What You Should Know about Onsite Trade Show Services


  • The basics of Onsite Labor
  • The basics of Onsite Electrical/Internet
  • The basics of Onsite Audio/Visual Rental
  • The basics of Onsite Housekeeping Services
  • The basics of Onsite Exhibit Security Services
  • The basics of Onsite Freight


Onsite show services include all services available at the show site. Subcontractors typically provide these services for show management.

Onsite Labor

Show management contracts with a union or non-union labor company to provide the show site installation and dismantle services (I&D). The designated labor company may also provide the decoration (pipe and drape, aisle carpet and registration counters). They are also responsible for ensuring the installation is completed on time and the facility is cleared after the event.

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. If you need more labor on the show floor you can easily request it. Most exhibitors use the show labor since it is convenient.. Those that don’t use onsite labor generally have a working relationship with another 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.

Planning is very, very important. Remember to schedule time for flooring and electrical before you schedule a set-up crew to your booth. Likewise, plan for a delay in getting your crates delivered to your booth space at the conclusion of the show. There are lots of crates to be delivered, and it always takes time coordinate the deliveries.

Onsite Electrical / 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. It 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.

Electrical Requirements

Your show binder includes a form for ordering electrical services. You order electrical quantity 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. Your booth might include a variety of lighting fixtures, a lead generating machine, and a few computer workstations.

Wiring between outlets to fixtures and electronics poses the most obstacles. Exhibits in the US require 3-pronged grounded power cords, which translates into the larger wires. You have to determine how to hide these bigger wires. Buildings hide wiring under the floor, in the roof, and in the walls. Exhibits don’t always have that option. They hide wires under sub-flooring or Films carpet padding, or drop power from the ceiling overhead.

If you have a lot of electrical requirements in your booth, then consider adding a list of the items to the electrical floor plan you send in with your order. Better yet, indicate where on the floor plan the electrical items will be needed. Electricians are very good at reading and extrapolating electrical information. They frequently catch errors and make adjustments on the fly, thereby saving you time and hassle during the exhibit set-up.

If you have questions, call show management. These are routine questions for show management.

Wiring Your Booth Space and Exhibit

You have two options. Power can be run beneath your flooring or dropped from the ceiling. If you choose the floor, you will want your flooring to hide the wiring. Carpet padding does a good job of this, and plush carpet on top of 1/2 carpet padding conceals wires even better. Other flooring such as wood and flooring tiles require a channel routed in the underside of the material for the wiring. Whenever possible, request that the electrician use flat cords rather than round cords.

Companies use a ceiling drop when it makes sense with the booth configuration and the power loads. A ceiling drop is more expensive than running wires across the floor. If you are considering a ceiling drop, call show management to discuss the ceiling configuration over your booth space. Also discuss the option of floor outlets. Show management can help you determine which is best for you.

When you select an exhibit to purchase, make sure you understand, and are comfortable with, how the booth will be wired at the show. Just as important, make sure you communicate where you expect electrical devices in the exhibit, including all lighting fixtures. Be proactive about wire management and discuss with your exhibit consultant during the design phase.

Adding Internet Access

Internet access has become commonplace in exhibit halls for every industry. If you want online access in your booth, you will need to order it just as you would electrical. You don’t need to calculate power, but you may need to include a floor plan indicating where you want the connector(s) placed. Most show halls, including hotels, have installed high-speed wireless access to the facility making Internet access even easier.

Onsite Audio/Visual (A/V) Rental

You can rent computers, LCD screens, projectors, and much more from the show A/V contractor. It can be expensive but not nearly as expensive as purchasing the equipment. Also, the risk of freight damage is eliminated.

Your show binder will have A/V forms from the show A/V contractor. There is typically a discount if the equipment is requested in advance.


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