Many exhibitors new to trade shows and trade show marketing are understandably confused by the array of services available from their exhibit house and from the general show contractor (GSC). Navigating it alone is daunting if you don’t know the rules and procedures.
We’ll divide the services into two major groups: the services offered by your exhibit house and those offered by the general show contractor (GSC). There’s some overlap which we will be explained below.
Trade Show Services Available from Your Exhibit House
Exhibit Builds and Maintenances
Full-service exhibit houses, like Exhibits Northwest, have custom fabrication and printing capabilities and can design and build new exhibit properties, portable displays, banners, graphics, flooring, lighting, cases, crates, and much more. Many also offer rental properties ranging from islands and inlines to counters and charging stations.
In addition, most custom exhibit houses represent many other display manufacturers. This ensures they can order replacement parts and complete repairs.
Exhibit Property Storage
Most exhibit houses will store your exhibit properties for you, whether you have one or two properties or hundreds. They have large warehouses designed to store them safely and retrieve them quickly for shipment. The rate for storing crates, pallets, cases, flooring, or other items is determined by the number of pieces and cubic space of your items. Storage is billed monthly, quarterly, or annually depending on the exhibit house.
Preparation and Check-in
In addition to storing an exhibit, your exhibit house will prepare your properties before they ship to the show and inspect them once they return. This ensures your show booth arrives show-ready. The level of preparation or support will vary depending on your contract with the exhibit house ranging from a basic visual check to a complete setup and staging.
Shipping and Receiving Support
Your exhibit house ships exhibit properties nearly every day. They have relationships with freight companies and understand the requirements of shipping directly to a show or to the advanced warehouse. For most exhibitors, it’s much easier to have your exhibit house provide that service both to and from the show. They’ll make sure it arrives on time and safely.
Show Service and Ordering Support and Coordination
When you participate in a trade show, you may be required to complete forms for installation/dismantle, labor supervision, flooring, electrical, aerial rigging, internet, booth cleaning, audio/visual, lead retrieval, security, material handling, and photography. These services are based on exhibit specifications and your requirements. These services are handled by the General Show Contractor (or a subcontractor). You can complete the forms and order them yourself or your exhibit house can assist you. If you are unfamiliar with these services or simply don’t have the time, then it may make sense to ask your exhibit house to handle it.
Installation and Dismantle Support and Coordination
Anyone who has participated in trade shows in North America knows the rules and regulations of booth installation and dismantling can be tricky. In short, they vary depending on the venue and sometimes even a show in the same venue. It’s best to consult with your exhibit house. Not only can they advise you and what is (and is not) permitted, but they can coordinate show labor on your behalf. When it comes to show labor, acting first and begging for forgiveness later is rarely the best option.
Show Site Supervision
Upon request, your exhibit house can provide supervision for any installation and/or dismantle. This service ensures that your exhibit is installed correctly and on time. If you have a larger or complicated exhibit, show site supervision is a dream come true for many exhibitors. It means less stress before and after the trade show and in many situations, the show supervisor can save the exhibitor money since their knowledge of the booth property generally means a faster install and dismantle.
Trade Show Services Available from the General Show Contractor
Using onsite labor is convenient but not mandatory. Exhibitors can contract with any labor company as long as the labor company complies with the local rules and regulations as well as the show policies and procedures. The onsite labor contractor has a service desk onsite, and their labor forms are conveniently included with the show forms. Many exhibitors use the show labor since it is convenient. Those that don’t use onsite labor generally have a working relationship with an independent labor company.
At a union-regulated show site, the unions define what you can do during set-up and dismantle. Generally, there is a ratio of a few laborers to one company representative. You are permitted to handle all your products. The labor crew is responsible for handling display components, power tools, and ladders. However, most crews are flexible if you demonstrate good faith.
Onsite Electrical and Internet
The show contractor also provides electrical and Internet services. Only licensed electricians can set up and dismantle electrical wiring and connections in your exhibit. In the most literal sense, this includes screwing in a light bulb, but most exhibitors take this to mean the wiring and circuitry. Electricians review the wire grounding and the breaker loads and look for exposed or unsafe hacker wiring and connections. Electricity is the primary threat on the show floor. High power runs everywhere. Fires are a real danger when you consider all the wood, carpet, and plastic concentrated on an exhibit hall.
For most shows, you will order electricity by watts and amps. You specify outlet location(s) with a floor plan schematic of your booth. Most people are unfamiliar with how to add up all their electrical needs. You are encouraged to consult with your exhibit house. Keep in mind when calculating your electrical requirements that it includes EVERYTHING that plugs in an outlet: lights, monitors, charging stations, computers, tablets, and any electrical equipment you bring into your booth.
To keep your exhibit looking great throughout the show, there are two options. You can arrange to have your exhibit cleaned during the show with an onsite service from the General Service Contractor, or you can bring a vacuum and cleaning supplies and perform the task yourself. Onsite housekeeping companies contract with the show decorator to provide the service to exhibitors. Your show information will have a form for ordering this service. Cleaning typically includes vacuuming the carpet and emptying the trash.
Onsite Freight Services
Onsite freight shipping refers to the shipping company subcontracted by show management or the general show contractor to provide inbound and outbound freight shipping service. Like all show services, onsite freight shipping has the advantage of convenience. The onsite freight company maintains a service desk at the show. They will be most familiar with the receiving and sending aspects of the show and facility.
That said… Most major carriers are familiar with shipping to trade shows and the general marshaling process that occurs as trucks line up to unload their exhibit freight on the docks of the show facility. Consult with your exhibit house on your shipping options. But beware… if you neglect to arrange for return shipping, the general show contractor will “force ship” your exhibit to clear it from the dock. Force freight charges can be 3X-4X more than normal.
Putting it All Together for a Successful Trade Show
A firm grasp of trade show services and your options can often be the single biggest reason your show is a financial success. Missing early submission dates for services can be very costly and choosing the wrong freight company or labor provider can be devastating. When it comes to services, rely on trade show experts who have years of experience. They know where the landmines are and have developed solid relationships with industry partners. Given a choice, would you rather spend your time fine-tuning your marketing strategy, training your booth staff, and driving traffic to your booth OR submitting electrical forms and hanging sign requests?
Learn More About Trade Show Services from Exhibits NW
If you need it, we’ve provided it. We’re probably providing it to someone right now, in fact. From advice on when to rent vs. when to buy your booth, to help putting it together, to a recap at the end of the show, trade show services from Exhibits NW mean support in all aspects of your trade show endeavors.
We’ve been doing this since the 1990s and we’ve got it down to a science. Of course, it’s still art and we certainly haven’t forgotten that. Give us a call and tell us what kinds of trade show services might make your next show easier. We absolutely love talking shop.