Trade Show Hanging Sign Tips and Tricks – Part 1

Introduction to hanging signs

Why choose a hanging sign for your trade show exhibit? A hanging sign is the best guarantee that your customers will spot your exhibit easily and not miss you at the show. Perhaps more important, prospects that have not been actively courted will be reminded of your company and encouraged to attend your exhibit by your presence and offerings.

Requirements for using a hanging sign
At most shows you are required to have an island or peninsula booth space in order to take advantage of the increased visibility and consequent marketing impact of a hanging sign.

Choosing sign size
In a peninsula booth – All hanging signs must be set back by at least 25% of the booth’s width dimension from the backside of the booth. In general, hanging signs and graphics will be permitted to a total length on each side of the exhibitor’s space that does not exceed 50% of the corresponding dimension of the booth. For example, in a 20’ wide booth the sign may not exceed 10’ in length and width.

Choosing a sign – Electrical vs mechanical
The simplest and least expensive sign to hang does not require electricity to light it or rotate the sign. However, rotating and lighting the sign makes it more visible. Thus the added cost of the rotating and lighting is worth it, provided you have the extra dollars to purchase these services in your budget.

Rotating direction – counter-clockwise
Single point hanging or multi-point – In general, a sign that is hung from a single point on the ceiling is less expensive to hang than a sign hung from multiple hang points. The machines used to attach the hanging signs to the ceiling of the convention center move relatively slowly. In many cases, the convention center’s ceilings are very high. Thus each additional hang point will add considerably to the costs of hanging the sign, and since you are paying for a piece of machinery, plus 2 or 3 man teams to hang the sign, you will notice the additional associated costs on the bill.

Sign weight – if your sign is heavy – usually more than 400 lbs. – you may be required to use a different crew for installation. Check your show’s exhibitor manual and associated show paperwork for exact instructions.

Hanging Sign Do’s and Don’ts
Purchase your own harness for the sign. This reduces your rental costs from the general contractor.

Deciding whether to rotate the sign
A rotating sign gets a lot more attention because we as predators are programmed to notice movement. Since most signs are not moving, a moving sign stands out in the air space above the exhibits, even within a sea of other hanging signs.

Lighting the sign
If you are rotating the sign, it will cost only a small amount to also light the sign. Lighting within the sign design will not cost much to integrate with the design. However, for this small increase in purchase cost the sign will become much more visible. In general, it is best to light the sign if you are going to rotate it also. If you aren’t going to rotate the sign, don’t bother to light it since the increased costs of running electricity to the sign will be too high to be offset by the increased visibility of the sign due to lighting.

At some shows, there is a fixed- flat rate cost for installation of 1000 watt spotlights installed by the trade show electrician. In this case, you may be able to light the sign from one direction by using one or more of these light fixtures. This cost is generally about $400 per light. If the direction that an attendee will view the sign from can be predicted by traffic patterns within the convention center or trade show hall, these lights may be used to effectively light the sign from one or more directions.

Additional costs of rotating the sign
To rotate your sign, you are required to purchase an additional circuit to power the rotating motor. In most convention centers, you are also required to pay for this circuit to be installed in the air. In most cases 1 to 2 hours of electrical labor plus a condor lift is required for installation of this circuit. And in some convention centers, your sign will be hung by the electricians. The electricians are better paid than the riggers, thus your bill increases if electricians are required to hang the sign. With the minimum costs and large incremental billing associated with the installation of the electrical circuit and then sign, if two different unions are required to complete the installation of the sign, it will cost more than if just one union is required.

Choose and purchase your own rotating motor to keep costs to a minimum
We recommend Dyna-Pac. These are American made motors, hand assembled in Salt Lake City UT. The company stands behind their products extremely well. In fact we once had a problem with one of their motors in Salt Lake City, and they supplied a technician to show site within 1 hour for the whole day, in order to fix the problem free of charge. Their current motors have a Reversible direction of rotation switch so you can rotate the sign clockwise or counter clockwise. If the sign has a message comprised of alphanumeric characters, rotate the sign counter-clockwise. That way the viewer will see the logo appear in the order in which English is read. On the other hand, if you were creating a sign from alphanumeric characters in a language read from right to left, you would choose to rotate the sign clockwise. Specify a motor that rotates the sign no more than once every 1 to 2 minutes.

Addendum to fire issue from March 2009
Cynthia Wilson, a reader, has made an addendum to the Fire Marshal and Codes issue earlier in March. When in Las Vegas, unsealed halogen bulbs are only banned from the Las Vegas Convention Center. Halogen bulbs are allowed at the Sands, Mandalay Bay and numerous smaller convention centers around Las Vegas. Thank you Cynthia for the correction!

Questions about this article? e-zine is written by Brett Lipeles, CEO of Exhibit & Display Consultants as a response to challenges encountered by exhibitors that are interviewed at recent shows. We now offer a “Pay only for Performance” plan where you pay only a percentage of the savings that our services provide. We save our customers an average of 30% at every show! Contact us today at 401-273-5372 or email us at for an exploratory consultation.

©2010, Exhibit & Display Consultants

Trade Show Hanging Sign Tips and Tricks – Part 2

Hanging Signs – What to know at the show?

Shipping the sign
Shipping to the show or advanced warehouse
Many of the larger shows require that the hanging signs are shipped to the advance warehouse so that they may be installed before exhibits are set-up or freight is moved into the hall.

Choosing the installation location
Most of the time, we hang signs in the center of the booth. However, if you allow for a more flexible location, you can often simplify the hanging by guiding the hanging sign crew to avoid objects hanging from the ceiling. It often simplifies the installation to specify that the hanging sign be hung near center but not exactly at center. This is because in many halls there is no pick point or hanging fixture directly in the center of your booth, but there may be such hardware nearby. To create dead center where there is no hardware requires multiple hang points be joined together. This procedure requires more time and more expense.

Choosing an overall height
Your exhibitor manual will specify a maximum height that the sign may be hung at. Be careful, sometimes the paperwork requires you to specify the height to the top of your sign, and sometimes the height to the bottom of your sign. Thus, you need to know the height of your sign. It is also a good idea to know the height of your hanging harness with and without the motor attached. This way if you are hanging in a hall with a low hanging ceiling, you know the point at which the ceiling is not high enough to hang the sign using your harness, or motor, or at all. In some cases, eliminating the foot that the motor takes up or adjusting or renting a shorter harness will allow you to hang the sign as planned.

Planning around the convention center
In the case where the ceiling height is marginal for the hang, you may find that structure, air conditioning and utilities pipes will interfere with the maximum height that the sign can be hung. If you suspect this is the case, call the operations manager at the convention center or ask the general contractor after specifying your show name and booth number. They should be able to advise you about the hanging space above your particular booth.

Planning around other exhibits
You want to choose a height that is most visible and creates the most effective aesthetic for your company. Remember that your booth is your corporate identity. Having the booth accurately reflect your corporate identity in all aspects is imperative. Remember, some signs look better hung close to the booth, and others farther away. Take into account visibility within the hall, which includes the location of other hanging signs and tall exhibit structures nearby, and the look of the trade show booth in conjunction with the hanging sign.

At the show
If you own your own motor
Mark the motor with your company name. Almost all of the rotating motors are Dyna-Pacs. They all look the same.
Be careful to specify that you have your own hanging sign rotating motor during the installation.
Be careful to get the motor back from the sign crew during the takedown.

Before installing, check the motor and any lighting attached to the sign for proper operation. It is much less expensive to fix these problems on the ground, than once this equipment is in the air.

8:00 AM or first thing – with all labor scheduling at the show, asking that the installation be done at 8:00 AM usually gives you a predictable result. This means that the labor and machine will be at your booth between 8 and 8:30 and you will have the sign installed within a reasonable proximity to your timeline.

If your installation begins at 1:00 PM, try to schedule the hanging of the sign at or near 1:00 PM or the following morning at 8:00 AM for most predictable results.

Go to the service desk when you first get into the hall to confirm hanging schedule and that the advanced orders were received and a hard card created for the crews required to hang the sign. If your sign is electrical, you may have to go to the electrical desk to check on the order for the “in the air” electrical circuit and to the general contractor’s desk or rigger’s desk to check on the crew that will hang the sign itself.

Straight time vs Overtime
The difference in cost between straight and overtime is usually
$200 or more dollars per hour. Essentially, you are paying the difference in cost for the labor that is used to hang the sign. Since the team is composed of 2-3 people, you are paying the straight or overtime rate times 2 or 3 depending on the size of the crew.

Scissor lift vs condor lift – how this equipment affects scheduling
If the hall is using scissor lifts to install the sign, it is considerably more difficult to hang the sign after the exhibit is installed, since the scissor lift moves straight up and down. Thus the hanging sign may have to be installed before the booth is installed. Driving a scissor lift across a carpeted booth, most often leaves a bulge in the carpet. This suggests another reason why you may want to hang your sign before you begin installation of your booth.

Condor lift – allow you to hang the sign at anytime during the exhibit installation. However, if there is a lot of freight in the hall and narrow aisles between booths, it may take an exceedingly long amount of time to get the condor to your location. This may affect scheduling the install and consequently avoiding overtime charges on the install.

Billing and pre-show planning
You are automatically billed for the dismantle at the rate of ½ of whatever the installation costs. Be diligent in planning for the hanging sign install, and schedule according to your plan. Be clear in your communication with the general contractor. If the installation is taking too long, make sure that the foreman knows so that you can have the bill adjusted. Remember, that for every ½ to 1 hour that the installation takes, you will be billed ½ hour on the dismantle for 2-3 men plus a lift or other machinery. Mistakes and inefficiency can cost you and your company a lot of money.

Questions about this article? e-zine is written by Brett Lipeles, CEO of Exhibit & Display Consultants as a response to challenges encountered by exhibitors that are interviewed at recent shows. We now offer a “Pay only for Performance” plan where you pay only a percentage of the savings that our services provide. We save our customers an average of 30% at every show! Contact us today at 401-273-5372 or email us at for an exploratory consultation.

©2010, Exhibit & Display Consultants

10 Key Areas to seek Largest Trade Show Cost Deductions

For the new year, I would like to show you the largest “extra” exhibitor costs that your business can easily eliminate. This article is taken directly from our experience as experts in trade show exhibit management.

Top 10 places to cut the fat from your exhibit program in 2010

1) Show paperwork
Typically, we have found that mistakes are made with the show paperwork. This is usually because the person filling out the paperwork is not a field person, and does not have time to make themselves into a paperwork expert for each and every show. They tend to fill out each upcoming set of show paperwork almost identically to a past shows paperwork. However, rules, including services and time frames change from venue to venue, so your paperwork strategy should change as well. On average these small mistakes cost you the customer 10% – 15% on services ordered.

2) GC Billing
Typically we find that there are 15% “mistakes” on the bill from the General Contractor. It takes a lot of knowledge to spot all of the mistakes and skill coupled with patience to negotiate with the general contractor and get everything corrected. Know what you ordered and agree to pay accordingly. Get any billing mistakes worked out at the show.

3) Shipping
We ship from point to point, not worrying about keeping exhibits in our home warehouse. We schedule carefully so that maintenance is planned around when those exhibits will be in our area. Exhibits are designed very modularly, so that we can even add to complicated exhibits without having the old pieces shipped back for integration with the new. By shipping point to point, we keep exhibits on the most efficient path between venues. This can potentially cut the costs of shipping by 50%.

We also use shipping by train for segments that do not require exact delivery and/or pick-up times (depending on venue). This is quite a bit less expensive (30-40%).

We fill in for our shipping companies with the thought work. We don’t assume that they know what they are doing. They are focused on 100s of shipments per day. We are focused on a few, and ultimately are responsible to our customers.

We often use shippers that provide shuttle runs within cities. A whole truck might cost $250-300 dollars as a shuttle run, and these companies are at the trade show venues every day. They know the freight handling staff and this eases issues with freight in and out and really limits wait times. This eliminates 50% of the cost of shipping.

4) Warehousing
We pick warehouses that are clean, efficient and low cost. We don’t rely on pull and prep at the warehouse. We manage the condition of the exhibit from the field except in circumstances where the warehouse comments on damage to the exhibit during shipping. We inventory condition, marketing collateral and supplies during takedown. This eliminates double handling and cost, and we find it to be every bit as reliable as pull and prep, but much less costly.

5) Project leadership
Get the best lead man in the field for each venue. Act as the hub for information, since you are the common element from show to show. Supply your lead men with as much information as possible so that they can hit the ground running and instruct your I & D crew on where specific items are and how to complete certain tasks. Your notes are very helpful for them. Experienced lead men work on 100 or more different exhibits a year. You focus on only a few. Help reinforce their memory with accurate and detailed notes sent to them or their employer a few days before the show.

6) Labor
Negotiate with your labor company to receive a rate at or below show rate. We work with a few companies so that no one company has the total pie. We make notes from show to show on who is good in the crew and who isn’t. We request that the good members are repeats at future venues. For both management and I & D familiarity leads to increased efficiency.

7) Cleaning
We stay during the show and do the cleaning ourselves. This eliminates cleaning costs and insures that we are in the booth first thing in the morning to get AV systems functioning, check that all electrical circuits and light bulbs are working, and that the booth is provisioned and ready for action.

8) Cost analyses for services and negotiation
We often perform cost analysis for services like AV and overhead lighting. Usually, you work with an independent AV house because you have a relationship with their staff. However, at many venues this increases your cost. The show designated AV supplier does not get charged any freight handling fees for the AV equipment. Those AV equipment deliveries are often whacked with a $300 minimum freight handling fee, so even if you are using just one monitor, you pay $300 to have it delivered.

9) Overhead lighting
Freight handling fees can be huge. That truss and the light fixtures can be very heavy. In fact with a small exhibit, the truss and lights can actually weigh more than the exhibit. This will double your freight handling costs for the show. However, at most venues, if you get your lighting package through the GC, you don’t pay any freight handling on the lights. In addition, the general contractor will often lock in a great price for rental, installation, power, and on/off charges. This eliminates unknowns and there are many with overhead or truss lighting.
Too many variables to control. You have a condor or two installing the truss. $500 per hour each You need a lift to come back and aim the lights. $500 per hour These large dollar line items add up quickly. In addition, you need the truss lighting to be installed before your exhibit so that there is room to assemble the exhibit. The general contractor has access to the room early. They can get the lighting installed the day before the freight comes into the hall, when they can work the quickest and it costs you the least amount of money.

We have used specialty AV suppliers for really advanced effects, but in general, everything that the typical exhibitor requires can be provided more efficiently and for less money by the general contractor.

10) Seek Constant Improvement – the game is always changing
We use our knowledge and experience all the time. We keep detailed notes and start working on improving the results at the next show during this show. We don’t assume that the results from this show can be gotten at the next show using the same strategy. The GCs change the rules. Your location changes. Your exhibit changes. Your needs change. We seek improvement and make changes to create this improvement. We always want to get the work done in the most efficient manner possible which insures the lowest possible costs. We work with the general contractor before the show to let them know what we need long in advance and find out what they need in order to keep our projects running efficiently. This keeps project costs down.

Why can’t your exhibit house provide these same savings?

1) They have a large building to pay for. They count on the storage of your exhibit to pay their fixed overhead.
2) If they are marking up services, the higher the initial bill, the higher the profit….No incentive for them to get costs reduced.
3) They aren’t focused on reducing costs. To implement these strategies requires very careful work and work done by a person or team with a lot of experience with trade show cost reduction strategies. Typically, the exhibit company member that completes each task either does not have the depth or the breadth of experience to maximize cost savings.

Questions about this article? e-zine is written by Brett Lipeles, CEO of Exhibit & Display Consultants as a response to challenges encountered by exhibitors that are interviewed at recent shows. We now offer a “Pay only for Performance” plan where you pay only a percentage of the savings that our services provide. We save our customers an average of 30% at every show! Contact us today at 401-273-5372 or email us at for an exploratory consultation.

©2010, Exhibit & Display Consultants