ENTECH Venue Fail, Chapter One
By Julius Grafton.
Every year we tour a bunch of venues across our Roadshows. ENTECH is the most demanding, as it has four trailer loads of stuff. The venues all try their best but we are out of the ordinary so things can and do go wrong. It’s my job top make sure our exhibitor clients are shielded from wrong-ness. Sometimes they notice.
I’ve mixed things up a little, so that you can’t, and shouldn’t try to guess the venue in this article.
This is more about event planners being ‘thorough’, floor managers being ‘on the ball’, and AV departments knowing their room tech.
I’m not going to name the venues or the people, since ENTECH needs to return. We’ve been banned by Royal Randwick (for protesting their double booking our event and them not caring at all) and we had a bad falling out with a Melbourne venue that we can’t name, because we signed a legal settlement. Both of these just last year.
Of course I don’t think we’re unreasonable people. Why would I think that? But we could run out of venues and need to get a circus tent!
This venue has an additional space which at our site visit appeared ideal for one of our two demo areas. We do an audio demo, and a lighting demo. The very nice event planner at the site inspection agreed it was a good space for us to use!
Somehow we were hand-balled over to another event planner and had to re-establish all the stuff we’d covered verbally with EP 1. Several days prior, EP2 twigs that we will use that space but is normally completely full of venue infrastructure. ‘That costs $4,000 to remove and replace’.
The fun started on arrival because while we had an awesome Safety Officer on the floor, we had a very Slow Floor Manager (SFM) in charge of our event. Back to the Safety Officer – he also was there for a surprise new exhibitor induction on arrival (this is contrary to our manual procedure) which had we known in advance, we could have made easier.
Mr. Floor Manager came up with some new and unique last-minute safety rules like ‘you must be able to see at least 2 exit signs from anywhere on the floor’ and ‘yes we approved the plan, but the problem is the heights of the displays’. So we asked him for temporary exit signs. ‘We don’t have these’. Doh.
They had insane paid security requirements, like we needed to hire 5 dudes, ‘one for each door’. Sure didn’t see one on each door, we only use one door. Our typical security roster is zero, zip, zilch.
There were no water station at load-in (it’s in our manual) and Mr. S.F.M. didn’t seem able to respond or make these appear. Around 35 minutes into unload and mark-up, at 6.35am, some crew arrived to wheel some house AV out of the room. Our Venue Manual is clear: when we arrive we expect to see NOTHING on the venue floor – other than water stations. Lucky these guys could see looming disaster, and they quickly got us a water station.
Mr. Slow F.M. was appraised of a situation as our third semi departed. The situ was that the fourth trailer, a B-double ‘A’ trailer had not arrived. When we load up all the exhibitor gear at the start we estimate how many trailers we need. As we were picking up more gear on the way we added on the ‘A’ to make one truck a B double (two trailers). At that time the only A trailer available was a Taughtliner – designed for pallets, with side gates and curtains. Very hard to load or unload without a forklift.
We have trialled using forks and it is actually quite slow and dangerous compared to ramps. We specify all exhibitor gear comes in ramp-able cases, and when it doesn’t we cross load it into our own. So we are a ramp tour.
When the Taughtliner trailer arrived late at this venue (we can’t take a complete B-Double into most venues so we split them up on the city limits and get another prime mover to haul the A trailer), we asked Slow F.M. if we could rent or borrow the forklift, as the truck driver had a fork license. They wandered off to find and sign for the keys. Wander back, and then Slow F.M. says truckie needs to do the site induction. We have 12 loaders standing beside the truck doing nothing, and a bunch of exhibitor crew pacing around anxious to get their missing gear.
I’d had enough.
‘Do you have fork driver?’ I ask. ‘Yes, me’ says Slow F.M. ‘Can you please help us out by offloading this stuff?’ I plead. ‘No, I need to manage the floor he says’. Reality crept in, and he did graciously agree to do it for us. All so s-l-o-w-l-y.
Despite late freight, with the help of the Show Call crew we opened the show on time at 11, maintaining a perfect record as we’ve never been late.
Our trucking contractor called and said he would deep-six the Taughtliner and we got a regular pan which we can unload with a ramp the usual way.
Overall the day went well until Chameleon Happy Hour. Catering decided to dump the entire ninety minutes of snack foods (cheese boards and antipasto platters) on the café tables, in front of the delighted people already sitting there. We turn around and see gluttony as a swarm descend into chaos.
‘We didn’t have anywhere else to put them’. So now, our Venue Manual has a new line that says ‘Venue to set up high tables through event aisles and distribute food accordingly’.
They didn’t keep the empty wine bottles to show us at the end either, so we wonder what they will charge us? Our manual says we have to count the empty wine and champagne bottles because last year a venue charged us for FIFTY bottles. Like, they must have opened everything they had at the start?
ENTECH is a beer show – up to 500 beers, 3 or 4 bottles of white wine, 2 or 3 red, and 5 bubbly is our usual consumption. 13 bottles are better than 50 when it costs at least $40 a bottle. Yowser.
• Seems like every year, our event manual grows in size due to new and creative ‘mistakes’ that happen at venues. Never assume. It makes an ass out of u and me!