Total Exhibit Asset Management

Staff Insight: The Truth About Show Service Coordination


Jennifer Bowen is the Show Service Coordinator at PRO Expo Exhibits. The following are her thoughts on show service coordination in the trade show industry. 



Whether you’re in service coordination at your company or in coordination with an exhibit house with clients of your own I’m sure you all wonder…does anyone really understand what we really do? There’s a reason why most of us are type-A personalities with a little OCD sprinkled on top. But there’s something we LOVE about doing what we do. No two events are ever the same.

I’m sure most of us have discussed and laughed over Murphy’s Law of Trade Show Exhibiting in some fashion, so I won’t go into all that. We all know it exists. But as a service coordinator, it’s our job to do everything within our power to make sure Murphy doesn’t show up to our party. Our first step is to get our hands on the ever-elusive exhibitor manual. Let’s praise the shows that get those out in a timely manner because there’s nothing like trying to plan for an event MONTHS in advance, only to be waiting on our rules and regs that don’t show up until a month before. We scour those manuals for the rules and regs – for the show itself, the venue and all the various contractors that have their hands in the pot. But what we’re really looking for is the fine print.

You know, like your exhibitor or your EAC can install the electrical (as long as they have a valid company ID), on straight time, on the 4th Tuesday in May and only if they don’t have to climb a ladder. Otherwise you have to pay the electricians to do it for $100+ an hour. Oh, and you might need two electricians if you have a TV larger than 40”. Yup, your service coordinator is the one responsible for reading all that fine print so there’s no hold up on the show floor and your budget doesn’t get blown in the first hours of being on site.

And the furnishings the show decorator offers – yuck. Who wants that? You want a fuzzy purple lounge chair to go in your ’70’s themed booth. We’re on it. Furnishings, special lighting, accessories. We do it all so you don’t have to!

When decisions are FINALLY made (at the 11th hour), we get all the orders placed (by the discount deadline!) We’ve scheduled the electricians, the internet techs, the riggers, forklifts and labor. We cross our fingers it all comes together as planned. Which it will. Because we’ve confirmed, confirmed, confirmed. Then we treat ourselves to a large glass of wine to celebrate our victory. We do our due diligence to pass all of our order confirmations, floor plans, drawings, etc. onto our I&D crews, supervisors or exhibit staff so that they can be prepared in case things go awry. This is the point where we become the go-to person for all show-site calls and questions. Because why would anyone but us want to read that stuff? You know you’ve gotten those calls.

Then that glorious day comes where you, your client, I&D crew or exhibit staff walk into the exhibit hall, make the trek to your booth and find…nothing. NOTHING! No electric, no internet, no hanging signs. Freight? Ha. Who knows where that is. And this is where we coordinators watch our master plan fall apart before our very eyes. But, you’ve been here before friends. You don’t panic, you laugh. Not because you’re trying not to cry – but because you know the plan is there is no real plan. There can be some well-constructed plans, but you have no control of what happens on site.

It’s our job to remain calm and figure out the best Plan B. Sometimes we can handle it on our own, other times, we have to make a few calls or pull a few strings. We’re smart and resourceful. We keep favors in our back pockets for these exact moments. If you think we’re not working fast enough, I promise you, we are. If you don’t hear us panic, it’s because we’re somehow programmed not to.

Maybe sometimes things don’t go just as you had planned, but after all these years I’ve realized that’s a lot to expect in the trade show world. You have to be able to roll with the punches. And if you’re the client or employer that has hired one of us to accomplish all these amazing feats, just remember we’re always out for your best interest, always mindful of your budget and want you to have the most successful event you can – despite having to escort Murphy from our party.

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