For exhibit and event professionals  

An Exhibit Manager’s Cheat Sheet for I&D

April 10, 2017 By Editor

There's a secret to going from bare cement floor to thriving exhibit booth. It's the installation and dismantle (I&D) team from the show’s general contractor or from your exhibit house. These skilled workers make sense of the complex details surrounding exhibit installation. The better prepared you are to work with I&D, the smoother and more efficient your exhibit experience can be.

The top four things exhibitors should know before mounting an exhibit.

  1. Know the venue’s jurisdictions.
    Carpenters, teamsters, electricians. A majority of venues are union facilities. These facilities can require work and labor be performed by different unions. Every venue has different jurisdictions (authority over certain activities) and all are specific. It gets as detailed as the ratio of the number of carpenters used to the number of decorators (like sign hanging or laying carpet).
  2. Know the costs.
    Know who does what and how much it costs. Potentially a medium-sized booth will require electric, data lines, carpet, possibly truss and lighting. Don't plan on mounting the exhibit yourself in a union hall. You will get stopped and fees will accrue. In some halls you can mount your own exhibit if it can be done by one person in one hour without tools. Otherwise plan on working with contractor labor or let your exhibit house manage the install.
  3. Know the order of assembly.
    Start from the floor. First in are electric and data lines, then carpet. Then rigging and truss for signage. Motorized truss for lighting is set to a “working height,” about 6 to 7 feet off the floor. Once the lights are set and focused, the riggers “fly the truss,” i.e. raises it to the proper height over the exhibit. The reverse will be true for dismantle when the show is over.
  4. Know whether to use show labor or an EAC.
    You can go through the show's general contractor, but there is no personalization. You will get whoever is next available to take your “ticket.” If you use an Exhibitor Appointed Contractor (EAC), they will start working with you long before the show install date to review and plan the most efficient way to manage your exhibit.

What pitfalls might an exhibit manager face getting ready for a show?

  1. Missing important show services deadlines.
    Educate yourself on time limits for cut offs on discounted pricing. The show's exhibitor's kit must become your Bible.
  2. Knowing when to schedule labor.
    This depends on when your exhibit properties are scheduled to arrive. It is recommended to use the advance warehouse option from the general contractor rather than “over the road” (which means sending the freight direct to show site). Using the advance warehouse option offers advantages over direct to show site: You are guaranteed a time for delivery of your properties to the show floor.
  3. What the requirements of the MHA are.
    There are potential pitfalls at the close of the show as well. A correctly filled out and promptly turned in MHA (Materials Handling Agreement) will insure that your freight carrier will be there when your exhibit is scheduled to move off the show floor. The MHA requires, among other details, a piece count of the properties in your exhibit, where the freight is scheduled to be sent and – super important! – when the MHA must be turned into the general contractor (GC).Once the MHA is turned in, ticket is created for your “now serving” order in line for moving your exhibit off the show floor. If, for any reason, your freight carrier does not show up at the time scheduled for pick up of your exhibit, the general contractor will “force your freight”—take it off the show floor and move it to the GC's warehouse with handsome fees in place for storage. Once there, the GC can ship the properties using their carrier charging the bill back to the hapless exhibitor.

Tips on working with I&D labor.

  1. Bring your “A game” to the show floor.
    Installation workers quickly sense whether an exhibitor knows what he or she is doing. To keep labor from getting off track, an exhibit manager must be crystal clear about what tasks are required, know the exhibit properties inside and out (literally!) and know what the ultimate result should be. So have a plan!
  2. Show respect and you will get respect.
    Treat your I&D labor them the way you would want to be treated. But also be a coach. Bring out the best in the specialists you've hired to mount your exhibit. All labor teams are good—some are better than others—but all have specialty skills they bring to your installation. Make the best use of their skills.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” The same could be applied to exhibitors who try to do it all themselves. An EAC is an Exhibitor Appointed Contractor who manages the intricacies of shipping, show services and I&D on behalf of the exhibitor. They are the ones that review the floor plans with you. Break down the exhibit design into installable sections, estimate that labor for electric and carpentry and decorators, are familiar with the jurisdictions of the hundreds of show venues across the country. And have relationships with general contractors to get the job done and done right.


Working height – the 6 to 7 foot height for truss to install lighting before raising it over an exhibit.

Flies the truss — the action of raising truss to the proper height over an exhibit.

Over the road — shipping an exhibit direct to the show floor instead of sending it to the advance warehouse.

Force your freight — When the general contractor handles your outbound exhibit properties because you missed a dismantle deadline.

EAC — Exhibitor Appointed Contractor. Manages show-related details to support the exhibit manager.

GC — General Contractor. The logistics company hired by the show organizers to manage the exhibition.

For Further Reading

Dealing with Trade Show “Extras,” Part 1

Dealing with Trade Show “Extras,” Part 2

Disclosure: MC² is an EAC and turnkey supplier. We manage the agreements and labor, are familiar with venues in hundreds of cities across the country and have worked with major general contractors for many years. We are part of the exhibitor's planning process creating estimates, allocating tools and resources, appointing proper talent, and making the installation and dismantle process smooth and trouble free.


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