What is rigging at trade show events?

June 27, 2024

The traditional definition of rigging is the collection of ropes, cables, and other materials used to support and secure ship masts and sails. It can also refer to the ropes and wires used to support the structure of small biplanes, parachutes, hot air balloons, and other aircraft that use ropes and cabling. It is no surprise then that the term rigging is also used when talking about booth installation at trade shows, conventions, and conferences.

What is trade show rigging?

Trade show rigging refers to the hardware used and the action of suspending and securing exhibitor objects including signage, banners, lighting, temporary walls, and other items from an expo hall’s ceiling.

What is a trade show rigger?

A rigger is a member of the general service contractor’s team, also known as the show decorator. Riggers are skilled at securing these overhead objects for a trade show’s organizer and exhibitors. Here is a photo of a rigger standing securely in the air on a scissor lift.

Can I be my company’s trade show rigger?

As a trade show exhibitor, you are not allowed to hang your own signs from the hall’s ceiling. You will be required to use the show decorator’s staff. This means you have to complete and submit their rigging order form. The form can be found in the exhibitor services manual you receive when you become an exhibitor.

How are rigging costs calculated?

Rigging expenses are based on 5 primary criteria:

  1. the number of people (riggers) you need to hire

  2. the amount of time required to hang your signs, lighting, or other materials

  3. whether the rigging will be done during normal business hours or outside normal business hours

  4. the equipment required (if you need a scissor lift or other types of equipment)

  5. whether you submitted the rigging form early enough to receive the advance rate (if ordered 21+ days before the show) or the standard rate (if ordered after the advance deadline or on the show floor during booth installation.

How can I reduce trade show rigging costs?

Submit your rigging form before the advance order deadline for an early bird discount

The easiest way to save money on trade show rigging expenses is one that I just mentioned. The trade show rigging form will include two different prices for each item - an advance rate and a regular rate. For example, the advance price to rent a scissor lift may be $355 and the standard rate if rented after the advance deadline may be $455. Know the deadline by which you must submit your form to get the advance rate and submit your completed form by that date. You can save an average of 20% by simply submitting your form before the due date.

Know the rigger’s responsibilities

In states where union labor is required, it may be the rigger’s responsibility to also assemble your sign before it is hung. This will take more time and require you to pay additional labor hours. Knowing this ahead of time will enable you to reserve additional time at the advance rate rather than finding it out on the show floor and having to pay for additional time at the standard rate or overtime rate.

Understand all show requirements well in advance

Signage weighing over 500 pounds will most likely require a structural engineer to review and approve your material and cabling for structural integrity and safety. Regulations may also require that the engineer be licensed in the city where the show is taking place. Knowing the actual weight of the materials you want to hang and reserving the engineer in advance will save you time and money.

Consider an alternative booth design

Exhibitors use hanging signs to ensure their booth, company brand, and products/services can be seen from a long distance across the expo hall floor. An alternative to hanging signage from the ceiling, that still enables your company to be seen from a distance, is to build a tower structure placed in the center of your booth. This photo is an example of what that tower could look like.

Yes, this tower does take away floor space that a hanging sign would not do. If reduced floor space is a concern, turn this design limitation into a benefit and use it to your advantage. Add a “hidden door” to your tower to increase storage space. The door should be inconspicuous but easily accessible for collateral, tchotchkes, your gang box, and other materials. This solution benefits you in two ways. Not only have you saved money by not hanging signs from the ceiling but you have added invisible storage space to your booth.

Know what supplies must be provided by you vs. the show’s rigger

When your hanging sign or lighting is created by your exhibit house, they will probably include all the cabling necessary to hang and secure your sign. It is important to know that most show decorators or general service contractors want to use their own cables, wires, or ropes due to safety and liability concerns. This means that they will require you to purchase their supplies. If this issue is not addressed until you are on the show floor during booth installation, you will need to pay the standard rate for all supplies and the need to go and get the supplies will delay your sign’s installation (and, as a result, your booth’s installation). Consult the show’s general contractor before the advance order deadline is passed to determine who needs to provide the hanging hardware (you or them) so you won’t have additional unexpected expenses or delays.

Guest Blogger:  Lisa M. Masiell.  Lisa is an author, entrepreneur, and champion of women's advancement and entrepreneurship. https://www.lisamasiello.com/about-lisa-masiello 

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