All hell has broke loose in the exhibition industry these past two weeks. We have the embarrassing cancellation of the Melbourne Motor Show 3 months out from opening and the trade show run in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was visited only by a brown dog. And he was lost.

Trade and public exhibitions rely on a strong network of organisers, designers, builders and exhibitors to create truly outstanding results. So what happens if the show organiser who is meant to um, like organise a show stiffs you or falls short on promises and commitments made? Hold the phone on calling a lawyer, you first need to Macguyver yourself out of the situation you have found yourself in. Here are 5 ways to do exactly that:

1. Trust you instincts

Normally if your exhibition organiser is a flake you get advanced notice early on. Calls and emails go unanswered, show plans and manuals are delayed from release and it all feels NQR. If you get this feeling of unease early in show lead up, start causing waves. It’s no good saying on site in an empty show hall “Well, I thought they had not done much show promotion”. These organisers have taken money from you for space in the show hall, you need to make sure that investment is honoured with the show organiser doing their damn job.

Motor Show blow out

Motor Show blow out

2. Read the fine print

One of the major complaints with the Merecedes-Benz Fashion Week trade show was the organisers had promised access to 20,000 buyers that did not materialise. That totally sucks but my first question on hearing that promise from the organisers would have been “How are you going to do that?!?” I want to hear the strategies, the promotions and the tactics the organisers have planned to unleash 20,000 buyers on the fashion exhibitors. I’m sorry to blame the victim here but a cursory glance at the festival layout would or should have raised some alarm as it seems that the trade show was moved from the high traffic area of entry to the runway shows of previous years to some side pavilion. Once again, this is your money that you are investing in marketing to achieve more sales and that investment needs protection and a return on it.

3. Pre show hustle

Let’s say we assume the worst and your show organiser is a muppet and that the pre-show promotion they promised is dire. Regardless of how bad or (yay!) how good an organiser is, as an exhibitor you also need to share the heavy lifting in the exhibition promotion. Tweet it out, update Facebook daily with teaser alerts about what can be seen at the show, send “save the date” with a secret promotion to your email list, get some local media buy-in and even send that hand written invitation. The cost to market yourself and your trade event has never been so cheap but the offset to this low-cost entry is that you need to do the leg work to make it happen or outsource to your 14-year-old neighbour. And one tip? Send slightly more emails / invites / updates etc than you feel comfortable doing. People are pressed for time and there are many demands for their attention, so put it out there as your audience might miss your initial message.

4. Form your posse

I tip my hat to the Mercedes-Benz fashion week exhibitors who marched en masse to the organisers office to demand answers on why the trade event was so poorly attended. If you are feeling gyped, chances are others are too and as there is safety in numbers, the power of the complaint is amped by numbers.  One thing, though. Before firing up the crowd and recruiting other pissed off types to the cause…what are you actually after? It is no good just slapping the desk, stabbing the air with a pointed finger and raising your voice, you need a list of demands you can present the organiser with a time frame attached.

Fashion Week fracas

Fashion Week fracas

5. If you are waiting for the organisers to do something, you may as well wait for the magic pony to show

After your letter of demands has been nailed to the organiser’s office door and some random bin has been set on fire, assume they will do stuff all. For real. Time to get busy, hit social media ramping up promotions, discounts and specials. Design a simple flyer, commandeer the nearest photocopier and the distribute where the delegates are attending events or in the nearby cares where  everyone hangs as show coffee is shite. Hijack the courtesy bus and regale the captives with a witty tale and issue an invite to get themselves over to your stand for a VIP gift. Your energetic and financial investment is on the line. Get busy.

If you have a story where the organiser was a muppet or let you down bad, share in the comments section below. What did you do to turn the situation around?

Ok, so my song choice this week actually includes the line “when things head south, you got to McGuyver your way out of it”*

Hit it Pearl Jam!

See you next week!

* Most likely not but it still fits with the melody