A crisis often comes unannounced. Whether you're a senior executive at an organization or an event manager responsible for planning and executing a trade show, a crisis management plan is crucial.
As most such exhibition emergencies are not entirely preventable, the crisis management strategy will ensure that there is a plan you can fall back on to minimize the damage and recover from the distress.
What is a trade show crisis management strategy? How can event managers create one? Take a look-
What is a Trade Show Crisis?
A crisis could be anything that can negatively impact the outcome of your trade show management plan.
I’ve mostly seen exhibitors and event managers ignoring a crisis management plan as they believe something like that could never happen to them. But as with most disasters, they strike you when you least expect them.
Some of the most severe risks are-
- Natural disaster
- Terrorist attack
- Civil unrest
- Medical emergency
Apart from the severe issues, there are also many non-severe exhibit management risks like a power outage at the event, gear/equipment malfunction at the booth, etc., that event managers should prepare for before the event.
If a trade show crisis is not handled professionally, it can result in severe public image risks and safety hazards. This is where a trade show crisis management plan comes into the picture.
What is a Trade Show Crisis Management Plan?
Trade show crisis management is an integrated, systematic, and ongoing framework to keep yourself and your team members prepared for unexpected situations during an event.
It is a necessary preventive measure that enables the team members to navigate through unexpected circumstances.
How should the team members respond to a crisis, whom they should contact, where they should meet, etc., are some of the critical details included in a crisis management plan for event planning and trade shows.
How to Create a Trade Show Crisis Management Plan?
Here are six steps you can follow to add crisis management to your exhibit management strategy-
1- Check the Exhibitor Manual
Most large events generally have emergency protocols in place for disasters such as severe weather, fire, etc.
So, even before you start working on your crisis management plan, it’d be wise to check the exhibitor manual to check if the organizer already has an emergency response plan. The last thing you’d want is to create a strategy that conflicts with the organizer’s response plan.
You should also check the event website or talk to the show management to know more about the security measures they’ll take during the event. You should share this information with your team during pre-show orientation meetings.
2- Assess Potential Trade Show Risks and Determine Their Likelihood
Once you’ve been through the exhibitor manual, start assessing the potential threats you might face at the event.
You can brainstorm with your team members on the possible threats that might emerge at the trade show. All the threats can be divided into these four categories-
- Health and Safety
Once you’ve created a list of potential threats, try to determine their likelihood. For instance, you can visit www.weather.gov to review the weather forecast and past meteorological patterns of the location where the event is organized.
3- Designate a Meeting Point for Your Exhibition Staff
In the case of a fire or a natural disaster, the organizer will mostly evacuate the venue. So, there should be a designated meeting place for your staff away from the event location.
It is worth noting that such a crisis could also occur at hotels and other places. Thus, it’d be better to choose a meeting point for every location connected to the event. You can use Google Maps, local vendor partners, and hotel concierge to select the locations.
Here are some additional tips for choosing the perfect meeting points-
- Choose places that are at a distance from the crisis location but not too far away
- Places like hotel lobbies and convenience stores that are open 24x7 and provide easy access to electricity, water, and phone are ideal meeting points
- After selecting the location, share the details with your team members, preferably in digital format, so that they can easily access the information on their mobile phones
4- Trade Show Crisis Communication
After finalizing the meeting points, create a crisis communication team. These people are part of the on-site event team but have the additional duty of maintaining contact with all the other team members, both the event team and office team, if a disaster strikes.
The communication team should be fully aware of the measures that should be taken for different types of crises so that they can help other team members.
They can use communication modes such as texts, phone calls, or any internal team communication application you might already be using. Ensure that every team member has the cell phone number of every other team member.
5- Keep Every Exhibition Staff Informed
All your efforts to create the trade show management plan will be futile if your team members are not fully aware of the response strategy.
Thus, it is essential to prioritize risk management right from the initial event orientation meetings. All the team members should be fully aware of every aspect of your risk management strategy to respond effectively in case a crisis occurs.
6- Review and Update the Trade Show Crisis Management Plan
Once the crisis management plan is ready, don’t miss reviewing it at least a few times to check for gaps.
Also, depending on the event or location, you might need to take additional measures. Such measures should be updated in the review plan, and all the stakeholders should be informed about the same.
Moreover, as potential threats change with time, reviewing and updating the plan at least once every year is essential.
Trade Show Crisis Management for Non-Severe Risks
While the steps discussed above will help you create a response strategy for a more severe crisis, there are also other risks that are not as critical.
For instance, it could be a power outage, technical glitch, or speaker not reaching the event location on time.
While these threats might appear very small compared to a fire or natural disaster, they could severely impact your company image and the experience you provide to the trade show booth visitors. And don't forget, the chances of suffering from such non-critical issues are significantly higher than more severe ones.
Thus, it is also essential to have a response plan for such threats. Here are a few tips that you should use in your trade show management strategy to tackle such issues-
Have a Plan B
As an event manager, it is wise to have a plan B to remain prepared for such emergencies.
For instance, you can have some extra product demo videos and presentations, which you can use if the speaker cancels at the last moment or is late. Alternatively, your presenters can organize a QnA session with the attendees to fill the gap.
Keep the Visitors Engaged
In case of a technical glitch, for example, if the LED displays are not working, you can’t let your booth visitors just go away while the issue is being resolved.
You need to look for ways to make people stay at your booth. For instance, you can consider custom trivia games to keep them engaged. Distributing beverages and food is another effective way to make people stay at your booth longer.
Be Honest with the Attendees
Honesty is the best policy when handling a trade show crisis. It is always better to let the visitors know about your situation rather than make excuses.
For instance, in case of a technical glitch, let the visitors know that the issue is being resolved, and they can enjoy the refreshments until then.
Navigating the Storm with a Trade Show Crisis Management Plan
No matter how solid your trade show management plan is and how well your booth staff is trained, many things can still go wrong during an event. And for events that are not entirely avoidable or in our control, the best we can do is remain prepared for them in advance.
A crisis management plan does exactly that for trade show event management. Use the above points to create a crisis management strategy to prepare you and your trade show team for the unexpected.
If you’re looking for effective ways to keep the booth visitors engaged, you can check our latest work section to see how our booth trivia games can help.
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