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Trade Show Basics: Ordering Basic Show Services

ordering tradeshow servicesIn the first part of our Trade Show Basics series, we provided the essential first steps to exhibiting: finding your decorator and requesting the show kit. Now, we will provide details on your electrical, audio/visual and carpet order forms.


You will almost always need to order electrical services from the show decorator or facility to provide power to everything from exhibit lighting and computer equipment, to charging up that all important interactive iPad® in your trade show display.  While planning for your show ask yourself these basic questions and you will find ordering this service a breeze!

What are my power needs?

  • Make one list of all the items where you need to provide power.

How much electricity do I need?

  • Electrical costs are determined by the number of specific locations you require power at (known as “drops”), and also how much power is needed at each location. Since these two factors influence how much your electrical costs are at shows try to plan on the least number of drops possible for your trade show booth space.  Unless you are powering specialized equipment or are running an excessive amount of equipment (think several power strips/extension cords) you can typically order the minimum wattage per drop – usually 500watts – and the minimum number of drops you need.

Where do I need power in my booth?

  • Plan ahead!  Where you are able, use power strips and extension cords to run power to multiple locations within the booth space.  Keep in mind when exhibiting in large island spaces that your I&D crew needs to know if electrical should be run under the flooring.  Sometimes they can run these cords themselves;  sometimes the electricians need to take care of that.  Every facility can be different so double check the rules every time.  Failure to check out this information before setup can lead to steep charges if changes need to be made after the flooring is laid down.
  • Electrical Maps – Unless you are ordering a single drop placed at the back center of your booth space you will need to provide an electrical map.  This is an overhead grid view of your booth space that shows where all your power needs to be located. Make sure to mark out items like extension cords and the power level needed at each drop if there are different levels on your map.  Having an accurate map not only ensures that your electrical is placed correctly the first time, it also helps your I&D team troubleshoot any issues.
    • Side note:  DON’T FORGET TO WRITE IN YOUR SURROUNDING BOOTH SPACE NUMBERS!  Having the correct orientation for your booth will reduce many headaches for you, your show vendors and your I&D crew.  This will make sure everyone knows the “front” of your booth space (especially in island exhibits).


In cities using union labor at the show hall, the union responsible for setting up the exhibit may be different from the union charged with handling the A/V materials.  Not only are there separate forms to complete for A/V materials, but you will have to coordinate the labor separately as well.  Virtually every show offers A/V for rental at the show but keep in mind, even if you supply your own AV you may have to contract with the AV union to have it attached to your exhibit.

  • TIP:  Look at the costs of renting at shows, especially when you will need to pay for your own A/V items to be setup.  Sometimes after weighing the cost of shipping, material handling, and installation you might have been better off renting where you won’t receive those charges.  Not sure what to do?  Contact your exhibit vendor and ask them for some guidance.  Renting isn’t always the best option, but sometimes can save valuable dollars when exhibiting.

Cables, cables, cables!  Just because you rented a monitor does NOT mean that connection cables are included.  Make sure to know what devices are running your video and that you have the proper connection to make everything work as intended.  Getting out ahead of this issue will save last minute headaches and runs to your nearest supply store.

PLAN AHEAD!  If you are paying to have your A/V installed the last thing you want is a contractor hanging around (and charging you!) while waiting for your exhibit to be completed.  Make sure your I&D crew knows when your A/V is scheduled to be installed.  Not sure when to schedule a time? Many decorators will allow you schedule your time as “WILL CALL,” this will allow your I&D team to get the labor as soon as they are ready for it.  Don’t like scheduling your time as “WILL CALL?” No problem, just contact your I&D crew and get a best estimate from them on when they think they will be ready to have items set up.  Also, make sure you are using the show set up schedule to your advantage. When possible try to arrange any services/labor during straight time hours and save the cost on overtime (or double time!) costs!


Generally your decorator will offer different carpets of various weights and padding/visqueen services (visqueen is a plastic covering that is laid over the top of the carpet to protect it when the exhibit is set up.  The visqueen is removed after the exhibit is set up and before the show starts.).  When ordering carpet and padding try to remember the last time you worked a show and how much your feet hurt at the end of each day!  If you have the budget for it, we recommend that you rent a high quality carpet and pad so your booth staffers aren’t constantly thinking about their sore feet and concentrating on gathering leads instead.

To rent or not to rent, that is the question.  As companies move to differentiate themselves and add to that WOW factor on the show floor we get more and more questions about purchasing flooring.  The reality is that the decision on purchasing flooring is 100% up to you!  That being said here are some quick pros/cons of flooring ownership to consider:


  • Your exhibit will have a consistent look EVERY time.
  • No Carpet/Padding rental costs
  • All wire management holes are in the carpet exactly where you need them.
  • Unique flooring can add to the attraction of your exhibit space.


  • Additional Shipping/Material Handling Charges
  • Large carpet and pad bags aren’t user friendly and take up a lot of storage space
  • Carpet must be maintained regularly
  • It will need to be replaced when it starts to look worn (this time can vary based on number of shows per year and how much your space is being utilized)

One final thought to leave you with is booth cleaning.  Generally this is one area where you can save money.  If your tradeshow exhibit has the space available, buy a small sweeper and sweep the floors yourself. You can usually save $100-200 alone on this service (depending on your booth size of course!).  The additional charges for shipping/material handling are generally minimal and you will have something you can use for multiple shows, if not years, to come.

There are some of the most common exhibiting questions when it comes to show paperwork.  Make note of these tips as they can come in extremely useful when getting ready and ordering services for your next trade 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 trade show basics in the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper.   This 32-page book is full of almost 100 tips for the most effective strategies and tactics exhibitors are using today.  Click here to request your free copy. 

About the Author

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

One response to “Trade Show Basics: Ordering Basic Show Services

  1. There is a lot that you need to keep in mind when you are planning for a trader show. I particularly like that the article brings up electricity as a concern. After all, you will want to make sure that the event has enough power.

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