Trade Show Terminology: Learn the Lingo and Show Like a Pro

Like most specialty industries, the world of trade show marketing has its own unique language. For exhibitors, knowing how to speak the lingo is critical. Learn these key terms to avoid costly misunderstandings between you and your exhibit design firm, show management representatives, shipping and freight vendors, on-site labor supervisors, and booth staffers.

Advance Order: Services or labor that need to be completed at the show venue prior to the actual show setup date.

Advanced Warehouse: A warehouse located off site where show materials can be stored until setup day. Display components can be shipped to the advanced warehouse up to a few weeks before the exhibit. A contractor will take the items from the advanced warehouse and deliver them to the show site. This is less expensive than shipping the materials directly to the show, but does require more coordination to get items delivered on time to the marshaling yard.

Backlighting: A light from behind a sign or display that illuminates from the back.

Backline Equipment: Sound equipment rented by trade show organizers that includes microphones, amplifiers, or sound boards. This equipment is used by musicians or other performers.

Bare Booth/Stand: A booth that comes without any additional services or add-ons.

Boneyard: An area that is used for storage of supplies and equipment. It can be located in the exhibit hall or it might be in an unused part of the building.

Custom Display: These are displays that are designed and made without any prefabricated materials or other components. They are built-to-order and usually require on-site or specialty labor for setup.

Direct-to-Show Shipping: Exhibitors’ items are shipped directly to the show’s site according to pre-scheduled delivery plans. Direct-to-show shipping is risky and more expensive than advanced warehousing because specific dates and timeframes must be met or your order could be rejected at the marshaling yard.

Doghouse: A box used for electrical distribution that holds multiple outlets at one location.

Double-Decker: An exhibit that has two floors and a stairway. Most double-deck exhibits are truss displays that require on-site labor.

Drayage: This refers to the handling of materials performed by a contractor. Drayage includes transportation of materials from the dock to booth space, removal and storage of the shipping containers while the show is going on, return of containers for packing up once the show is over, and loading all materials back onto vehicles for shipment back to business headquarters or a storage facility.

End Cap: An exhibit space that has open aisle space on three sides. Also known as a “peninsula.”

Event Specification Guide: A bound book of materials that comprehensively outlines the requirements and instructions for a trade show event. This guide is shared with every vendor in order to communicate the expectations of the facility.

Fabrication: The process of building and constructing an exhibit.

Header: A customized sign or other structure that sometimes spans across the top of an exhibit. This is often an optional add-on that your exhibit builder may offer.

House Contractor: Similar to a general service contractor, except that trade show facilities may require you to exclusively use their house contractor during setup. You may be able to bring in a general service contractor for the same services, but may be charged a facility fee.

I&D: The term for installation and dismantling, I&D includes all labor required to set up, tear down, and repack all exhibitry in a display.

In-line Booth: Displays that are situated in an aisle, with other exhibitors located behind as well as on either side. In-line booths only have one open side for entry.

Island Display: An exhibit that open space on all four sides, so attendees can access it from any side.

Jigging: The protective layer located inside of shipping crates. For example, the padding and sectional dividers that protect displays from damage during transit.

Marshaling Yard: The freight yard at a show venue where freight carriers must wait, usually in a staged order, until their freight has been unloaded or loaded.

Mask: A drape, curtain or other material that is used to shield a wall or an undesirable view from the attendees.

Modular: A display that’s made of several independent, interchangeable components that can be used in a variety of different configurations.

Outside Vendor: A supplier at a trade show that works independently.

Peninsula: This booth type is usually situated at the end of an aisle and has three open sides.

Pop-up: A display with a frame that’s engineered to “pop up” when installed. They are easily assembled and easy to tear down.

Portable: A booth display that is portable enough to be moved without a dolly, a pallet jack, or a forklift and that meet UPS guidelines. Portable also refers to the size of the components, so long as they can be moved without help from a machine or device.

Pre-show Marketing: This is advertising that is specifically directed at show attendees before the start of an actual marketing event. This can include email, mailers, printouts, social media campaigns, and promotional products.

Raceway: The insulated rubber or metal tubing that’s used to channel electrical wires.

Return on Objectives: A measurement of trade show participation success based on the company’s objectives that were set prior to the show.

Service Kit: Also called an Exhibitor Kit, this is a packet of exhibit-related information and order forms that all exhibitors receive from show management.

Show Directory: A show’s complete listing of booth numbers and attendees, including exhibiting companies and any performances or speaking events, as well as a map or floor plan showing booth locations.

Show Manager: This is the title of the person who is the operator and organizer of the trade show.

Show Manual: A guide given to all exhibitors by the show’s management that provides complete details on policies, procedures and deadlines for the event. Information that’s provided to exhibitors by show management regarding policies, procedures, and deadlines for a particular event may also be included.

Show Services: The company contracted by trade show producers to offer all services, such as carpentry, furnishings, and catering, at the show venue.

Skid: A low frame made of wood that’s used to hold heavy objects or groups of materials for easier moving — generally by a forklift. Also referred to as a “pallet.”

Steward: This is the title bestowed upon the lead position of the union labor manager. This person is also the show floor boss and the manager of the labor crews. The steward makes sure that all show regulations are followed.

Teardown: The term used for when an exhibit is dismantled and packed away. Also known as “take-down.”

Walk-through: A time scheduled before the official opening of the event when exhibitors get a chance to review display details against their actual booth configuration, making sure the space and all of the equipment has been set up appropriately.


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