Help Setting Up Your Trade Show Exhibit at the Show

Categories: Trade Show Tips

Getting ready for an upcoming trade show is exciting, but it can also be nerve-racking and quickly turn into dread if proper preparations aren’t put in place!

Today I want to discuss getting the help you need to set up your trade show exhibits—also referred to as Showsite Labor or “I & D” which stands for Installation and Dismantle.

Making sure you have the manpower—and womanpower—to fully set everything up and be ready for the doors to open and the crowds to rush and is super important.

There are a couple of considerations I wanted to mention right off the bat. For starters, it really depends on several factors—which we’ll get into in a minute—it may be worth considering as you plan out your labor needs.

Some are obvious, such as the size of your booth space—larger booths usually equal more work—as well as cost savings—which we’ll also touch on shortly. But there are a couple of other items to keep in mind such as:

Getting Booth Space Measured before Set Up
Getting Booth Space Measured before Set Up

#1) Will you be working the booth once the show starts? If so, do you want to exhaust yourself a day or two before you spend the next two, three, or more days on your feet talking to people? If that sounds like a terrible idea, you might want to enlist some help.

#2) The time commitment. Is it better to fly into a show a day or two before it starts and spend the money on an extra couple of nights at a hotel, or is it more efficient to hire labor to help with your trade show booth set up, buying you some extra time?

#3) Tools and expertise. Is your trade show exhibit so awesome that it’s rather large and complicated to set up? And does it require special tools or ladders that you’re planning on bringing? If so, it’s another reason to get adequate help. If you have a tall backlit trade show tower, a 12 ft. tall ladder from the trade show site labor will definitely come in handy.

#4) Cost-efficiency. Sure, nobody wants to spend more money than they need to for trade show set up labor, but what is the alternative? If your company has team members willing and able to help, then you may be better off using them. If not, consider the alternatives.

Some of these questions can only be answered by you and they all relate to your overall strategy, and the resources made available to your company—I’m talking budget here!

Once you’ve decided what works best for you, here are the main options exhibitors have available to them.

Exhibitor Options for Help Setting up an Exhibit in Booth

Trade Show Hanging Sign goes up first
Trade Show Hanging Sign goes up first

1-Person Set Up

This option is for the lone-wolf. Typically, the booth size here is 10’ x 10’ or smaller, or it’s a tabletop at a conference. Having a portable or pop-up exhibit saves a lot of time. In some cases, this person can roll into their booth and be done with setting up in 30 minutes to 1 hour. It could be longer depending on complexity but should be light enough duty for one person.

2-Person Set Up

A two-person setup can be beneficial for booth sizes that are typically 10’ x 10 ‘or 10’ x 20’. It’s extremely helpful having an extra hand—or two—for lifting or holding. Two people can set up 90% or more of all the portable and modular trade show exhibits that we sell.

Company Team Set up

When I say company team, I’m referring to your own company. You may be sending out several company employees to work the booth during the show, but they also need to double as exhibit installers!

Hopefully, at least one person can be the team leader and knows how to assemble the booth or at least has some experience with setting up trade show displays. Teamwork makes the dream work. Just make sure you have all the necessary tools and items to make the process go smoothly.

With a helpful and knowledgeable employee team, the size exhibit that can be set up is almost limitless with enough personnel.

Show Site Labor Set up

Hanging Trade Show Sign is Up
Hanging Trade Show Sign is Up!

Next one is hiring show site labor from the show directly.

This can work really well and shift the burden—and the heavy lifting—to the professionals. The labor is usually union so they may have some specific rules, but these guys and gals have experience with setting up so this can be a really great option.

Just make sure to have at least one representative from your company there to keep track of their hours worked and provide some level of supervision and assistance if they have questions or there is a billing dispute.

3rd Party Professional Labor

Another option is to work with outside labor. This is a company that specializes in exhibit installation and dismantles such as Sho-link.

These companies are focused 100% on setting up all kinds of exhibits and come equipped with all the tools necessary to get the job done. You also need to provide them with setup instructions and diagrams of what your exhibit entails, but they are a great option and often can travel to your shows and set up across the country.

Exhibit House Set up

Ready for the Convention Doors to Open
Ready for the Convention Doors to Open!

The last option is to work with a full-service exhibit house.

They usually offer a range of services from custom-built exhibits, rental exhibits, help with logistics like freight, storage of your booth crates, etc. Using a full-service exhibit house will take care of everything from start to finish.

This, of course, is reserved mostly for companies with larger budgets, but can be a real accomplishment when you’ve made it to this level and can take a hands-off approach. Then you can spend those extra days before and after the show sitting by the pool with a drink in your hand!


Just remember that set up is a lot harder and more time-consuming than tear down after the show—the dismantle.

Also, some exhibits only have one option which is to use show site labor for setting up—things like trade show hanging signs—since they will be suspended in the air so the show requires their own labor and oversight and won’t let you or your team set them up for safety reasons.

If you need any recommendations, just let us know!


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