Demystifying Those Confusing Trade Show Service Manuals

Trade Show Service Manuals 300x300If you’ve ever exhibited at a trade show before you know two things to be true:

1) They are one of the best ways to get your products or service in front of an eager crowd.

2) Reading a trade show manual is akin to being stuck in an elevator with 100’s of hungry mosquitoes. It can be absolute torture.

At the end of the day, trade show success really does boil down to planning and organization. Your ability to understand the service manual, minimize or avoid any problems, and leverage all opportunities will be the key to success. They can be confusing even if you’ve been around the trade show block a few times, but if you’re new to these events, service manuals can be downright diabolical.

Grab a latte or your beverage of choice and settle in as we demystify the trade show service manual for you.

General Information
Don’t do that thing where you assume general information is not important and skim over this section.

Read it because this is where you’ll learn about all of the regulations for exhibiting, cancellation policy and liability, pre-show checklist and order deadlines, floor plan and a list of current exhibitors, among other things.

This is all fairly self-explanatory stuff but important stuff for you to know.

Housing Information
Again, the title of this section of your manual is so dull you will be tempted to skip right over it but don’t, because this section will tell you about your registration fees and housing details such as hotel rates, transportation, etc.

You’ll need all of this information to plan your logistics accordingly and stay within your budget.

Branding Opportunities
Read this section carefully to learn about ways you can get your name out there – sponsor the registration bag or badges, display indoor or outdoor banners and kiosks, etc.

Understand that each branding opportunity will come with its own special price tag depending on location, material, size and advertisements.

That said, this section will help you leverage your return on the booth space rental – closely review the branding opportunities at each show, and take advantage of as many as you can – for example, if you can make a presentation at a seminar, do it!

This is an opportunity to establish your company as an industry leader and also to (subtly or overtly) invite all attendees to stop by your booth.

Target Dates and Set-up Times
Target dates are just that, a target, but you don’t have to hit a bull’s-eye.

Show management sets target dates for delivery of exhibitor freight and they base it on the hall and area of the show floor where your booth will be located.

While your freight’s arrival should coincide with the target date, the show does provide a flexible window for delivery – just be absolutely sure to hit that window, otherwise you’ll be out in the cold, begging to be let back in!

Set-up times are also not set in stone and this may be frustrating to exhibitors but it is actually the most efficient way of setting up.

Look at it from the show management’s point of view; they create an initial set-up plan and they base this plan on all of the freight arriving in a timely manner.

But of course real life doesn’t always happen in a timely manner.

So, say the plan is to have all of Hall B set up first, because that is the hall with the earliest target times, but then Hall B’s freight gets held up somewhere.

In an effort to keep the ball rolling, event management will then start installing exhibits whose freight has already arrived rather than wasting by trying to stick with the initial plan.

Once all freight starts arriving, they will quickly try to get back on schedule with the plan.

How to Order Electric
One of the many challenges with trade show planning is knowing how much electric you’ll need. If you don’t get this right your exhibit will suffer.

Just how complicated your electric order will be hinges on how complicated your exhibit is.

Many trade show exhibits consist of a 10’ x 10′ back wall and so the electric requirements would also be quite standard: one service outlet located behind the booth might be all you need.

If your booth has a counter or table on the aisle you will most likely need another service outlet nearby to power a laptop or other technology.

The larger and more complex the display becomes, the harder ordering can be.

If your booth is fairly complex, strongly consider sketching out a simple floor plan to help you decide the exact placement of all outlets you will need, as well as your required watts or amps for each.

Once you’ve done this you will be able to easily fill out your order form.

Submit it as early as you can so you can take advantage of any discounts.

Other things to consider:
Generally, inline and peninsula booths will have outlets located on the floor at the rear drape line.

Island booths are a bit different – they will have outlets brought to one location and then distributed out from that point.

Always find out if your power will come from the floor or be dropped from the ceiling so you can make sure your placement makes sense.

And always make sure to send payment in with your electrical order form or suffer the consequences.

Do You Really Need Labor?
Many exhibitors won’t need any labor.

If you have a portable light weight trade show booth that is easy to setup, or a company booth staff that is trained to set up your exhibit stand, then you may not need to hire install and dismantle (I&D) labor.

Or if this is a smaller show, with just table top displays, for example, and all you’re going to arrive and simply plug in lights and laptops, you won’t need labor.

However, if you have a bigger or more complicated booth display, or if it is too heavy, or takes too long for your staff to set up, then you may need to hire labor.

Sometimes simple requirements may trick you – if those lights on your trade show display need to be wired, say onto a truss system, or if you plan on running electrical cords under carpeting, then you may need to order labor. Sometimes, if your setup requires a ladder, or special tools, show requirements call out for using union labor.

Unions and union rules vary with each city, so be sure to review these rules for every show!

That Fine Print That Mentions Additional Charges
If you need to, get your glasses out and read all of that fine print.

You’ll obviously want to avoid as many onsite charges as you can but some are simply unavoidable.Imagency Trade Show Displays in less than 8 days!

 A drayage charge is what you will pay to have your freight handled “from the door to the floor.” This charge is NOT included in your display rental quote or your booth space purchase but it is your responsibility.

Beware all of those additional charges like water and beverage service, plants and hanging banners.

And heaven forbid you realize your booth needs to be totally reconfigured once it has been set up. You can expect to add on some hefty charges for that one.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of reading these trade show service manuals you’ll become a pro at trade show planning.

And as a trade show pro, one fact will become obvious:

Trade show recurring costs (shipping, drayage, labor) are expensive - and easy to reduce. Share on X

Picking the right trade show displays can be a huge help to minimize the recurring cost for your trade shows. If we can help select the best trade show booth for your requirements, let us know.

And if you just realized that  you need a trade show display in just a week, check out the great selection of trade show displays we can deliver in 8 days or less!

For more, check out our guide to pricing strategies or how to score a touchdown at trade shows.