As business professionals, we all normally plan and review our plans to make sure things go off without a hitch.  But even with planning and extra review things don’t always work out like we intended.  That was the case recently at the MedTec Italy trade show we participated in.

As part of our expansion into Europe, we targeted a medical technology trade show in Modena, Italy.  This show caters to medical device manufacturers and their component suppliers in the Northern Italian region.  We had identified that many prospects of Nelson-Miller, Inc. reside in this region and would be visiting this trade show.  To maximize our efforts, we shipped our tradeshow booth and literature/samples to Italy.  This was an important part of our marketing efforts for this show.

No matter how important our booth and samples were to our success in this show, the customs department of Italy didn’t seem to understand or appreciate, because they held our booth in customs and didn’t bother to notify us until the morning before the show.  We pleaded with them for days, and arranged additional paperwork to expedite the release of our booth.  With significant effort from our team in the USA and our Logistics partners in Italy, we were finally able to get our package released.  Unfortunately, the release of the package took place the day after the show ended.

Eric-Shumway-MedTec-Booth-210x300Eric Shumway at MEDTEC Italy

Eric-Stegemen-Booth-Duty-Medtec-300x268Eric Stegeman (on left) at MEDTEC Italy

So, there we sat, in a trade fair with nothing more than samples, one piece of literature and an empty booth.


Rather than wallow in our sorrow, we took all of the samples we had, spread them out as neatly as possible and went to work.  We pieced together a simple sign of typing paper taped together and marker crudely written to say, “We don’t invest in fancy booths, We only invest in our customers!”


We ended up having trade show attendees come by the booth just to see the crazy Americans and their creative signage.  People would stop, chuckle and then begin to ask questions, and that’s exactly what we wanted to have happen – generate new contacts and business opportunities.  The best part was when the trade show organizers came to our booth at the end of the fair, and told us how many people made specific comments to them about how great our simple sign was.  They then asked, “Can we take pictures of your booth?  We would like to share your creative improvisation with our organization to show them how they can take a bad situation and make it good.”  Of course we gladly agreed to the picture and their invitation to have Nelson-Miller be featured in their next newsletter.

Often times when we react with enthusiasm to unforeseen events we are given a great opportunity to produce outstanding results.  That was the case with our booth at Medtec Italy and it turned out to be an unforgettable and rewarding experience.

Have you had any company events that didn’t go as planned?  What was it like that for you?  How did it turn out?