Get FREE Trade Show Marketing Tips in Your Inbox! Click Here

Trade Show Basics: Labor And Rigging

tradeshow labor and riggingPreviously in this series the details for dealing with electrical, audio/visual, and carpet order forms were discussed.  Now, it’s time to tackle some of the forms we tend to get the most questions on: labor and rigging.


If you exhibit at tradeshows, be prepared to work with union labor at many venues around the country.  While some Right to Work States are very flexible with what you can do in your trade show booth space, be prepared for the venues where you will not be able to place a plug in an outlet yourself.

Using Show Labor or Independent Contractors for Exhibit Installation and Dismantle (I&D)

If you have a portable exhibit you generally have the option to set up your trade show exhibit yourself.  A portable exhibit is typically defined as “not needing tools.”  Exhibits that fit this description include: Pop-ups, Bannerstands, Tabletop Displays, and Tablethrows.  Some venues will even allow the installation of custom modular exhibits provided that they are inline booths.  Generally (thought not always!), island booth installation needs to be handled either by show labor or your own independent contractor.  Check the rules!  You don’t want to get blindsided by steep charges at a show site just because you didn’t know the rules ahead of time!

Using Show Labor

If you are having show labor handle your I&D there are a few items you want to be aware of:

  • Timing – Timing is everything.  Make sure you are taking your I&D hours into account and try to schedule your crew to come during straight time hours when possible.  Gotta save those $!
  • Supervisor – Most shows require a supervisor to be present over the labor in your booth space.  This supervisor can either be someone from the exhibiting company or a hired supervisor from the show labor.  Either way this can be an expensive cost. Most show labor has experience with several types of exhibits but it should be a best practice to have someone from the exhibiting company that is familiar with your booth present to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Using an Independent Contractor

Right now you may be thinking to yourself: “I don’t know any contactors in (insert city name here)!”  Don’t worry!  That’s where your  exhibit management partner can help.  Generally these folks have contacts around the country that are familiar with your particular booth hardware and can quote you a price for the I&D.  Quotes from independent contractors can be much less complicated as you generally won’t need to schedule their time or provide a supervisor.  Contractors generally know if union labor is required at a show site and will schedule their crews accordingly.  One thing to keep in mind with contractors is that you will have to provide an EAC form to the decorator.

EAC – Exhibitor Appointed Contractor

If you are providing outside (non-show) labor for the I&D of your booth make sure to search your show kit for an EAC form.  This form may go by another name (Non-Official Contractor, Outside Labor, etc) but it is the EXHIBITOR’S responsibility to fill out this form.  Also, CHECK THE DEADLINE!  Many show’s have different due dates for the EAC form from the regular show kit forms.  Make sure you share this information with your exhibit management partner and/or the independent contractor you are working with as they will need to provide you with the EACs complete company details and a copy of their Certificate of Insurance.

Speaking of Certificate of Insurance….

Any show in which you are using outside labor will require a Certificate of Insurance (COI) on file.  Again, CHECK THE DEADLINE! Failure to turn in COIs and EACs on time can result in costly charges.  You want to make sure you are turning in these forms with plenty of time. Failure to turn them in can lead to your I&D contractor not being allowed to access the show floor and result in you hiring show labor at show rates on site. Make your life easier, plan ahead!


Just saying the word ‘rigging’ is enough to send even the most seasoned trade show veteran screaming for the hills!  Rigging refers to any work that is done to hang structures from the exhibit hall ceiling. Rigging work generally needs to be arranged separately from the I&D as there can be separate unions that handle this work.  Here are some quick tips to keep in mind when arranging this labor:

  • In some cities hanging signs need to be assembled by the rigging crews, while in others the signs need to be pre-assembled by your I&D team.  Make sure to check with the decorator for the rules pertaining to your show.
  • The best time to have rigging completed is BEFORE your booth starts being built.  Many shows now ask that hanging signs deliver ahead of your show materials so they can be hung prior to all the commotion starting during setup for your show.  Make sure to check your show kit for any hanging sign shipping labels.  Having this task completed prior to your booth being built ensures that everyone has the time and space they need to complete their work.
  • Rigging crews can get behind schedule.  Hanging up signs of different shapes, sizes and complexities isn’t easy work.  Make sure you are proactively checking in with the Show Desk to see when the rigging crew may visit your exhibit.  When they arrive have them get it right the first time!  Don’t leave your sign installation to chance make sure someone is present that knows exactly how it should be set up.
  • Finally, keep in mind that taking down these signs is time consuming work.  Be prepared to wait for this labor at the close of the show and sometimes even after the exhibit dismantle is completed.

Labor and rigging are just a couple parts of trade shows that require a solid game plan in order to achieve success.  Armed with this information and a little prior planning, any exhibitor can be confidant and ready for their next show.

This post is part of series in trade show marketing best practices. Visit the others in this series by clicking below: 

What's Working In ExhibitingGet more great tips and tricks for successful exhibiting by reading the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper.  Click here to request your free 32-page copy. 
About the Author

Clarissa was a Project Manager at Skyline Exhibits of Central Ohio, located in Columbus, Ohio.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Stay Up To Date