Our friends over at TS CREW created this great video that takes an insider’s look into the process of a trade show exhibit’s installation process.

I&D is NOT an assembly job.


As an exhibitor, you expect that when you arrive to your booth space the morning of the show (or late the day before the show opens), that everything is ready to go. And that is as it should be. But many don’t realize what it truly takes to achieve that state of “ready to conduct business”. It doesn’t just happen “magically”. A successful trade show experience requires clear objectives and thorough understanding of the exhibition process. It takes careful planning, and streetwise execution to deliver the environment that your company is going to conduct business in.

Particularly for the exhibit crew that constructs your “branch office” for the event – it requires an understanding of all of the variables that must come together. Now here’s what many don’t know about “the process”… the I&D labor team you hired to build the exhibit is responsible for much more than just “assembling the exhibit pieces”, and laying down carpet. There are scores of variables beyond the exhibit hardware that must come together to create a fully-functioning work environment for you company staffers.

When our I&D team arrives to the show floor to begin installation, we typically find any number of cases and crates in and around the empty booth space. But what happens if some of that exhibit freight is late? Or it hasn’t arrived by the time our team gets there? Or there’s noticeable damage upon visible inspection? It can mean additional waiting time on the show floor for the crew. Before we even lay carpet, there are several ground preparation tasks that must be completed. Verifying that the electrical and internet cables are placed correctly, and matching the CAD drawings are part of that ground prep work. Sometimes there are jurisdictional issues that require other people – like union personnel – to complete these tasks. It’s the responsibility of your assigned “exhibitor appointed contractor” – to ensure that all of this work gets done properly, within the rules and regulations that exist in your event city and venue.

In the U.S., “jurisdiction” is a big variable that an installation team must understand and be aware of; and the rules vary by city and even by specific venue. Different union groups have contractual rights to perform certain work tasks in convention locations. Electricians unions. Riggers unions. Decorators unions. Even unions that exclusively handle the freight in and out of shows. And if the local jurisdiction rules aren’t followed, the installation could be delayed and additional fees could be incurred. If your exhibit involves using a hanging sign, It’s helpful to have those components ship in to the show separately with clear set-up instructions so the riggers union (the workers that ‘fly the sign’) know just what to do with it. Your EAC labor team has to coordinate with rigging to get your company sign in the air quickly and efficiently.

Accessories like rental monitors get dropped off by the A/V rental company you’ve contracted to supply your screens and laptops. It’s not uncommon that one or more of these items can get damaged in transportation, or, may be the wrong size, or need special cabling.
Your I&D team may need to use their own resources to correct any problems. And keep in mind jurisdictions- is your EAC labor crew allowed to hang or plug in those monitors? Or is a union electrician scheduled to install them?
And who’s making sure the monitors, cables, and your laptop presentation are all “in-sync”?

That’s why every good I&D crew brings a well stocked job box to show site – because we know that there are going to be unexpected things that come up; so we come prepared with HDMI and A/V cables, extension cords, power strips, extra velcro and a variety of specialty tapes, maybe even extra keys for standard cabinets or storage room doors… it’s essential to have these items on hand rather than HALT a job and incur costly delays while waiting for them to be delivered. costly production to wait for these items to arrive on site.

For any number of reasons, you may have last-minute graphics coming in separately direct to show. We have found that 1 in 7 individual graphic shipments can end up mis-delivered. If possible, let the booth team know it’s coming. We can expedite taking possession of it.

Throughout the installation, we often see additional shipments arrive to the booth with things like boxes of promotional items, company literature, maybe even exhibit parts. Should we open these items right away? Do we leave them secured for the exhibitor? Should we place them in the exhibit somewhere? Let your set-up crew know in advance about all inbound shipments. It will eliminate the guess-work.

Furnishings delivered to the booth space by a furniture rental vendor, can often “walk off”… only to be found in a neighboring booth after search and rescue mission is launched. We suggest having rental furniture delivered the day before the show opens.
With the exhibit nearly complete, what if your boss decides to add an additional conference table setting to the exhibit? Or changes the overall booth layout… by rotating it 180 degrees. Keep in mind that the most expensive place to make a change to your exhibit, is one the show floor.

That fact is, you think you’re hiring a labor company to simply assemble your display and lay your carpet. But in reality it’s FULL ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT! (It’s a complex web of union regulations, mystery shipments, replacement graphics, sotlen.. err. borrowed exhbit components, search and rescue missions, mislaid electrical and a healthy dose of “please play nice with others”) That is what you hold your I&D Crew accountable for. So that in the end… it’s worth it. And your booth is show-ready. So with the right partners working for you, hopefully, all you will see… is magic.