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The Hidden Costs of Hanging Signs at Trade Shows

20 x 20 Island with Hanging Sign

Hanging signs provide huge impact and incredible visibility for your corporate branding at trade shows.

Signs can have custom shapes, define your booth space and help your customers find you. However, the framework and graphic isn’t your only investment.

Advance Warehouse Delivery

You have the option to ship to the advance warehouse versus direct to the show site.

The biggest advantage of shipping to the advance warehouse is to have your sign hung before you arrive to set up your exhibit. Your hanging sign order form has a checkbox to allow the show to hang your sign without you being there. If you have detailed drawings and you don’t need to be there, this can save you time and money.

The disadvantage of shipping to the show site is that you are put into a queue with everyone else that didn’t get their sign hung. This might delay you hours or days.

At the show, you need a physical space to assemble the sign and that gets challenging among crates and other exhibitors. Depending upon the size of your sign, you might need all of your booth space to construct the sign.

This potentially prevents you from starting on your booth until the sign is out of the way. This also affects how you schedule booth labor. If they are there too early you’re paying them to stand around. Schedule them too late and you may be rushing to finish your booth or paying additional overtime fees.

Packing and Labeling

For your sign to be installed, you need to have the hanging sign in a separate case or crate and properly labeled.

For packing, one way cartons tend to be one way. You might get a couple of uses out of it but if it gets crushed you will likely damage the metal framework. Protect your sign with cases or crates.

Many signs break down into standard molded cases for reasonable portability. This is great for smaller signs, typically up to 12 or 15 feet in width/depth. These usually require 1-3 cases.

Larger signs use heavier tubing and have longer pieces. A re-usable shipping crate is better.

Labeling is critical. Your show manual provides the proper label format. Additionally, some formats require that it be a specific color label and/or the show’s official label.

If you printed on your stationary and tape it to the case or crate, you may not have a sign installed when you arrive.

Hanging Cables or Not

There doesn’t seem to be any consistency for whether you should provide your hanging harness or not.

Some sign producers include them, some do not and charge extra for them.

At the show, the rigger has the right to refuse the ones you supply. This can be due to visual inspection, lack of a certification on the cables, or due to policy.

Some shows will not use anything but their cables for liability reasons.

If you have to use the riggers’ cables, they will charge you for them.

The other hidden costs with cables are potential loss. Even if you have them and the show uses them, it’s not uncommon for them to get lost. It’s not necessarily on purpose. The crew that rigged your sign may not be the crew that dismantles your sign and they don’t always know who owns what. If you are there to supervise the dismantle you can keep an eye on them.

Sign Assembly

Check the labor rules for which crew is responsible for the sign assembly. For some shows the riggers must do the assembly. For other shows, the booth labor does the assembly and riggers only hang the sign.

This affects when and how much labor to schedule for your exhibit setup.

Rigging with Truss

Rigging truss and motors are the biggest financial surprise to exhibitors. The cost can be as much as your sign or more.

Some facilities, typically ballrooms, have minimal hanging points in the ceiling. The only way the riggers can suspend your sign is with truss to reach load bearing hanging points and still place your sign over your booth.

This is critical to know when selecting your booth space and you own a sign. Your best bet is to ask the show up front if you will be required to pay for truss rigging.

Sign Heights

Know your rules on minimum and maximum heights. Particularly if you have multiple or tiered signs.

If your booth is design with multiple signs and varying heights, they need to fit within the minimum and maximum heights.

If you miss this, the show will make you adjust the heights to the rules and your design may not be as effective—not to mention, additional labor costs.

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