Category Archives: Show Management

Image 4 provides pre- and post-show management services to our clients. Here we share some information about that topic

Exhibitor Show: In and Out are done, Now comes Services

The past two posts have dealt with the complexity of completing the show book, all around moving our exhibit in and out of the space. Now we’re moving on to completing the show book.

At this stage, we think about how the exhibit will be built. If we have an overhead hanging assembly, we’ll install that before anything else goes in to the space. Then we work from the ground up, starting with electrical, then carpet, then the display, then accessories.

Next, we look at the electrical needs. Our display will need 2 overhead lamps, a large LCD flat screen, a CPU, the lead reader, and an open plug to charge phones and i-pads. We add up the wattage of these (75+75+30+40+3+6=229) and we know that the order has to be placed for a single drop at 250 watts.

Always check your wattage math. This is one place where many exhibitors go awry, and where budgets start to get out of whack. You cannot exceed the line wattage – if  you do, you risk shutting down the entire electrical feed string. This will cause great angst and a visit from the chief electrician. It will also require that you unplug items, or purchase more wattage.

We will send over our overhead floor plot indicating where the electric feeds needs to be placed, and off we go!

Now we look at IT feed. In this day and age, you might think that it’s easy to get wireless connection on a show floor, but it’s not. It’s very mysterious as to how all cell phone signal evaporates within a show hall. Ask me about that sometime…

So we place our order for either a T1 cable or a wireless router. This is also the order form for technology staff who can any sound system you are deploying in the space.

We are bringing our own carpet, so we don’t need to think about either carpet or pad. Any experienced exhibit road warrior knows that nice carpet, and especially a nice pad, helps manage those long hours on your feet. If you want your sales staff to be fresh and energetic, put some extra money in the budget for the good stuff!

Now we work on the display assembly. At this point, we schedule labor and supervision. Generally, we want labor to arrive within an hour after the carpet and electrical goes down. We think about how to unpack the display, and hopefully, we’ve loaded and labelled the crates so that the materials we need first are clearly identified. We use a bright yellow label that reads UNLOAD FIRST.

This load works into the labor order form just like everything else.

We will be setting up a combination of extrusion, custom fixturing, tension fabric and furniture. We plan on 2 men 4 to 5 hours to complete the project.

Here’s where experience makes a difference. Having more labor available to build the display does not always translate into a faster set up. It;s more complex to manage a large group of I&D staff, and the staff needs to be really clear about the unload and build sequence. Also, a more experienced, smaller group may be more effective than a less experienced, larger group.

Managing this is how and why we get paid. Effective installation strategy can save thousands of dollars in a large event environment.

At this point, we are pretty much through the show book. Once our exhibit is assembled, our own staff members will detail it. We personally want to clean it, position literature, business cards, furnishings, etc. to support how we interact with the space. We work all this out in advance in our warehouse, especially with a new build such as the one we are revealing at EXHIBITOR.

So off we go! Show book is done, payments are confirmed, and we are ready to work on the exhibit design.

Come visit the Image 4 team at space 1870. Exhibitry Starts Here.



Getting to (y)our Show: Shipping to the Show

Now that I know the date we’re shipping out of Exhibitor, I’m working on getting the display and our staff TO Las Vegas.

Our display will be a custom linear 20-foot, with seating. Seating is bulky to ship, but it’s a critical part of our design so we are not renting at the show site. This means we’re shipping our display in a 50x50x100″ crate, thus managing the freight cost is paramount.

I start by looking at the move-in dates. Look for the move-in date for YOUR SPECIFIC footprint number, especially in a very large show such as IMTS. Large shows often schedule move-in dates by footprint number to allow the riggers and set-up staff to build from the rear of the hall. Don’t assume your hardware will move in on the first day of the show!

Once I’m sure of the move-in date, I check the cost of direct-to-venue freight vs. ship-to-warehouse freight. There’s some savings to be had here if you look carefully, but there are some things to be wary of:

1. Will your delivery truck have to wait for an unloading slot? If so, there’s a good chance you will be charged wait time by the freight carrier

2. The ship-to-warehouse trucks ALWAYS have dock priority over the direct-to-show trucks. Especially in a smaller venue such as the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, your truck WILL be bumped from the dock until the warehouse pre-shipment trucks are unloaded.

3. Be cautious, particularly in winter time. Weather has a direct affect on how a truck moves, and the direct-to-show dock will accept your freight only in a very specific day and time window. If your truck is delayed and misses the window, you’re either going to pay a lot of money for a special unloading, or you may be standing in your spot with no exhibit! We’ve had this happen.

4. On the positive side, if you ship direct-to-show-dock, very often your crates will be the last moved onto the show floor. This means they are last OFF the show floor into storage, and thus generally are the FIRST to come out!

This year, we want to ship to the warehouse. It’s slightly more expensive than shipping direct, but our airline schedule is such that we want to get off the plane and go directly to the show hall to set up. It’s important that the crates be on the floor when we arrive. Also, it’s winter and we are shipping from New Hampshire to Las Vegas. A lot can happen in 2800 miles.

Take a look at the first and last dates that the warehouse will accept your shipment. This is a safety window for you, and good project managers use this as “buffer” for clients who might be late in preparing for their show. (I know, that NEVER happens). We ALWAYS tell our clients the first date that the warehouse will accept the shipment, and we manage the production timeline to that date. Trust me, this hint will make you a corporate hero one day!

Now, back up from that date and figure your transit time. It seems obvious, but remember to take Sunday out of the transit days. From New Hampshire to Las Vegas, we figure on 4 transit days, then we add two more as safety.  This is your RELEASE DATE.

The RELEASE DATE is a very important moment here at Image 4. In our project planning software, we mark this date in CAPITAL LETTERS in RED. This is the date that the truck arrives to pick up the crates from the outgoing staging section of our warehouse. All work must be completed before this date, and all transit paperwork must be taped to the side of the crate on the night prior.

Now that you have the release date, you can go to bid with your freight requirement. I’ll share some ideas about that in the next post.


Show Services and Getting it Right

I’ve been in the trade show industry for close to 30 years – back in the days when the Exhibitor manual (show book) arrived in the mail in a large package along with those quaint ID badges. And when you opened it, the 3-ring binder was 120 pages.

This is the industry’s busiest season. All of my project managers are busy completing our client’s showbooks for the next quarter, so I’m on my own, pecking way at the EXHIBITOR showbook for Image 4.

Today, of course, everything that can be web-enabled has been. First of all, it’s cheaper – for the sponsoring organization (no printing and mailing costs) and for the customer (you/your company). It’s also more convenient – I’ve worked on showbooks on-line sitting in airports, sipping at Starbucks, and yes, even at my desk.

So what’s the point of my intro?

Everyone in our company is directly involved in the mega-system that is the trade show industry. We deal every day with precisely what our clients deal with. And, today I have the opportunity to experience first-hand again how complex it is to get to a show!

I could use this as a plug for our show services offering :) (Try us sometime, our project staff is superb!)

But what I want to share is a little of the magic of how we execute a show book when we’re being paid to be perfect – and how we think about a project. Take it as advice from the other side.

First, find a quiet spot with no interruptions. Really. Get a coffee, take a personal break, and settle in for 30 to 60 minutes of high-focus decision-making and execution.

Next, get out a tablet. I write the dates of the show at the top of the page. Why? when you’re making the plane reservation for the 6th remote staff member who cannot fly Monday…you will probably need to remember the dates.

Once I know the dates of the show, I work the take-down and shipment window going OUT of the hall. Why? Because most of our return freight and schedule problems happen on the outgoing side – late crate arrivals, late tear downs, running out of labor on overtime, late truck arrival to the dock, weather-related delays…and ESPECIALLY if you are heading off to another show, this part of the program needs to be water-tight.

As always, check your days in transit. Holidays don’t count. Sometimes, Sunday does not count. This goes for tariff freight on trucks as well as for UPS and FedEx, etc.

Getting the back-end worked out informs me when my sales staff are freed up to either have the closing sales review meeting, make fresh prospect connections, or return to the office for the daily routine. After all, shows are about developing sales!

It’s also the easier side to accomplish, and it gets my head into the HARD side – setting up the show on the front end.

I’ll talk about the front end when I get to it tomorrow.Image