Trade Show labor is always one of those budget line items that requires some thinking – location, move-in schedule, and so many factors impact the cost that it requires some homework each time you do a show. That is where your Exhibitor Appointed Contractor (EAC) like Nth Degree can guide you. And, if you truly want to maximize this portion of your budget and come out being a brilliant budgeter, there are some insights we can offer in this area.
If you are in the trade show and event game, you know that everything from the exhibit space to travel and entertainment are hard costs that need to be taken into consideration. This blog post details how the exhibit dollar is spent for the average exhibitor – it’s a guideline, not an exact science. But in this post, we break down the top factors that can affect one piece of this exhibit budgeting puzzle – your trade show display I&D costs.
I know you love a list, so here goes:
1. Your Exhibit: I think it makes sense to start here since this is the visual representation of your brand, your message and what you hope will draw your attendees in (and probably what you’ve put the most thought into). Any experienced trade show labor provider has worked with numerous trade show display designs and with the shops and agencies that create them, but it is up to you as the exhibitor to share any history about the exhibit with your I&D company for the most accurate pricing. You should be prepared to answer questions like:
- Is this your first time using this exhibit? Do you have detailed renderings and exhibit specifications available? What special displays or areas are there and what are the specifications for them?
- If it’s been used before, how did the last set go? Was there one component of the exhibit that took longer than expected to set-up?
- Is there anything new with the exhibit? Is there a special display area or new component to keep in mind?
- What about graphics? Will these be applied separately or are they built-into the exhibit components?
This isn’t a game of 20 questions – it’s a first step to ensuring your exhibit comes together flawlessly down to the last itty bitty, tiny little detail.
2. Hanging Signs: Prepare in advance for this one. It’s a good idea to ship hanging signs into the advanced warehouse so that they can be installed (in the majority of union cities this can only be done by the GC or facility) before your exhibit install begins (you will need to note that you want this hung early). That way there is no standing around time for your I&D crew (I almost resisted the urge to say “no hanging around time”, but alas…).
3. Location, location, location: Not every trade show city is the same and the most important question to ask might be, “is the show city union regulated?” This is super important to know for oh so many reasons. This affects what you as an exhibitor can and can’t do during install and dismantle and if your trade show labor provider has to follow specific union-mandated rules and regulations too. The cost for trade show labor is higher in a market like New York, for example, where union wages are higher and rules are stricter. Your trade show labor provider will be able to explain this to you when they give you pricing, but be sure to keep it in mind as you budget for your next show and beyond as no two locations are the same.
Want to learn more about trade show union rules and regulations?
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4. Move-In/Out Date and Time: It’s very easy to get caught up in all the many many details being managed for your show opening and letting seemingly simple factors lapse. However, carefully scheduling your move-in and out dates and time should always be a priority. As you probably know, because of those union rules we already mentioned, it is most ideal to try and schedule your move-in and set-up when your trade show labor provider can maximize straight time (ST) rates as opposed to overtime (OT) rates, (ouch) and double time (DT) rates (double ouch). Sometimes, other factors like the show’s scheduled move-in and move-out dates, holidays, late shipments, etc. etc., make OT and DT rates unavoidable, but pre-planning can go a long way.
Again, an experienced I&D company like Nth Degree will help walk you through this to maximize your budget for your install and dismantle, but it is something you should always keep top of mind.
5. Shipping and Transportation: While this is a separate component of your overall exhibiting budget, this can directly affect your I&D labor. Again, ideally, your exhibit will be installed and dismantled to maximize ST hours, but delayed shipments, unreliable transportation and whether or not you use advanced warehousing can dictate when your trade show labor crew can get started.
One suggestion is to look into consolidating the shipping of your exhibit components. When your I&D labor team arrives on site, they should be able to unpack your entire exhibit and get to work without any delays.
What’s more, whether or not you choose to ship to the Advanced Warehouse or Direct, you will pay a per 100 weight minimum, normally based on 200 lbs. So, if you have multiple shipments, you will incur this minimum cost with every shipment and that can eat into your perfectly balanced budget really quickly.
Don’t forget about outbound shipping. Your EAC or labor provider will require clear shipping information on the outbound MHA to ensure smooth sailing back to storage or on to the next show. And this detail goes hand-in-hand with proper scheduling of the carrier for pick-up.
6. Flooring: This might be a no-brainer, but your flooring or carpeting is a decent piece of your trade show budget and something you will need to factor in to your overall labor costs as well. The city and union rules and whether or not you own or will rent the flooring can all have an effect on your on-site installation and dismantle costs. And of course, it is wise to make sure you know whether your carpet and flooring quotes include I&D labor so there are no surprises later.
Many providers like Nth Degree have a rental carpet program and can manage this aspect of your set-up. No matter how your flooring is sourced, you will have to pay for it to be installed, so make sure you factor that into your overall labor budget.
7. Supervision: Yes, like kids at a public pool, sometimes a trade show exhibit requires supervision. For anyone not familiar with this concept, it is when one person takes the responsibility for the entire Installation and Dismantle as if the exhibiting client (in this case you) were handling the process themselves. The role of supervision involves “overseeing” many aspects of exhibiting including the responsibility of directing the labor crew during install and/or dismantle, knowledge of inbound/outbound freight, as well as any special instructions that may involve additional services ordered for the booth space.
This is a service your trade show labor provider or EAC can provide for you. It saves you as the exhibitor from traveling to the show in advance and ensures that, say it with me, everything operates flawlessly and with no delays. However, this special service does come with a cost and is something you should keep in mind for your budget.
8. The On-Site Team: What other vendors will play a part in your trade show display coming together on-site? AV, Lighting, Rigging, etc. Every person who touches your booth has specific requirements and a schedule to stick to, so it’s important to map this out with your I&D company to make sure everyone plays well in the sandbox and comes together as a team on your behalf. Many additional vendors and services can operate at the same time as your exhibit is being installed, but again, detailing this in advance is your best bet to avoid postponements.
One other on-site tip….while sometimes unavoidable, make sure everything you need (even that fancy matching trash can) is prepped in advance and included with your freight. A small dollar item can turn into a big ticket item if your EAC has to make a run to a store at an hourly rate and charge for everything from re-parking fees to fuel.
9. Advanced or Direct: This one is all about how you work – are you a procrastinator that waits to the last second to get things done or are you crossing Ts and dotting Is months in advance? If you are the former, you may want to try and change your ways – at least for your budget’s sake.
One of the biggest advantages of using an advanced warehouse for your exhibit shipment is that your freight, filled with your gorgeous and well-thought-out booth properties, will be waiting for your I&D crew the first day of move-in. Otherwise, your freight may be delayed getting to your booth space since you are likely not the only procrastinator in the industry and that means paying for installation labor hours when nothing can be accomplished.
10. Special Requirements: Last but not least, we truly believe that you, your brand and your exhibit are special, and we want your trade show experience to be exceptional too. However, if you don’t tell your labor provider or EAC just why you are so special and more to the point, what special requirements you may have for your trade show exhibit, it can lead to unexpected costs.
For example, maybe you need help placing your new product in display cases or you have a specialty item or component that will require additional set-up time. If your labor provider or EAC hasn’t planned for this, those ST hours may turn into OT hours, etc. Most EACs can determine this by looking at your exhibit drawings and asking the right questions, but you know your exhibit and your goals better than anyone, so don’t hold back on the details!
Bonus Tip: Prior to your install day, make sure to give both your EAC or labor provider AND the venue your finished electrical layout. Remember, the electrical work will likely have to be scheduled before the day the flooring is to be laid, so you will need to map out this timeline with all parties (whether the floor is done by an EAC or GC, etc.). The cost for your I&D team to sit around waiting on an electrician in any city will be a charge you don’t want to pay – pun intended.