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Must Know Beginner Trade Show & Event Terms

You have just started out in your job as a trade show coordinator or event manager; congratulations! Everything is new; a new company, new office space, and new, industry-specific lingo to master. “What the heck is a pop-up? Can someone explain to me drayage, and why it’s so expensive?”

Below are definitions of common terms related to the events and trade show industry so that when your boss asks, you’re prepared to talk shop.

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Banner Stand

A banner stand is an efficient, lightweight, convenient way to showcase your brand at a trade show, special event, recruiting fair, lobby and more. There are many different styles to choose from when deciding on a banner stand, there are retractable stands that simply roll up, and configurable stands that quite literally give a heightened, cost effective presence to a 10×10 booth.



Pop Up

Pop Up displays consist of a portable, lightweight frame that’s made of fiberglass or carbon composite (some companies use aluminum frames), vertical bars to stabilize it, and graphics. The pieces connect easily and quickly. To install pop-up displays, you simply need to ‘pop’ the frame into place, attach the channel bars to secure it and hang the graphic panels. You won’t need any special training or tools to install your pop up displays – here is a link to the instructional video. They are easy to install, so many companies find that they save on installation and dismantle costs.

pop up

Table Throw

Table throws, or table covers, can be branded with your company name and logo, adding a personal touch to your exhibit space. You can use your exhibit space to showcase your products or marketing literature on your very own branded table. We all know that first impressions last, so make sure that your table throw is spread neatly and is wrinkle free as you walk down the aisle.

Backlit Graphics

Back lit graphics are made with a very tight weave fabric that when lit from behind with lights, typically LED’s, creates a glowing appearance.   These graphics are typically attached to an aluminum or steel framed structure that can be rented.

backlit graphics

Inflatable Display

There are two types of inflatable trade show exhibits; sealed air and continuous air. A sealed air inflatable trade show exhibit is an innovative and cost-saving approach to exhibiting. An inflatable exhibit can be inflated at the push of a button at show start, and within approximately 10 minutes will reach appropriate pressure to be displayed. These types of exhibits seal automatically with the push valve and can be used for the entire show without the constant flow of air. This structure is covered in fabric to create a backdrop, tower or hanging structure.  There is no need for a continuous hum of an inflator with a sealed air exhibit. Fully inflated, a properly designed inflatable exhibit will last you through the entire week of the show. There are many benefits to a sealed air exhibit, including cost savings of a lightweight display, and the ability to pack up at the end of the show and leave right away! Typically, with a larger exhibit, you would have to wait for your trade show exhibit cases (what you shipped your exhibit in) to be returned to you, then pack up your display for transport, then head home.

A continuous air exhibit or display requires, you guessed it, continuous air to be pumped throughout the time it is used. This exhibit is typically made of vinyl and is often used for outdoor events.   You will need a constant power source for this type of exhibit, which can cost you big money on the show floor. You will have to request and pay for access to a power outlet at the show unless specifically noted when purchasing booth space. It’s also important to be aware of the regulations regarding labor and rigging when setting up your trade show booth, whether inflatable, custom modular or portable.


Material Handling and Drayage at a basic level refer to the same thing: the movement of your exhibit items between your carrier’s vehicle and your trade show booth space. For more information on material handling, drayage and freight, click here.


Installation and Dismantle of your trade show exhibit also referred  to as “Labor”, can be handled by your exhibit company partner. Usually, this is a crew that comes in the show hall to set up (install) your exhibit and come back once the show closes to dismantle and pack your exhibit up. It’s like magic!

Lead Card

A lead card is a pre-printed piece of paper with a section to record contact info, answers, and qualifying questions, and a notes section where you can record follow-up items and other relevant comments with prospects that visit you on the trade show floor. Lead cards are usually printed on a half sheet to a full sheet of 8 ½ x 11 paper. A booth staffer fills out the lead card as they have conversations with trade show attendees. To see an example lead card, click here.  Many companies are transitioning to technology centered lead retrieval apps, making a smooth transition from show floor conversations, directly into your CRM system for immediate contact by sales reps or further nurturing from marketing. Here is a link to an article on how to maximize lead collection.


A Customer Relationship Management system is invaluable when it comes to tracking trade show leads. This system helps marketing and sales teams continue the relationship with a customer. Your trade show leads can be entered into this system shortly after the show if you are using paper lead cards, or instantly if you are using technology to capture your conversations from the trade show floor. Segmenting your leads within this system allows you to follow up in a timely manner with sales, or further nurture the lead until they are ready to purchase.  To learn more about how to use a CRM system to follow up on leads, click here.

Planning an event or trade show is no small task, and is an important investment for companies. Your trade show is an integral tool within your marketing plan, make sure that your exhibit considers the overall goals of the company and brand and that you are prepared to quantify the benefits obtained by participating. Your vendor should be able to help you do that.

About the Author

Kayla was a Senior Marketing Associate at Skyline Exhibits, based at Skyline's International Design Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

2 responses to “Must Know Beginner Trade Show & Event Terms

  1. I’ve been to a few trade shows and they’ve made me curious. Thanks for the information about how you can add a personal touch by using a table cloth that has your logo on int. I think a great idea would be to get a model in advance so that you don’t have to really worry about set up.

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