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A Must-Read For All Trade Show Exhibitors

Published on Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Must-Read For All Trade Show Exhibitors

The Exhibit and Event Marketers Association (E2MA) recently posted their 2012 Advocacy Study Presentation titled “Enhancing Exhibitor Value Enables Show Growth” on their website.


I urge everyone to read through the report if you have not done so already. While it touches on many important trends and facts regarding show costs and the consumer price index (CPI), it takes special note to identify that over 30% of costs are unknown at the time a booth space contract is signed. These costs include drayage (material handling) and in many instances, install and dismantle labor.


It also addresses how some general service contractors are negatively impacting the industry by reducing competition and shifting costs to exhibitors who don’t use the contractors for non-exclusive services.


These issues have become flashpoints and are forcing some exhibitors to reduce display sizes, look at alternate types of events and even cancel participation altogether. Congratulations to E2MA and their Advocacy Committee for having the teeth to put together such a compelling and fact-based presentation.


This issue was discussed for a number of years at The Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA), but a comprehensive and meaningful presentation was never published.  Hopefully this will encourage general contractors and show organizers to examine how, when and why they charge their customers (the exhibitor) for these types of services.


What can the exhibitor do in the meantime? If trade shows are an important part of your marketing mix, stay in close communication with show management companies, read the show books carefully, and become engaged by serving on exhibit advisory councils. After all, the more you know, the better prepared you are.


Secondly, seek out vendor partners committed to providing solutions and program management that can save money while at the same time help you meet your objectives. Examples include using lighter weight fabrics and properties to reduce material handling and shipping costs, or choosing dedicated show shippers to expedite move-in/move-out and reduce budget-busting carrier wait time or forced freight charges.


Last but not least, if you don’t have the time or staff for set up and supervision, consider working with an EAC (exhibitor appointed contractor) other than the general contractor. While the hourly labor rates are the same or similar, there may be savings in having a more proactive advocate on the show floor.


Just some thoughts. Good going again to E2MA.




On another note, while looking at a few of my LinkedIn groups, I saw a discussion about how industry suppliers should look for new customers. It was suggested that approaching exhibitors directly on the show floor could be a good approach. I quickly chimed in that this was considered “suitcasing” or “outboarding”.


For those unfamiliar with these terms, “suitcasing” refers to non-exhibiting companies or persons who go to shows as an attendee but “work the aisles” from their suitcase (briefcase) and solicit business in the aisles or lobby area. “Outboarding” refers to non-exhibiting companies that set up exhibits at off-site locations, hotel hospitality suites or restaurants — and encourage show attendees to leave the show floor and spend time with them.


Industry associations and show management agree this is unethical and against rules established around trade shows. Check in any show book and with industry groups like IAEE and E2MA.


Hopefully the suggestion I read in the discussion was offered in innocence and based on not knowing better. I would hope and urge that all of my colleagues continue to adhere to this policy.


As an exhibitor, if you are ever the victim of “suitcasing” or “outboarding”, I urge you to contact show management immediately. Remember, you are playing by the rules!


Have a good week!


Steve Moskal


Steve Moskal








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Author: Steve Moskal

Categories: EAC, Material Handling, Trends


Steve Moskal
Steve Moskal

Steve Moskal

Other posts by Steve Moskal
Contact author Full biography

Full biography

Steve’s journey in the trade show and event world started in 1983 with one of the original Nomadic Display sales organizations in North America. In 1994, he co-founded Prairie Display/Chicago.

Steve was an Allied Board Member of TSEA (Trade Show Exhibitors Association) from 2007 to 2011 and recipient of the TSEA President’s Award in 2009. He also served as Financial Chair of the Midwest Exhibit and Event Professionals (formerly the Chicago chapter of TSEA) and as a commissioner with the Elmhurst Economic Development Commission from 2011 to 2016. Currently he is Vice President of Education for the Addison/Elmhurst, IL Toastmasters Club.

When not working with customers and co-workers at Prairie, you can find him trying to spend more time biking and pursuing other creative endeavors. Steve lives in Oak Brook, IL with his beautiful and equally understanding wife of 26 years, Shelley.

Steve is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a B.A. in Journalism and a Fine Arts minor.


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