box # 4 of 10......... Marcia, Marcia Marcia ! (that's because she was the one that Jan always envied...try to keep up)
Count The Kids Before Leaving Chucky Cheese - A clear and accurate description is always beneficial in identifying misplaced pieces. This is especially true if anything had changed prior to your outbound shipping from show site. If an empty box is lost on show site and then you use a different box or case to pack the same items into, its important that you change that description on the outbound paperwork. It's important that you get this change BOTH on the MHA (Material Handling Agreement) that you complete at the GSC Service Desk AND with your carrier. If something goes astray, we can't be looking for Greg, if he took off on show site with Florence Henderson. The idea being that if we are looking for a brown carton but it was repacked into a plastic tub, then it makes it more difficult to locate the missing kid. By all means, make sure that you count all the pieces that you are shipping. I've seen many times an exhibitor ship a skid of packages out as one piece. What that exhibitor has done is given away all of their other freight with the exception of one piece and it doesn't matter which one it is. All anyone is responsible for then is one piece, regardless that you had 10 on that skid. So unless you have a complete shrunk wrap skid where the pieces cannot be taken apart, record that your shipment is 10 pieces on one skid. Understand that you also will pay for the weight of the wooden pallet as part of your shipping and drayage charges. A typical wooden pallet weighs about 75 pounds. If you are shipping pieces "loose" then make sure you get an accurate count. The GSC doesn't know exactly how many pieces are actually in your shipment when you drop off your MHA. Effectively, they get that piece count when they pick up the pieces from your booth. If those missing pieces do not show up, the GSC is NOT responsible for that loss. You are responsible for your shipment up until the time your carrier arrives and the loading crew takes it away from your booth.
Everyone Is Insured - One thing that you need to have on your shipment is insurance. If all else fails and your package is lost, then at the very least you can recover your monetary loss through you cargo insurance. ELITeXPO provides a type of insurance called "All Risk" Cargo Insurance which protects your shipment from the moment we pick up your pieces from your or our warehouse, through the whole time its away until it returns. That means that this insurance covers for loss on show site, where normal cargo insurance doesn't. But declare your insurance values properly. You wouldn't say your 18 year old is a 4 year old when you list them for health insurance. The same is true with cargo. If your shipment is worth 20,000.00, then you need to declare all of it if you wish to receive full value for any individual lost piece. Sometimes companies declare 5000.00, thinking that this will cover the first 5K in losses. The reasoning being that rarely is the whole shipment lost or damaged. The reality is, if you shipped the Brady Family, (10 pieces) then each item is valued at 500.00 per piece. So if that box of iPads gets ripped first, then all you get is 500.00, not the 5000.00 you will potentially loose because they were stolen. If you do declare the whole 20K, then let your rep know that Box # 4 or Marcia, is worth 5K of the 20k so it doesn't get prorated to 2K per box. (20K divided by 10 pieces). Your ELITeXPO rep will purchase All Risk Cargo Insurance for you and fax you an insurance certificate proving that your shipment is properly insured. Sure it costs a little more, but so does peace of mind.
I hope that some of these tips will assist in providing some assurances that your shipment will stay in tact for your future shows. Please contact an ELITeXPO Account Rep for more information about any of the services mentioned in this blog. As always, i am always free and available to answer any questions and listen to any comments you may have. If you are a current customer of ELITeXPO, please let me take this time to thank you from the bottom of my heart on behalf of everyone here at ELITeXPO for your continued loyalty and support. If you are reading this and considering trying out ELITeXPO, let me say that we would greatly appreciate the opportunity to show you that we practice what we preach here at ELITeXPO. Give us a try, you won't be dissapointed.
For more info, hit the web at www.ELITeXPO.com or visit us on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and My Space.
05/16/2010 Union Changes at McCormick Place (MPEA)
If Chicago's new work rules are approved by the Legislature, more exhibitors will have the ability to set and tear down their own exhibits of any size using ladders and hand tools. What remains to be settled is if the State has the right to impose work rules on the Union workers whose collective bargaining agreements with private employers are federally protected.
05/12/2010 Fear & Retribution on the Show Floor
With the new found efforts to rebuild the trade show model starting to take root, comments about praying there is no retribution is exactly why most EAC's, exhibitors and I will add, Show Organizers sit in the shadows with their hands on their laps afraid to stand up and speak. Imagine a world without vocal opposition to the things that are plainly wrong. If that were the case we all would be drinking 'New" Coke by now. Simply making the comment that you are afraid but at the same time not offering support to a particular position, even if implied, is the very reason why NOTHING CHANGES. But it will change, because people who are very vocal and a few of the regular suspects on the LinkedIn discussions are willing to step up.
Fear and Retribution On The Show Floor
I think the key element in any discussion is to stay on topic and to not make the comments demeaning. It's hard sometimes to point out injustice "diplomatically" but it can be done. It's the mature route to making the other side understand where you are coming from.
I just returned from TSEA's Face to Face and more Exhibit Managers are planning their own events and are reducing or at best keeping pace with their trade show exhibit schedule. This is a result of the classic analogy "killing the goose that lays the golden eggs". So while comments about not speaking out for fear of missing crates may dominate some agendas, understand that some managers will speak with their feet and either not come or do it their own way. (ie; Pack Expo) Or in another case that I find amazing, Apple pulls out of Mac World. I am sure that are hundreds more to list, but know this, more are coming. The battle has been started with a single shot. If you're afraid of missing a crate, then I suppose its best you sit back and let others do the heavy lifting.
People are too quick to point at show floor workers or union labor as a culprit. You are seeing some of that in the McCormick Place revamp. Some believe that it’s all hatched in conference or board room at a few large corporations. I also don't think that this is all a "suits" issue either. In my experience sometimes the corporate mandate does NOT make it to the show floor. I have been on the receiving end of problems numerous times, only to have been easily able to resolve them by calling up a "suit" who was able to set everything straight. (Insert forced freight here) But that's my company. We make it a point to know who to talk to and how to get things resolved with the right people who can resolve them. I can assure you that Don Freeman is unaware of what some guy in New Orleans is doing at show close with freight that needs to be forced or a crate that was sent to who knows where on the in. I blame these local train wrecks on incentive plans put forward to the local GSC office to promote revenue/profit strategies. There are two ways to do that. One is to be creative and find ways to compete on price and value, the other is to leverage your position as a provider of exclusive services.
Character is determined by your actions once you have been given the power to act. If everyone' character was beyond approach, then we would have no criminals, no wars and empty jails. It's coming folks, just not here, and it requires traveling there in a pine box. If you believe in that, then we really are in hell now, or at least purgatory with the hope that this is all just a stopover or a bad dream. Personally, I'm leaning towards stop over.
In reality most people on the show floor are not at issue. They are not in the profit stream. They are hard working people looking to stay hard working, although there are plenty that are trading time for money. For the most part, there are GSC's that are a pleasure to work with, because they are interested in the end product or they are under a strong mandate from their show organizer to play nice. The latter is such a simple way to make nice sandboxes for all. Let's not all forget that there are power brokers in many cities who have big time influence on the activities and hiring of specific people or entities within a convention environment. Sometimes these warlord's are weeded out and sent on their way, sometimes not.That said, it would be nice to hear from the some GSC’s and Show Organizers on those TSEA and EDPA forums to hear what they think.
05/08/2010 How did we get here?
I believe that Show Organizers have a lot to do with the type of show contracts that are being written. I am also now sure that a lot of them don't even realize the impact that they have made on the cost shift structure of today's trade show. No one can be sure though if these contracts became popular as part of GSC (General Service Contractor) one-upmanship in their endeavors to be creative with wining show contracts. It wasn't long ago that we read about a GSC paying an organizer in advance to be the GC on contract. I think there is culpability on both sides regardless of who started this game of twister. It's clear that it’s now become the standard and most everyone wants in.
05/03/2010 Can Real Change Happen?
I for one am confident that change is happening. The issues with the shows that recently left Chicago has shed a light on problems that caused the customer (the organizer in this case) to say that they were unhappy. The resulting exodus prompted city officials, many of whom potentially are hitting the problem at ground zero and working to get up to speed to understand all the nuances. The misconceptions of what the problems really are have now all been put together into one pot of soup and there is a battle cry that is blaming everyone and everything that is wrong. I don't have a problem with that even if the proverbial dog is barking up the wrong tree. Everyone gets in for one ticket price.
04/24/2010 The Auto Industry Solution
And here is how the other side of the industry works, (or doesn't as it were) Apathy is the standing quality appreciated by the oppressors. My company is a charter member of the EIC and that council was started because there were enough people standing around doing nothing and were sick and tired of it.
04/24/2010 Solving Chicago
New people are coming to the table and to the social media discussions offering insight solutions for our industry. The common thread though is that most people whether vendors or exhibitors have identified that Material Handling costs have gone out of control and more people are putting two and two together and are believing that the issue are real and that they can understand it better. I've said before that this conversation has been happening, under cover, for many years. Certainly more than the time we have had the enlightening benefit of social media. Much of this has been expanded because of the recent publicity around McCormick Place losing events and the subsequent current shake up of the MPEA Board. So in the interest of explaining my opinion or take on the current state of affairs, I have attempted to answer some basic questions for people new to the game.
Can Chicago retain its industry position and it’s trade shows? There is no reason on earth why Chicago can't retain trade shows. Well maybe one reason, but it appears that MPEA and the city are putting together a task force to make recommendations on what they need to do to bring show organizers and attendees back. This is not an isolated problem because what is happening here in Chicago is an effect of what is happening across our industry. Change is happening albeit slowly. Change is not what I see we need. I see that we need - Revolution. It has to change in a large way and it will take one big player to completely step outside their comfort zone at the risk of short term revenue losses to lead the way. Ultimately I believe that these types of moves will be good for every venue if implemented. The problem is getting the first person to jump into the deep end of the pool.
What do the material handling fees have in common? Cost shifting.
I've also gone on record to state that in actuality if we get to transparency and cost shift back to where they belong, you may not notice a large cost savings at the end of the day. Only then, would costs begin to fall to where they belong. The exhibitor invoice would look significantly different than what it does today.
So do we throw our arms up in the air and say, then what are we doing this for? No. The longest journey begins with the first step. Once we get costs back in alignment and transparent, we then let the economic system of supply and demand take over. The more exclusive services that are available for open bidding the sooner the costs begin to go down and the service levels goes up.
Why are costs shifted to Material Handling? Because they can. It's an exclusive service that is controlled and leveraged without interference. It's an absolute necessity and there are no benchmarks and no competition to check and balance it's runaway price increases and fluctuations.
So now what? This is the reluctance to jump into the deep end of the pool part. My opinion is to make drayage, (material handling) a non exclusive service. Open it to bidding and make its rates only directly relevant to its costs.
How do we do that? It will take one large venue to take control of the docks and not make them part of the rental agreement for when a show decides to come to town. The venue can allocate approved "drayage vendors" who are authorized to work in the hall and have shown to have provided the necessary financial strength, insurance coverage’s, and experience to properly do the job. If there is a cost to administer that, include it in the rental agreements and make them transparent to anyone who wants to know. Above all make it fair and keep politicians away from the approval process. I've asked about 6 reps from labor companies I know and asked them if in the interest of expanding their business (and who doesn't these days) would they be willing to start a new division of their company solely dedicated to Material Handling Services. All say YES, before I could finish the question. If this can be done, it's only the first piece of a complicated puzzle that would follow as GC's and show organizers then determine how to create the new price model.
So why hasn't anyone tried yet? Because it's an all or nothing venture. And someone with the nuggets big enough to take the first step will undoubtedly lose money and market share, for a short while. Buyers (insert the exhibitor here) will put pressure on show organizers to move events to venues that offer cost structures that promote transparency. Venues under cost reduction and revenue improvement mandates will find this counterproductive on all measures. That's because, other venues who do not subscribe to the transparency project, will venture to gain from show organizers who will move their events because they are unwilling to change their pricing/cost models and thus are content with the status quo. Unfortunately the status quo will be the status extinct in due time and everyone will be looking at each other for the time when they all can hold hands, put on a life vest and all attempt to jump into the deep end of the pool together. But as you know, there's always one kid who chickens out and then messes up the photo shot for everyone else.
The issue is, will those in position of power be interested in seeing the current model change. The way I see it, three segments of our industry hold the cards. The venues, who have the worst hand at the table, but can change the game, the GC's, some who will still want the ace up their sleeve and the show organizers, who have been dealt the Royal Flush.I suppose it should be appropriate that I concluded my comments with "flush".
04/23/2010 Associations are for Who?
Sometimes the term “networking” is a politically correct way to describe a selling opportunity. At Association Industry Chapter meetings this can lead to limited participation by the regular members. Vendors have to exercise restraint on the extent of their aggressiveness working the room.Most professionals know where the line is and don't cross over. Any vendor who doesn't see "networking" as a sales opportunity is refusing that reality in order to feel good about their activity or lack thereof.
I am in the position as being a company that partners with other service providers to service our clients. When attending a chapter meeting, I'm sold ALL THE TIME. Most of these folks I know for years, and 99 % of the time it's professional and non intrusive. It seems to be understood that there be an unwritten policy regarding these activities at various organized meetings. It doesn't mean it’s not happening, it means it hasn't become a problem. But active members will not become involved where solicitation is rampant and the reality is, active members are not the majority of those attending. Telling. Also take a look at who responds to many industry discussions on media outlets like LinkedIn and that will provide you a good idea of the ratio of vendor to active members who participate.
So while the unwritten rules work in Chicago, I tend to agree that an Exhibitor Bill of Rights may be a proper way to actively promote the policy in the interest of getting our active members to participate and be more involved. But let's not step on those who are attending and sponsoring and promoting because without all these vendor members, I hesitate to say that most of these Chapters would be obsolete.
04/23/2010 Industry Association Chapter Meetings - Extinct?
Industry associations are designed to support a specific segment of the industry. The compromise I have always pondered is; why would you wish to share any competitive advantages your company may have with other companies that can be deemed as competitive? As a vendor would you invite your clients to industry meetings and knowingly put them in close contact with your competitors?
It is in my estimation that most of the people attending these Chapter meetings are vendors looking for leads. You would be exactly correct in saying that unless you are willing to babysit and watch your good customer like a hawk at a meeting then you most likely will not expose yourself to that level of challenge. I suppose that depends on how confident you are in your relationship, so it’s not outside the realm of possibilities. I just don't see that happening a lot. That said, I have seen account execs hovering over a high level client watching them like a ninja and stepping in to break up a conversation anytime it may seem the least bit threatening. That's not just for Chapter meetings mind you. This happens at Industry shows, committee meetings, you name it. I can understand that too, in some strange way, although I think that this behavior would eventually wear thin on the buyer.
We have to ask the question. Why do we want better attendance at chapter meetings? Everyone agrees that we want to financially support our chapters but ultimately what are we looking to get out of it? Are we there solely for the speaker who will teach us how to better use Social Media to attract business? The people who are going to be there? or both. A Bill of Rights will put us on the path of how we want the behavior to look like, but we also need to have the needed attendance to create this Bill in the first place.
Universally, "valuable" education is what works for both sides. If your expectations are solely on selling, then you may be disappointed. I can tell what the angle is when a vendor company brings 5 people to a chapter meeting and 4 of them are account execs. If the educational content is universal then there is a modicum of chance that a account exec may listen long enough to actually learn something. Then it's their responsibility to bring the cheese back home to share. I believe that there has to be a strong enough reason for a regular member to attend these meetings knowing that they are bait in a shark tank. If the Bill of Rights is the net in the shark tank then high value education or timely relevant industry content is the all you can eat buffet.
04/14/2010 Crystal Ball
At Exhibitor Show this year it seemed the consensus was that companies are starting to look towards the near future. I believe that projects "optimism" probably more than actual economic indicators. But optimism is how it will all start. Someone with all the money has to start spending it so it reaches the rest of us who don't have it. But companies are saying that they are looking at purchasing now to be prepared for changes and the new events that they will go to or return to in the next 9-12 months. I believe that the buying patterns will be more conservative for at least a few years before companies start to forget about the lessons we all were suppose to learn as a result of this last depression. (Yes, I’m calling it a depression, just ask anyone who lost their job AND their house if they agree)
The product mix also will change as companies evaluate cost savings through their new purchases. Advances in exhibit manufacturing have presented companies with very professional looking environments at a fraction of the weight that was used previously. I also believe that this will transcend the typical users of this lightweight exhibit experience, the under 20x20 booth space. This will drive companies to adapt to the marketplace. It certainly has driven the product mix in our company. Who would have thought that a predominately transportation driven company would now be able to provide complete Exhibit Management services to clients who are looking for more than just the transportation component. Buyers will have to sift through the repackagers and still work with and find companies who have verifiable experience within the trade show field. It’s that process which will methodically take place before buyers jump in with both feet. They will be looking for more bang for their buck and expect more from their vendor partners. Good companies survive, great companies adapt. Optimism must take place on both sides of the purchase equation. That said, we are not there yet. It's been my opinion that the days of feeling good about reviewing balance sheets may come in 2011.
As a Show Organizer I can take my show wherever I want. As an organizer I can have a convention center begging to please come and rent some space. Convention centers are standing in line with the GSC to "get the business". A show organizer will take their event to the next venue that gives them what they want.
04/12/2010 Time to Support TSEA
It’s being said that exhibitors are the ones that will bring about notable change in our faltering trade show model. But here is the problem as I see it. Exhibitors will not, by and large, initiate the change that they so desperately need. Exhibitors need to be organized and they need to speak out in large numbers. The recent exodus of shows from Chicago was driven by a show organizer who was making a financial decision based on the needs of all their exhibitors as well as themselves. Whether those cost savings are passed along to the exhibitors at the new venue will remain to be determined.
But exhibitors are in competition with one another. Will one vote with his feet while his competitor "sucks it up" and stays in order to reap the rewards of seeing all the potential buyers who are coming to the event that company A has now boycotted? Some. but not a majority. Would you, if you were given that competitive advantage for three or four days?
It’s vital that an Exhibitor Organization such as TSEA be the voice and advocate for exhibitor related issues. That's the real point of an Association, isn't it? That's the real value add in your membership dollars. Otherwise it's just a networking event where the sharks (vendors) swim around the bait (exhibitors) That's why it's important for companies to support Associations like TSEA who will speak up for exhibitors who are unable to by themselves. TSEA is a supporting Association of the EIC which is acting on the exhibitors behalf to represent those issues that best serve their membership. Exhibitors who are looking for a way to contribute, can easily do so by supporting their Association financially by becoming a member. There's never been in a time in my career where industry Associations have become such a valuable voice and entity for the changes that are desperately needed.
Venues themselves hold the silver bullet and the hidden key to unlocking the gridlock caused by the current industry model. But they are in no financial position to take a stand on what inevitably would cause them to lose money. (at least in the short term) They answer to the taxpayer, and since most taxpayers are probably not exhibitors, they could care less about our problems. They just want those venues to be successful and bring in tax dollars that would otherwise be collected from them in the form of sales, real estate or corporate taxation. The venues cannot satisfy multiple masters.
But it all makes for good headlines on the local newspapers, so Joe Factory Worker can read his Tribune in the morning and see that someone else has it worse than him. He can now point his finger at the reasons why everything in the world is wrong and it all starts with those greedy b**tards at the Convention Hall. And all of it getting reported by the messengers of doom who never set a foot on the show floor. You didn't realize how bad the fried food was for you once you got past how good it tasted.Somewhere in Chicago there are about a dozen guys, real knowledgeable guys, never invited to the table, shaking their heads every time they read an article or see a news report on what is wrong and exactly how our politicians are about to fix it. That's what I would be worried about, too.
04/12/2010 - The Tradeshow Industry in Flux?
Recently there have been a rash of articles being written about how the tradeshow industry is in flux and how the model needs to change. Much of this has become prominent as a result of recent problems surrounding the departure of major shows from Chicago’s McCormick Place. People are being interviewed and names and quotes are now being published. I can’t help but believe that I’ve heard these quotes and alternatives and reasons before. That is because these conversations have been going on for better than 3 years. Most people just don't know it. Most people don't know the courage of a group of individuals who have stuck their collective professional necks and businesses on the line in order to make this industry better. Where I come from, that's called "character".
03/03/2010 - Do you think the current tradeshow model is sustainable?
Shows leaving Chicago have opened up the conversation, and this report was on the Chicago CBS news last week: http://bit.ly/cScfHg What do you think? Ain't broke so don't fix it or it's broken, and we need change?
The current tradeshow model is sustainable. It is because there are a reasonable number of interested parties and companies who wish to keep it that way. The current model makes money for some companies at the expense of others and there is a wide variance between the haves and the have not's. In my experience, I've been told to get used to it. I'm not.
02/26/2010 - FORCED FREIGHT has become popular again !!Shipping tips to save time and money.
Exhibitors and EAC’s be aware. I've noticed an increase in diversion tactics that results in many forced freight shipments as of late. We have seen this "change" numerous times recently and it has resulted in Exhibitors not being aware that the changes WILL cause their shipments to be forced.
Recently at the Photo Marketing Assoc Intl. show in Anaheim the show kit information that all exhibitors receive, shows that all carriers must be checked in by 8:00 AM on Friday Feb 26th. A move out notice was dropped at each Exhibitors booth (as normal) and in that notice was an instruction under the "Shipping" heading that Outside carriers must be checked in no later than 10:00 AM on Thursday Feb 25th. This is 22 Hours earlier than what was published. It is also "before" the last day of published dismantle which was noon on Friday the 26th.
Technically, official notice of a change had been made. It was not highlighted or separated to indicate that this was a change from the previous instructions. Exhibitors who made prior arrangements with their carriers would need to update them of the new move out deadlines. Interestingly the advertisement for the General Contractor Shipping option is directly following. They also make note that if your carrier doesn't show up they will "re-route" your shipment via themselves. "Forced Freight" is such an ugly word to use.
Good trade show carriers will get access to the "Show Kit" move out information to validate correct move out times. They are not privy to the "Move Out Bulletin or Notice" that is handed out on show floor. Further, getting this "latest" information is extremely difficult to get from a General Contractor in the proper time from when they publish this "updated" info and the deadline timeframe. It is understood that things change and sometimes at the last moment. But no one is going to go out of their way to single you out if you happen to have already planned to have your carrier in by the Show Kit's deadlines.
The solution? Exhibitors and on site EAC’s, you must read your Move Out Notice and scan it in every detail. Changes and updates are being made that can cost you A LOT OF MONEY. If you've had a shipment "forced" or should I say "re-routed" then you know the size of the shipping bill that is to be collected before your shipment will be delivered. Pay special attention to the Carrier check in deadline changes and update your carrier immediately. Only you have the most direct and expeditious path to transferring the information. For carriers themselves, other than the General's Logistics division, getting updated and current information is "challenging" at best. The reason for that is that the reps who are back at the office or who are helping on the chat lines, don't have the same information as what's happening on show site. There is clearly a disconnect in the flow of information. Exhibitors who pay special attention to everything that is dropped on their booth desktop, or chair or floor have the ability to connect that information and save themselves time and money later.
ELITeXPO will begin a new additional time consuming process of calling the General Contractors at the most optimum time to estimate when a move out deadline has been changed and the time when the General Contractor Move Out Notice is published and handed out to the Exhibitor. Note that we will attempt to get this information but there is nothing in our past that would dictate cooperation or that we will be successful in getting this information from the General Contractor’s. We will also instruct our Exhibitors to be aware that changes are being made that will cost them money if it turns out that their deadline instructions to us deem to be incorrect. We always will attempt to recover any freight that is forced in advance of noted deadlines. ELITeXPO has long had a “Freight Force Guarantee” in which we will recover any freight that is forced that was caused by our own error and deliver to you per our commitment at the rate we quoted. ELITeXPO will absorb any additional costs or charges invested in recovering a customer’s shipment. But this guarantee wouldn’t apply if the deadline check in times changed and we were not notified in advance of that time to assure a proper pickup. In our company we have an operations person whose job it is to recover freight that is re-routed as a result of questionable tactics that cause changes that exhibitors may not be experienced enough to catch.
It’s a shame in this current economy and in light of the duress that the trade show industry is under that we still have to jump through hoops and create special processes to simply recover freight from the show floor. Forced Freight had become a problem less noticeable recently and that may be because the industry has much bigger fish to fry. It’s still a symptom of a much bigger problem and in the end it’s another tactic that will cost the exhibitor more money. When the resolution has a reverse impact on revenue then the solutions are not so forthcoming, because this problem is so simple to eliminate that its mind boggling that in 2010 I’m still talking about forced freight tactics.
02/18/2010 - Giving excellent service in a bad economy is even more important than in a good economy.
Unless you can only achieve great customer service through the addition of additional bodies and technology, then your cost structure to perform at this level dictates your price point. Most can achieve great customer service utilizing existing assets without increasing costs by simply demanding this high level of customer service as a matter of standard operating procedure. All that is needed and what is missing most of the time is to provide the motivation and training to perform at the highest levels all the time. When employees believe that they are part of the value equation and are compensated accordingly, amazing results are possible.
I think that the generalization that CEO's don't understand the value of Customer Service over price is drastically overstated. That may be the opinion of an employee who has an disdain for anything that management does, and it may be typical of mega large corporations where the CEO does not get involved on an individual shipment level. I can assure you that as a CEO when something gets off the rails, I'm the first one to contact the client and offer what solutions we have to offer and make sure that the client is satisfied that we have rectified their concerns. Low cost carrier directives are normally the process of procurement. Procurement reports up hill. Don't confuse corporate policy for CEO indifference because that is just not true in most cases.I am just saying that a one size fits all does not apply when stating what some companies are doing out there. I find that the larger or largest of companies have a mandate to "do more with less". I don't think strong customer service is dead because we live and die by that basic fact at our company. What has changed is that extraordinary service, at least in my niche is expected as well as being the lowest cost provider, on option that is often at odds with itself in today's market. CEO's in large company's extend the procurement alternative to cost cutting. That is often at odds with the marketing departments that must put on the event that generates new sales and clients. The assumption being that procurement doesn't understand the industry they are negotiating and thus end up with another large corporate box carrier who is oblivious to a certain segment's unique shipping challenges. But now, these departments who have been forced to live with procurement are now learning how to accept them and work with them to teach them the details. Now they are OK with procurement because it helps them meet their budgets because the squeeze is on and prices fall as companies bid against each other to retain business. The end game is you either have to compete at a more efficient level, or stay your course and await the demise of those carriers who cannot operate at those highest levels for the lowest of prices for very long. We have found that there are still plenty of companies out there who value quality customer service at a fair and competitive price as a means to retain efficiencies with their diminished staffs. At the same time we are working hard every day to create new ways to be more efficient and still IMPROVE our customer service or at least make sure that our clients know what great customer service should look like in comparison.
02/18/2010 - What statements would you make to the other stakeholders of the exhibition industry (i.e., show organizers; GCs; EACs; housing companies; convention centers; etc.) to help shape the industry's future?
From exhibitor perspective, how can the current model be updated? How can it move forward to become a true partnership between exhibitors and other industry stakeholders?There is plenty of blame to spread around and plenty of places to "fix". In evaluating how we got to this place, you eventually come to the conclusion that this didn't happen overnight or even quickly. The business model was forming decades ago and it has been unable to stop under its own momentum. You must peel back the onion to find what's going on at its core. Is it clean and edible or is there a stinking green stalk growing out of it that no one wants to touch or eat?
In my assessment everything starts with the show organizer. Whether it's an Association, a Management Company, a media firm or corporate conglomerate, it would seem to me that the buck starts and stops here. If there is no show or event to be held, then all the other stakeholders are simply place holders, waiting for someplace to exhibit, someplace to attend, someplace to work. Eliminate "Zero Invoice" business models and you potentially eliminate cost shifting. (the practice where no charge products or services are paid for by inflating prices on goods or services to the end user)
I would appeal to those organizations to establish pricing models for their events to allows that costs and prices of individual services to fall where they belong. Maybe then we can get a realistic price for specific commodities that is rational across the board and in like cities across the country. Since I believe that Material Handling is where most cost shifting has ended up, I would appeal to the Show organizers to outsource Material Handling (Drayage) to either the venue or to competitive outside bidding.
Just a thought, but what might happen if venues elected to take control of their own docks and the subsequent Material Handling that came in and out of their facilities? How do you think the current business model would change and how fast? Competition is good for our industry as long as the playing field is fair and equal. When one entity can bundle services to offer a discount on an exclusive service (like Drayage) then the playing field is far from even. But it may be a necessity in the current model otherwise there would be no way to pay for all that product and services that is being provided with a zero invoice to the show organizer. We cannot stereotype the culprits and assume where blame should go.
Grass roots organizations like the EIC (Exhibit Industry Council) stand the best chance for these ideas to see the light of day. The next step is to get Show Organizer Associations to join in with the other 5 Associations who already partnered to really add that much needed input and perspective and to see if there is any real interest in change. Because if nothing changes, then nothing changes....