Exhibitors are from Mars . . . Show Services are from Venus

I stumbled across a great discussion at another blog about the activities of trade show management and show services personnel. It’s been an industry secret for years, and no one seems to ever discuss it – but the fees and extra charges incurred by trade show exhibitors are often exorbitant.

Exhibitors pay the – typically expensive – fee for renting the booth space at the show. They normally get “dinged” for add-on services to promote their presence at the show. They also invest in their display itself and any required marketing materials to bring to the show. They incur travel costs to get their personnel to the show.

These are all expected costs; the costs that are not often discussed are the strange timing rules for when equipment can be delivered to the show (which often force delivery on weekends or after hours, adding overtime charges), the high charges and arbitrary minimum charges for moving the equipment from the loading dock to the show floor, and the difficult to understand rules for when an exhibitor can set up their own booth, and when they are required to let the show labor pool do it for them – and what the charge for this “help” will be.

Here is the original arcticle, reprinted verbatim from the often interesting Trade Show Tales blog.


Exhibitors are from Mars . . . Show Services are from Venus

Sep 11, 2009

As we all know, the current economic situation in the US and around the world has been the primary focus in the news over the past year. Is it an economic downturn? I don’t care what economists want to label it . . . It’s a freaking recession folks! Whether you want to blame the new guy or the old guy or just some guy named “Guy,” we are in it together. Or are we?

Over the past couple of years, whether it’s because of the sustainable green exhibit movement, the economy, or whatever, as an industry we have embraced new products and processes that have resulted in cost savings for our clients. We started using more LED technology which cuts down on the electrical bill at the show. We have adopted different packaging methods, such as single shippers, that allow you to send components more “pre”-assembled for faster setup and tear down and thus a lower labor bill. And we have incorporated new lightweight materials and exhibit options which have lowered freight and drayage bills.

These are all changes that Custom Exhibit Builders, Portable, Modular, and Custom-Hybrid Display Builders, and certainly our customers have adopted happily.

This week, while assisting on several new projects leaving for shows, I was reminded that we do not all share the same goals for the trade show industry. It’s pretty clear that improving the trade show experience is not as high a priority for some as it is for others.

The Most Glaring Examples are Things like These . . .

When a show starts on a Tuesday, why is it that the customer is only given Saturday and/or Sunday as setup times? What about Monday you say? Well the show floor is mysteriously “Dark” on Monday unless you have special permission. As a result, the cost for labor goes from around $80 per man hour to $140-$160 per man hour if you use show labor.

The same show ends at 2:00 p.m. on a Thursday; yet teardown does not begin until 4:00 p.m. There is a four hour minimum on teardown, even if it only takes two hours, so you get billed for one hour of straight time and three hours of overtime.

For another show, I am told that freight is only being accepted direct at the show from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Friday and then again on Saturday. The show does not even open until the following Wednesday evening. The end result is clearly a much, much higher drayage fee.

Really?!? Is this the best we can offer our clients once they get to the show hall? There has to be a better way doesn’t there?

Let me say that this is not meant as an attack on the laborers on the floor or the dock. Rather, it’s a statement and a challenge to the show managers/organizers and services management teams. You’re killing our businesses. You are slowly strangling the life out of trade shows.

In the end, we all have one common goal. Make sure people and their organizations continue to attend and exhibit in trade shows and events. It is, after all, what keeps us all employed. Yet, at least two to three times a week, we hear about people and corporations struggling to decide whether to attend or exhibit at their industry functions. It’s not that we are hearing they can’t afford the exhibit. It’s all the other costs associated with exhibiting at the show. There is a clear feeling in the market that they get “taken advantage of” once they and their freight hits the show floor.

How do we, as an industry, change that perception? Your comments and feedback are appreciated and welcome.

Have a great and restful Labor Day weekend.

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty

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