Trade Show Perspective

Trade Show Perspectives: Efficient Setup and Teardown

Within the exhibit industry, the act of assembling and disassembling an exhibit is known as: Setup and Teardown; I&D; Installation and Dismantle. Depending on who you talk with, it can be called any of the above.

Packing an Exhibit

Following are some ideas to assist the people who are going to set up your exhibit:

  • When packing your exhibit, if there are similar but different parts that are used to assemble the exhibit, pack them separately and LABEL them so labor can identify them and use the right parts in the right locations.
  • Be aware that although hired labor at shows is generally experienced with most exhibit systems and hardware, they don’t know every system and hardware component. Many systems are similar, but may be different enough that some confusion can happen. When confusion happens, it slows down the progress of setting up the exhibit.
  • Always include photographs of the exhibit when possible. It’s good to have blueprints but often a picture will be more clearly understood. A notebook, divided into separate items, such as; electrical plan, booth component layout plan, workstations, counters, reception desk, packing list of components, shipping labels and Bill of Lading, etc., is a great help for your I&D team.

Big Ideas had Blue Goose Exhibits design and install this modular exhibit, manufactured by Nomadic Display, in 2013.

Pop-Up Exhibits

The following are a few useful tips for people who own pop-up displays:

  • When packing your display, always roll each graphic (or fabric panel) separately then place it into the shipping case. (Quite often people roll all their graphic panels together then place them into the shipping case). By rolling each graphic panel separately it is much easier to pull the graphic out of the shipping case, without causing damage to the graphic. Also, this procedure allows you to save a lot of floor space when setting up, by not having to spread all the display components on the floor. You simply pull a graphic out of the case and hang it onto the frame. Very easy… very simple.
  • When packing your display, always pack your graphics with the image rolled to the outside. This prevents your graphics from curling away from the magnetic struts at the bottom of the frame.
  • Install your lights onto the frame structure prior to mounting your graphic panels. This way you can easily see how to mount the lights. Once the graphic panels are mounted, you will have to blindly mount the lights.
  • It seems to be better to mount your endcaps after hanging the other graphic panels. I don’t have a good reason other than it seems to work better.

Larger Exhibits

Here are some tips for those who are dealing with larger exhibits:

  • Try to arrive at your booth location at least a half hour prior to your labor call (when your labor forces are to begin work on your booth). This allows you time to verify that your electrical locations are placed correctly and that your booth orientation is positioned correctly. Several times I have seen the electrical set incorrectly and have had to have the electricians reposition the placement of the outlets.
  • Don’t forget, that when the electrical is incorrect, generally the carpet has already been installed over the electrical, so the carpet needs to be removed then re-installed. Sometimes labor can “snake” the electrical into the correct locations without removing the carpet, but this also takes time.
  • There have also been on a few occasions, the need to reposition the orientation of the exhibit. Once due to a large pole that was in the way and not shown on the booth layout schematic and another time due to the primary entry into the exhibit hall was different than was expected.

These kinds of situations can cause a delay in getting the exhibit set up, which can be costly when labor is standing around, not able to go to work. As you probably know, labor rates at shows are not a bargain!

Exhibit Dismantle

When it is time to tear down or dismantle the exhibit, it is a critical time in the life-span of an exhibit! More damage occurs during the tear down than at any other time, in the lifetime of an exhibit. This is especially true when the people who work the exhibit (the booth staff) are the same people who dismantle the exhibit.

After a long show people who work the booth are tired and may not take care when dismantling the booth.

Generally, they are tired and anxious to get out of the show and go home. Working a tradeshow can be a very demanding and tiring job. Standing on your feet all day, keeping a high level of enthusiasm to speak with show attendees, and trying to be your best is difficult for a long period of time.

When the show closes, people are sometimes too anxious to get the exhibit torn down (note that I didn’t say dismantled) and that is exactly what happens. Booth components get damaged if not packed as specifically and correctly as when they were packed prior to a show.

A number of years ago we created a brand new 20' x 20' island exhibit for a company in the medical industry and their first show was a 10-day show in Las Vegas. At the end of the busy 10-day show, the staff, along with the president of the company, were totally exhausted yet they were the designated dismantle crew as well. At the close of the show, they literally threw the exhibit into the shipping crates—a decidedly bad idea. The president of the company soon informed me that there might be some damage to the booth when it is returned from the show.

When the booth did return we were in awe of the damage that had occurred. I took pictures and asked the president to visit our facility to see the damage before we even unloaded the crates. It turned out that the repair bill was nearly 80 percent of the cost to build the exhibit new.

Fresh Legs

For larger exhibits, it may be a good idea to have “fresh” legs arrive to oversee the dismantle of an exhibit, so that components are re-packed correctly to minimize damage. Even when you have hired labor to dismantle, a fresh supervisor is a good idea if the budget allows.

Speaking of hired labor, you should always request the same crew to dismantle that installed the exhibit. Even if you don’t get the all the same crew, it is vitally important to at least get some of the same crew because they saw how the exhibit was originally packed.