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Trade Show and Event Glossary — The Beginner's Guide

Trade Show Glossary

For anyone new to trade shows or corporate events, exhibit-related terms can be confusing. Fortunately, it only takes a show or two before a novice learns the basics of trade show marketing.  The terms listed below are commonly used in any trade show hall or corporate event. 

Backlighting:   Backlit graphics contain rear illumination lighting that can create a high-impact visual image.  

Banner Stands:  Banner Stands are lightweight, inexpensive portable signs that have become synonymous with event marketing. Sizes vary, as well as shapes and quality. With banner stands,  “you get what you pay for” so do your research and work with a company your trust.

Briefcase Table Top Displays:  Briefcase displays are small panel or pop-up table displays that breakdown into briefcase size packaging. Graphics are typically attached for easy transportation.  

Boom Light:   A boom light is mounted to a length of metal rod with a clamp or mounting bracket on the other end. These are generally mounted on the top edge of a display wall to cast light down onto the display.  

Cam Lock:   Cam locks are locking devices commonly used in custom construction. Cam locks are fabricated into wood components and join custom components. Other locks and fasteners are also used, but cam locks have a long history in the exhibit industry and are very common.  

Custom Displays:   Custom Displays are designed and fabricated without relying on prefabricated elements or components. This generally includes wood laminate booths, but also includes the use of many aluminum extrusion components and other building materials. These displays always require professional setup.  

Decorator:   Decorators install pipe and drape booth dividers, booth signage, or overhead hanging signs at trade shows.  

Drayage:   Drayage can be a baffling (and often contentious) concept to trade show novices. Drayage is the term for the handling of exhibit materials from the dock at the show location to the exhibitor’s booth within the show hall. Trade show participants pay a fee, based on the weight and number of packages, to have their show materials received at the dock and moved to their show space.

External Frames:  External frames encase components in metal or plastic, emphasizing each individual panel. They are useful for displaying multiple pictures or segmenting your product offerings.  

Feet:  Feet are any support that is designed to add stability or leveling to a display. These can be built-in or mount-on features.  

Flexible Graphics: Flexible graphics are graphics that are printed on or laminated to flexible plastic material and rolled up for packing. Lexan, Styrene and polyester are the most common materials. There are numerous options for creating these graphics that vary in quality, durability, and price.  

Header:  A graphic banner placed above the display that announces your marketing message or company name.  

Hybrid Exhibits:  Hybrid exhibits are more of a concept than a defined display system. The typical hybrid consists of aluminum extrusion, tension fabric graphics, and custom or modular components. Each manufacturer defines hybrid exhibits slightly differently and many refer to them as custom hybrid or modular hybrid displays. Hybrid exhibits are the fastest growing segment in the trade show exhibit industry.  

I&D:  Installation and Dismantling is the term given to the labor required to setup, take down, and repack an exhibit. I&D rules and rates vary depending on the show hall and show management.  

Inline Displays:  Inline displays face one or two aisles, depending where they are located on the show hall floor. Typical inline displays are 10’ x 10’ and 10’ x 20’.  

Internal Frames:  Internal frames are hidden beneath the fabric or laminate. This type of frame allows panels to hinge or connect so they're flush, providing a relatively seamless appearance.  

Island Displays:  Island displays are booth spaces surrounded by aisles on all four sides. The most common size is 20’ x 20’ but can be much larger.  

Marshaling:  Marshaling refers to the sequential, organized staging of freight carriers waiting at the show freight yard for freight to be unloaded or loaded. 

Modular:  Modular exhibits consist of independent components that can be used in a number of configurations. This term is currently overused as a marketing buzzword assigned to any exhibit or exhibit system where assembly is required. 

Panel:  Panels describe an exhibit component that is flat, curved, short or tall. It can be a window, door, shelving, light box, or video panel. 

Pop Up:  Pop up displays are hinged metal frames that expand to form a curve or straight. The metal frame supports channel bars which, in turn, support fabric or graphic panels.  Pop ups vary in quality, ease-of-setup, and price.   

Portable:  Portable displays describe any booth that can be transported by a person without requiring a dolly, pallet jack, or forklift. Historically, portable has been synonymous with any packaging that meets UPS guidelines. Most portable booths were engineered to pack in cases that were within UPS guidelines. Currently portable refers to the size of the components, as portable systems often include display elements that require larger molded tub cases or even wood crates.  

Steward:  The Steward is the title given to the lead position of the union labor manager. This is the show floor boss who manages the labor and ensures that exhibitors follow show regulations. 

Tension Fabric Graphics:  Not surprisingly, tension fabric graphics are graphics printed on tension fabric. These graphics use a dye sublimation process and attached to a metal frame with hook and loop, zippers, or a spline insert. Tension fabric graphics have become increasingly popular because they are lightweight, durable, and can be printed in large sections. 

For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next show.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

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Exhibit Weight varies depending on the packaging and the shipping method. Variables include but are not limited to:
  • Dimensional Weight vs. Actual Weight: Dimensional weight is defined as crate or case size. On most air shipments, the dimensional weight exceeds the actual weight
  • Portable Cases vs. Wood Crates or Molded Tubs (where applicable): Exhibit designs that require one wood crate would require multiple portable cases. Selecting one vs. the other affects the total weight (dimensional or actual).
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Electrical, Cord, and Wire Management varies depending on the display and each exhibitor's requirements. When ordering your trade show display, consider the following electrical/wire management issues and discuss your options with an exhibit professional:
  • Inline vs. Island Displays
  • Lead Retrieval Devices
  • Computer and Monitor Cables
  • Demo Equipment
  • Overhead Lighting
  • Grommets and Grommet Placement in Counters
  • Overhead vs. Floor Power Supply
  • Flooring and Electrical Wiring
  • Options for Hiding Cords and Cables
  • Flat vs. Round Electrical Cords
  • Multi-Plug Outlets and Extension Cords
By reviewing your wiring options BEFORE you order your display, you'll save TIME and MONEY and ensure your exhibit exceeds your expectations and your installation is trouble-free.