Trade Show Logistics – Dismantle Hours vs Driver Check-in vs Clean Floor Policy: How exhibit pack-up and dismantle scheduling are affected

There are three key parameters that affect the schedule for packing up your trade show display at the end of the show, these are:


1)      Dismantle Hours – hours that convention center is open for taking apart and packing your exhibit.

2)      Mandatory Driver Check-in time – time by which your truck driver must check in at the Marshaling Yard prior to picking-up your exhibit.

3)      Clean Floor Policy – mandatory time at which your bill of lading must be turned in and exhibit completely packed before the general contractor will fine you for being off the time target.


Dismantle Hours –

Often-times the temptation for exhibit dismantle is to schedule all dismantle during straight time hours for several reasons:

a)      By the morning after the show, your storage containers will be back at the booth.

b)      When hiring dismantle labor sources the hourly rate will decrease by 30-40% when comparing straight time to overtime.

c)      There is a certain level of exhaustion at the close of the show, and the time directly following the show provides the last chance to meet up with friends and prospects before these key contacts travel.


Dismantle Scheduling should be directly affected by Mandatory Driver Check-in Time and the Clean Floor Policy for the show.

Here’s Why:


Mandatory Driver Check-in Time

If your truck driver is required to check into the Marshalling Yard early in the dismantle schedule, such as 8:00 AM the morning following the show, you will start to pay for waiting time for that truck driver at some short interval following the driver’s check in.

For Instance, your shipper might give you 2 hours of wait time included with the cost of the shipment.  So:

Driver checks in at 8:00 AM.

Paid driver wait time begins at 10:00 AM.  Wait time is billed at $75 to $100 per hour.

You hand in bill of lading at 12:00 noon.

Your truck is called in to pick-up exhibit at 2:30.

You pay 4.5 hours of wait time in addition to other dismantle fees.


Clean Floor Policy

The general contractor (GC) and show management are under a time pressure to empty the conference center of all related show materials.  This time pressure varies from show to show, depending on the contract with show management, and the next scheduled event moving into the conference center.


This time pressure can be very intense.  And one of the ways that the GC gets exhibitors to comply is with the clean floor policy.  This policy states that after such and such an hour, the exhibitor will be fined a freight handling fee, if their exhibit is not completely packed up, and their bill of lading handed in at the GC service desk.  This fine is often 50% of the total freight handling bill, so whether you are a large or small exhibitor, this is a hefty fine!


There is often a second clause attached to the clean floor policy that states if the dismantle of the exhibit is not actively taking place by such and such a time, the GC will intervene and begin dismantle and pack-up of the exhibit.  The damage and disorganization that would be caused by such a course of events would be the equivalent of a hefty fine!


There is another variable to consider before scheduling exhibit dismantle: the labor minimum charge. The labor minimum charge is used to insure that it is worthwhile for a laborer to come to work that day.  For exhibit and dismantle labor in most cities, the minimum charge is 4 hours per laborer.  This is an important variable for two reasons: 1)  You may be able to work the job straight through and pay the same amount at overtime, as a job that takes 6-7 hours to complete with a 4 hour minimum at overtime and an additional 4 hour minimum at straight time.  2)  You may take longer to do the job with less men, but get an hour worked for each hour that is paid for by using each laborer for the full 4 hours.


Depending on the labor company that you use, you may be able to get labor without paying for the 4 hour minimum on your project.  This is particularly relevant if you have more men added to your project, once they have worked on a different project for the first part of the day.  Speak with the city manager from your labor supplier to discuss the details.

Trade Show Logistics – Scheduling Exhibit Install: Target Move-in vs Set-up Time

There are two critical aspects of your exhibit installation schedule that are easy to confuse:  Target Move-in – the time and date that your exhibit must arrive and be checked in at the show or marshalling yard, and Set-up Time – the time that you may begin working on your exhibit installation at a trade show.


The exhibitor service manual (ESM) doesn’t always mention both of these schedules.  Their are cases where the Move-in is specified clearly – a) trucks must check in by this time, b) at the marshalling yard at this address,  c) for booth numbers in this range or booths in this zone from the targeted move-in map.


There are also cases where the Move-in is not specified.  Trade Show Set-up days are specified, but there is no specific delivery schedule for your booth.  In this case, it is best to find out if your exhibit must arrive at a certain time and day in order to not incur any off-target penalty charges.  Off-target penalties are usually 50% of total freight handling charges, so these are very significant expenses.  In addition, off-target freight can be severely delayed from making it into the show hall, and thus, adversely affect your set-up schedule and labor costs.


Freight delivered or moved into the trade show hall before or after straight time hours also incurs a steep service fee to cover overtime freight handling costs.


Conversely, it is sometimes possible that a shipment can be checked into the marshalling yard a day early, placing your truck closer to the front of the line, positively affecting your set-up schedule.


Using the advanced warehouse often dictates that your freight will be moved into the trade show hall a day before any shipments that are sent directly to the hall are received.  If you have a complicated set-up or beginning set-up earlier will afford more straight time labor hours, the small cost of using the advanced warehouse can pay off handsomely in terms of reduced total project cost and piece of mind.


Set-up time – Beginning set-up time is often not clearly spelled out in the exhibitor service manual (ESM).  In the absence of a clearly specified set-up schedule, it is best to use your own judgment and the guidance of the general contractor (GC).


If you are attending a large show and want to begin setting up your exhibit the first day of the targeted move-in, you need to factor in a buffer between when your freight is delivered to the show, and when you will actually begin exhibit set-up.  This is because there may be 10-100 trucks waiting to be unloaded at the same time.  It is commonplace for a line of trucks to take 4 or more hours to unload, and the GC uses such a backlog to keep their staff busy on a consistent basis, since the fork lift drivers unloading the trucks are paid a 4 hour minimum whether they work 4 or less hours and there is a large quantity of freight to be moved through a small number of freight doors.


As mentioned before, using the advanced warehouse can help you to hedge your bet by delivering your freight before the line of trucks, and often a day earlier than direct shipments to the show.  Confirm with the GC that advanced freight will be delivered earlier to the hall if you have any doubts.  This is usually, but not always the case.


Finally, document all of your discussions with the GC and Show Management.  Save your “chats,” any e-mailed responses to your questions, and keep track of names, dates and times when you get information orally.  GCs are prone to make mistakes, and you need this contact data in order to get bills fixed during or after the show.  And if you are not getting the results that you need directly from the GC contact show management. Show management is often more determined to keep you satisfied than the GC.


Just say “No” to a request for signature

1) Observations from the field:
Recently, we observed the same mistake being made several times at the SEMA Show. For those of you who are unfamiliar, SEMA is an industry only trade show where all of the automotive manufacturers and the largest accessory manufacturers display their newest products and seek to create corporate image in the grandest of fashions. Anyone who is anyone in the automotive world is there from Bridgestone to Honda, Edelbrock to Ford.

As we were walking the show, looking for things that exhibitors could do better to control their trade show costs, we noticed one mistake being made over and over. The general contractor had their customer service people walking into exhibitor’s booths with the final bill for services looking for signatures. To the rest of your team manning the display, this seems harmless enough, but I was very surprised at how many unqualified staffers were only to happy to sign a bill that they did not have the skills or knowledge to confirm. For those of you who have read this e-zine or my book, you’ll recall that my staff and I find that in general the general contractor bill is off by 10%. Those of you who have negotiated with the general contractor before know how difficult it can be to get items in err removed from your bill. This difficulty is further complicated when one of your staffers innocently confirms all of the charges by signing this bill without any thought. Instruct your staffers to politely “Just Say No!”

Exhibitor Cost Saving Tip!
Make sure that the rest of the team staffing your trade show exhibit knows not to sign any of the show documentation unless you have reviewed it first. If you can’t memorize what the charges should be, carry a copy of your last bill(s) from this show, or a show where the same exhibit was used. This small piece of documentation will help you remember what the exhibit weighs, how much voltage is required to run it, and how many hours it should take for an electrician to power and light it. In addition, while it is not a certified weight ticket, the old bill will still help you to negotiate gross discrepancies in exhibit weight and ensuing freight handling charges off of the bill. While it may only help with these gross errors in exhibit weight, it is these large mistakes that will cost your company the most.

2) Professional Trade Show Exhibit Manager’s Handbook – We released the first version of this book in May and just released a slightly modified version in December. Feedback has been strong including an enthusiastic “Worth Reading” recommendation by Trade Show Executive Magazine in December 2006.

Based on reader feedback here are the most popular reasons for trade show professionals to purchase the book:

A) Use as a self-help tool for training staff to handle day-to-day trade show related responsibilities in the most cost effective manner.

And / Or

B) Senior marketing executives are using the ideas and concepts in the book as a vehicle for thinking outside the box when it comes to reducing their trade show costs and improving trade show marketing ROI without reducing the number of trade show venues, presentation level or marketing impact.

For more information about the Trade Show Exhibit Manager’s Handbook click on the following link

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