6 Last Minute Emergencies on the Show Floor & How to Avoid Them

We’ve all been there – on the show floor, days (or even hours) before the show, rushing around to fix a graphic, find a shipment, or pull off a miracle to be show ready. Sometimes those instances are inevitable, but some simple steps during planning can help minimize last minute emergencies.


Freight is one of those things that, in theory seems like it should work like clockwork, but in reality it is far from that. Your supervisor and labor crew are ready to set up but your booth is nowhere to be found. Your driver is stuck in the marshalling yard and you are left twiddling your thumbs and at the mercy of the show. What do you do?

Having the contact information for both your freight provider and your labor crew is beneficial. Communicating is key here. Talk your labor crew through what is going on and try to work out your set up schedule to avoid large fees. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to solve this issue if you are shipping direct to the show.

Skip the headaches and extra labor fees by planning ahead and shipping to the advanced warehouse. You can ship to the advanced warehouse about a month before the show starts. All freight shipped to the advanced warehouse is delivered to your booth space beforehand and is guaranteed to be at your booth location ready to set up. If the advanced warehouse is not available, schedule your labor late in the day.

Use a trusted freight provider that is accustom to the trade show industry. Not only does this help with move in, but also will help avoid forced freight and extra fines during move out.


Graphics can get damaged or dirty during shipping. Sometimes creative solutions can solve the issue, but being put on the hot seat is not ideal, especially when you still have a long list of items to check off.

Keep a backup flash drive with your artwork, links, and PMS colors on hand. Talk to your exhibit house and understand their graphic capabilities. If they are local to the show or have a printer in that city, it could be an easy fix.

Also check with the general services contractor to see if they have a backup plan organized already. Many general contractors, including Freeman, have graphics departments ready to go in case this happens.


While we have never had the misfortune of having a fire in one of our booths, it does happen. Verify with your exhibit house that all electronics have adequate ventilation and that the lights they are using are safe and approved. During booth set up, you can also confirm that power strips are not overloaded. Worst case scenario, bring a small multipurpose fire extinguisher so that things don’t get out of hand.

Travel Plans

High travel costs can be avoided by making your teams travel arrangements well in advance. If traveling internationally, understand everything involved including visas, passports, customs requirements, and shipping timelines. Plan for at least 30 days freight and shipping notice on any international orders to ensure the booth arrives safely and in time.


We all rely on technology. When it is not working properly, it can not only be frustrating, but stressful. Before the show, work with your exhibit house to test all presentations, computers, VR, AR, and video walls on the actual equipment that will be used at the show.

If possible, work with an exhibit house that offers full booth previews. Booth previews allow you to see your full exhibit with graphics, working presentations, lighting, and product set up. Not only will you more at ease knowing everything is ready to go, but you can also make tweaks before the show.

Organization & Planning

As a best practice, organize your contacts before the show. Make a list of who to contact for what – your exhibit house, GSC, freight company, labor crew, and any additional vendors that you are working with.

Work with vendors that you trust and check out your booth space prior to set up. Ask your set up supervisor to go to the move in site the day before the show to ensure electrical is set up. Without electrical, booth install cannot begin.

Have a basic understanding of the trade show labor laws in the city. It would be great to be able to walk up and start helping if you feel you are running out of time, but that is not always allowed. Your exhibit house will know the in’s and out’s of each city, but having at least some knowledge of it will help you formulate an emergency strategy more quickly.