How to Save Money on Trade Show Services

Show services can account for up to 14% of a company’s overall exhibiting expenditures for a trade show. While perhaps not the most exciting topic to dig into, it’s critical to understand the logistics of exhibiting at a trade show. What falls under the umbrella of “show services?” What is “drayage?” We’ve got answers to your questions and some tips on how you can save money on trade show services.

HOT TIP! TIP! One unanimous piece of advice from our sales team is to plan ahead and order all relevant show services before the deadline. Doing so will save you money and headaches. You’d be surprised how often this becomes an issue!

Here’s a list that will help guide you as you think through the show services aspect of your budgeting:



Includes: Transporting exhibit, accessories, promo items.
Good to Know: Shipping quotes are good for 7 days; plan ahead so items arrive on time; ship hanging signs, carpet, gang boxes and tools to the advance warehouse so they are there early and ready for the labor crews to get started. Note: don’t forget about shipping insurance!
Savings Opportunity: Does the exhibit house have other clients going to the same show? If all agree to a ship date, they can share a truckload.

DrayageDrayage & Handling

Includes: Unloading the trade show freight and transporting items to the booth space, removing empty shipping items (such as crates and pallets) from the booth space, temporarily storing empty shipping items during the show, returning empty shipping items once the show is over, transferring the freight back to the loading dock, and loading the items into the delivery vehicle.

Good to Know: The cost of drayage is pre-set and you have no options to negotiate the price or go with a less expensive service. These costs are decided ahead of time by the show organizers and the show’s general service contractor. Drayage can be expensive because all trade shows require that you use their exclusive union labor services for items that are delivered to your booth.

Savings Opportunity: Be PREPARED! You never want to send multiple shipments as there is an expensive minimum drayage fee and it will be applied to every separate shipment. It can add thousands of dollars to your bill… Ouch!

installationInstallation & Dismantle

Includes: Booth setup and tear down, as well as rigging for hanging signs and any items suspended from the ceiling.

Good to Know: Shows require only approved EAC’s (Exhibit Appointed Contractors) to set up exhibits, displays and signage. Captivate Exhibits works with the best EAC’s to ensure your exhibit properties, flooring, lighting, signage and rigging are completed when you need them. This is not as simple as it may sound.

Savings Opportunity: Avoid weekend days (if possible) for union labor, overtime costs are a budget zapper.


Includes: Electrical (lighting, power outlets, technology) and Internet services.

Good to Know: Only licensed electricians can set-up and dismantle electrical wiring and connections in your exhibit. Remember to schedule time for electrical before you schedule a set-up crew to your booth.

Savings Opportunity: When you plan your exhibit, understand how the booth will be wired at a show and communicate where you expect electrical devices, including lighting in the exhibit. Our design team can create the electrical plan for your exhibit so surprises at a show are only the good kind.

Furniture & Flooring

Includes: Carpet, padding and furniture; amortize if using at multiple shows.

Good to Know: Remember to schedule time for flooring before you schedule a set-up crew to your booth. Flooring should always be included if shipping to advance warehouse. Your exhibit will not be set up until the flooring is in place.

Savings Opportunities: We recommend you rent furniture versus buying to lessen storage fees in between events and allow you flexibility to make furniture swaps easier. However, if you have custom pieces built, such as a welcome or reception counter, those you will need to own.

We’ve got more than 25 years of experience helping clients navigate the ins and outs of exhibiting at trade shows. Let us help you keep your budget in check as you plan for your next trade show! Email us today to get started!