Exhibitor Tips – Labor Tips

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Cost saving tips – Labor Services

Trade show labor is a refined, specialized form of temp labor. Labor companies hire from local union halls, and dominant unions vary from city to city. In Las Vegas and Chicago, the Teamsters dominate the tradeshow game, and Carpenters are less common on the show floor. In Los Angeles, however, the Carpenters Union is dominant. Back when trade shows were newer, the playing field was open. In Las Vegas, there was a lot of construction, resulting in work for Carpenters, so they didn’t pursue tradeshows as a source of work for their members. Teamsters, however, took advantage of the available trade show work for their members and overtime the Teamsters developed a workforce of skilled setup and dismantle workers, making it hard for other unions to compete without the show floor experience. The same story played out in different US cities and the major trade show labor unions were established, though the industry continues to evolve to this day.

Installing your trade show booth before the show and dismantling it after the show is commonly referred to as ‘I&D,’ or, more simply, ‘Labor.’ You can hire labor from the show or subcontract with any number ofi national labor companies. Finding someone with experience and a good labor crew is key to quick,efficient I&D. Here’s what you need to know about labor:

Unions are an excellent source of temp labor, and in trade show cities a good many of these union workers can keep busy much of the year. To protect and maintain this trade show workforce, unions negotiate terms with the companies that put on the trade shows. Therefore, Union members defer to the labor agreement of the show before relying on labor laws in the city and state. Although we know of many instances when non union workers have been told to stop working, you must realize that the union workers are just trying to keep a reasonable amount of control to get the work done. However, even in the toughest union cities, we’ve experienced union stewards only requiring us to have 1 union worker for every non-union worker.

  • Unions dominate trade show labor services
  • Different unions dominate in different US cities
  • Right to Work state doesn’t mean Union will allow you to work
  • Show organizers and labor unions negotiate labor rules
  • A core group of experienced labor leads is key to quick, efficient I & D

Labor Supervision

This is helpful to exhibit houses like Exhibit People. We are able to provide a better trade show experience when we lead and supervise the installation and dismantle of the booth display. It is valuable to have someone onsite who knows the booth display and the client in detail. When this isn’t possible or practical, then it is best if the exhibitor is able to supervise in person. Though the exhibitor may not know all the parts and assembly steps of the booth, they can come prepared to make sure everything goes as planned: delivery, electrical, flooring, labor arrives as scheduled etc.

At Exhibit People we have a long time special relationship with our national labor partner. We know many of their city managers across the country, and we’ve worked with many of their top leads. Even though we prefer to have someone onsite to supervise the installation, we have successfully completed hundreds of sets with little or minor remote supervision. Talk with a rental consultant to fully understand the risk and costs of both options.

Labor Tips:

Labor Tip: It makes sense to have your exhibit company provide the labor service for your trade show booth. Yes, there is a markup involved, but avoiding two vendors eliminates the potential for finger pointing when things get delayed or go wrong on the show floor. Labor crews like to be the onsite heroes at the exhibit company’s expense. It is in your best interest for your Exhibit Company to feel responsible from start to finish.

Supplies Tip: It is helpful to come prepared with the common trade show supplies needed to unpack and repack your trade show booth. Materials like shrink wrap can be expensive if your labor crew supplies them (referred to as ‘usage’). We recommend a supplies kit that includes shrink wrap, clear packaging tape, cleaning wipes, a box knife, a marker and a pen.

Rental Tip: When you rent your trade show display, your rental display comes fully cleaned, inspected, and packed in an organized manner. This makes the setup more efficient. This also minimizes show floor surprises. The last thing you want to do is to ship a booth to a show when it hasn’t been cleaned, counted, and repacked.

Tip: You can request a plastic (or visqueen) cover to be placed over your newly laid carpet. When there are many days between the setup of your trade show display this is a great idea, especially with lighter carpet. Sometimes the show hall is simply dirty due to its location or due to work going on in neighboring display booth spaces. Labor companies will return after the aisle carpet is laid to pull out the protective plastic. It’s a fast process. Make sure you’ve planned for how your carpet will be vacuumed; either you ordered cleaning service (approx $100 per day) or because we included a vacuum with your booth carpet rental.

Terms Tip: ‘Trade Show Exhibits’ and ‘Exhibition Stands’ are the same as ‘Trade Show Booths’ and ‘Trade Show Displays.’ At one time, “Displays” were portable and “Exhibits” were custom, but there is no longer a distinction between the two terms. Outside of the US, ‘Exhibition Stands’ is the term most commonly used. ‘Portable,’ ‘Modular,’ ‘Hybrid,’ and ‘Custom’ are also common industry terms. These terms, like ‘displays’ and ‘exhibits,’ have lost their distinction, and many booths can be classified in one or more of those categories. For example, some portable displays are modular and custom as well. Most Exhibit Companies offer portable, modular and custom displays and exhibits.