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Hanging Sign and Rigging Basics

Hanging Sign and Rigging

Whether you’re new to the trade show and event floor or a veteran, some of the products and services can be confusing, especially if you haven’t used them before. If you have been curious about adding a new noteworthy element to your booth; here is a quick rundown of some of the best kept secrets on the show floor:

  • Hanging sign - a sign suspended from the ceiling of the facility
  • Stage lighting - lighting that highlights: mood, focus, modeling and visibility
  • Truss and rigging - a framework of alloy bars and triangular cross-bracing providing a rigid structure, to hang equipment from (lighting, projector, etc.)

You may be surprised how affordable these can really be. Hanging signs and truss and rigging are mostly suspended from the ceiling and are used for any size booth footprint. If you don’t have the space available above your booth, there is also a ground supported truss available. Both products require advanced planning and a specialized labor team since each job is considered a custom product that is created just for you! This may sound expensive, but with early planning and the help of a professional, the mystery is removed, and your main costs are known up front.


Hanging sign and truss basics to get you started: 

Anything can be hung from the facility ceiling, you are only limited by your imagination. Start planning early and read your exhibitor manual. Every city, facility, show and labor union follow unique guidelines and laws.

Ceiling heights, weight restrictions, your booth location on the show floor and show regulations - will dictate your ability to secure items to the ceiling. If you keep in mind that, the design and weight distribution should follow the ceiling above your booth, then you’ll realize the design flexibility. Your aerial display can be customized for each show!

Your show contractor should provide you with a Reflective Ceiling Plan or (RCP) to show beam capacity above your booth space. The RCP is the first step to finalizing the Load Plan Drawing. This may be required by the show contractor and/or venue and serves as the final engineered drawings of all truss, lighting and hanging sign pick points with weights. This is to confirm weight distribution and structural integrity of the hanging item(s). Most production/rigging/lighting contractors will provide a load plan drawing as part of their planning services.

It is imperative to know what needs to be sent to the warehouse to ensure advance installation at show site. Most show contractors require the hanging signs be shipped to the warehouse and, separate from booth properties, be clearly marked, contain assembly instructions, and a floorplan including booth orientation, a form of payment and equipment and labor orders on file to obtain advance rates. Truss/rigging/lighting and video walls can be shipped directly to show site and must be coordinated to arrive before labor is scheduled. Any changes in labor and equipment orders after the discount date - may increase all fees to regular rates. This is done to ensure all items hanging from the ceiling will be installed prior to all other items on the show floor. This is the safest way to handle install and saves everyone time and money by having a clear path to maneuver on the show floor.


The show contractor is responsible for building and hanging all signs and trusses

The Show Contractor is Responsible for Building And Hanging All Signs and Truss

Hanging sign/rigging assembly may have multiple union jurisdictions based on the facility and show. Be aware of the assembly instructions and weight of your sign/truss to determine the number of laborers needed, equipment and possible added cables, motors and hoists used for safety. Electrical signs (signs containing a rotator or electrical components such as LED panels) or signs over 200lbs. may require a rotating motor or a chain hoist and motor outlet. When ordering this equipment, be sure to order the correct weight capacity and if renting the show contractor’s equipment, check to see if they provide an electrical motor outlet. If the outlet is not provided be sure to order in advance to get the best rates. Consider hiring a production/lighting company or a production rigger to manage your project. They are well equipped to manage your cost. Bring them in early on the project and they can help with the most cost-effective design and labor plan based on the ceiling above your booth.

It is highly recommended that you be present for install or have your production professional   supervise it. This can save you money in the long run when immediate onsite decisions need to be made due to unforeseen circumstances. Check with your general contractor for the install time and date and let them know that you would like to be present. Special arrangements may need to be made.

All designs need to be reviewed and approvaed by the contractor before move-inIf not hiring a professional to manage your project, remember to order equipment and labor, after your design is finalized with your contractor. All designs need to be reviewed and approved by the contractor before move-in. Be aware of move-in/move-out and any target dates/times to cost effectively schedule and calculate the appropriate labor rates. Consult with your show contractor to estimate labor needed for your circumstances. Any additional labor required that is not pre-ordered could be billed at a higher per hour rate and possibly on overtime.

Always remember, what goes up, must come down. In most cities, hanging sign dismantle is billed at half the install time while rigging and truss tear down will be billed by crew time spent in the booth. A four-hour minimum applies in most cases. Consult your show contractor for details. Most signs and rigging will come down after the booths below are packed up and loaded out so if you do not intend to supervise, you should hire onsite labor to pack and ship your sign/equipment.

Investing in your exhibit and standing out from the crowd can make all the difference in the success of your product and how your customers and prospective customers perceive you. Confidence, positive exposure and success are what it’s all about!

About the Author

Amy is the Global Digital Content Marketing Editor at GES. With a strong background in content marketing, social media, and communications, she is a passionate writer and self-confessed word geek. She is also the founder of a non-profit and a health and wellness online community.

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