First-time exhibitors in the United States can be quite shocked by the variety of rules and regulations. Events in the U.S. are typically much more restrictive compared to European and Asian exhibitions. The fact that each show and each convention center has its own rules and regulations can be imposing.
Here are some helpful tips to help you prepare for your U.S. event.
Your cost in time and money goes up for international travel. So, it’s helpful to make arrangements early.
- Visa: You likely won’t need to apply for a visa if your stay is 90 days or less. Check that your country is designated under the visa waiver program (VWP).
- Entry requirements: You must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a plane or boat to the United States. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, though it is recommended that travelers apply as soon as they begin planning the trip. You will also need a machine-readable passport that’s valid for at least six months.
- Hotel: You’ll want to book your hotel early because rooms get sold out quickly. To avoid commuting issues, get one close to your event.
Most in-line booths consist of a pipe and drape kit (which is a back curtain), side drapes (supported by metal poles with bases), and a sign with your company name. Some shows may include a table with two chairs.
In-line booths have strict design guidelines. Most have height restrictions of eight feet and do not permit sidewalls (to prevent blocking your neighbor). Typically, you can submit your design to show management to seek an exception.
U.S. trade show exhibits are generally intended to be reused, so they are constructed of durable materials and designed by an exhibition contractor. Many are comprised of modular components that are built to have an average lifespan of five years.
There are two primary choices for shipping to a convention center:
- Advanced Warehouse: This is usually open for two to four weeks before show start and will close a week or so before the show. This is your best choice for planning ahead.
- On-Site Delivery: Usually, a more stressful option. The show organizer will accept incoming freight on a specific time and date on the day of setup, information that is tied to your booth number. This is usually more expensive than warehousing due to the added cost of waiting in the unloading dock line and expedited shipping is required because ground delivery will not guarantee a particular time of the day.
On average, 16 percent of your final trade show cost is the transportation of booth items from a carrier’s delivery vehicle to a booth space and back again. The term for this transportation is material handling or drayage.
Drayage fees are based on CWT (which is weight per 100 pounds). In the U.S., basic drayage rates can range between $85 per CWT to $125 per CWT. There can be up to 24 different material handling categories, and these can vary from show to show.
Most trade shows process each loose item separately and calculate drayage fees using whole CWTs. This means, if you ship an item that weighs 409 pounds, you will be charged as though it weighed 500 pounds. So, be careful when packing items.
For some additional tips on minimizing extraneous drayage charges, click here.
Unlike in Europe, you cannot do substantial on-site construction, including painting. The standard U.S. exhibit is pre-built and designed to be assembled and dismantled in a day or two.
Once at the show, the exhibition’s appointed labor contractor will assemble your booth on site by following a detailed set of instructions. Also, remember that, while union electricians will lay cables under flooring and install monitors and lights, any extraneous devices you have will need to be 120v (or you will need to have appropriate adaptors), which is the voltage used in the United States.
Union employees undertake almost every aspect of labor at a show. This includes installing and dismantling your trade show exhibits along with setting up trade show flooring, lighting, sound and video equipment, other electronics, signage, special effects, and more.
The U.S. labor union system is complex and there is very little consistency from exhibition to exhibition. The organizers of the individual exhibitions work with the labor unions to determine labor rules for each show.
For more specifics about working with labor unions at trade shows, click here.
The trade show organizers typically supply an exhibitor’s services manual. This should include guidelines for union and non-union labor. You can also search for labor guidelines on the exhibition website.
We understand that exhibiting in the U.S. can be a complicated process. The good news is that The Trade Group has been helping companies navigate the process for years. Give us a call at 800-343-2005 to discover how our comprehensive trade-show consulting services can assist you.