A Beginner's Guide to Exhibition Personnel

Ever get confused as to who handles all the services on the trade show floor? What does a Rigger do? Who are Stagehands? What is an EAC?  And why are they all on the trade show floor?

A Guide to Exhibition Personnel

Some of this may sound like a foreign language, regardless of your level of experience on the show floor. If you haven’t dealt with each department or have never been around some of their work, you may not know who everyone is and how they can assist you. Like anything else, the more you are around something, the more familiar you become with the lingo. To help you navigate the language of the show floor, we have put together a guide to Exhibition Personnel to identify who is on the show floor and what they do.

After all, a trade show is a temporary community built by a team of workers who all have specialized skills. This may look like chaos until the show doors open, but if you step back and look closely at the whole picture, it is a beautifully orchestrated event that brings your show to life!

Here’s a helpful breakdown of who’s who and what’s what:


Trade Show Management

  • Association – An organization of people that share a common interest. Used here as the Association that is sponsoring a trade show. They are responsible for leasing the exposition facility, hiring official contractors and promoting the show. Also known as: Exposition Manager, Show Management, Show Managers, Show Producer, Organizer or Producer.
  • CEM – Certified Exposition Manager - An individual who has completed a training program offered by the International Association of Exposition Managers - and has been certified as a competent manager of trade shows and exhibitions.
  • Exhibit Manager – Either a person in charge of an individual exhibit or a show management staff person in charge of the exhibit area. Also known as: Floor Manager or Zone Manager.
  • Producer – Either an Exhibit Producer: An individual or company that designs and/or builds or a Show Producer: An individual or company that manages trade shows.
  • Show Office – Office maintained at show site by show management and/or Show Manager or Show Producer.


Shipping and Freight

  • Common Carrier – A transportation line moving freight. For hire to the general public.Shipping and Freight
  • Contract Carrier – A transportation line moving freight. For hire to those they have a contract with.
  • Customs Broker – A person or company licensed to enter and clear goods through Customs.
  • Export Broker – An individual or company that brings together buyers and sellers for a fee.
  • Export Management Company– A company that transacts manufacturers’ export business for a fee.
  • Export Merchant – A company that buys products directly from manufacturers, then packages the merchandise for resale under its own name.
  • Freight Forwarder – A shipping company who matches freight with a transportation provider for a fee.
  • International Freight Forwarder – A shipping company who matches freight with a transportation provider for international freight for a fee.
  • Shipper – Person who arranges transportation of goods.
  • Trade Show Carrier – A company that specializes in transportation of trade show goods.


Special Services

  • A/V Contractor - Supplier of audio/visual equipment, projectors, screens, microphones, etc.
  • Decorator - An individual (skilled craftsperson) or company (a contractor) providing services for a trade show and/or its exhibitors.
  • Demonstrators - Persons hired to work in a booth demonstrating or explaining products. Also known as Talent.
  • Draper - A craftsperson who installs drapes, fabric, and special decor.
  • Electrical Contractor - A company hired by show management to provide electrical services to exhibitors.

Trade Show Electrician | Exhibitor Tips

image source

  • Electricians – Responsible for installation of electrical equipment. This may include lighted headers, hanging signs and truss work depending on the work jurisdiction.
  • Fire Marshal - Civic or building official responsible for enforcing fire prevention regulations in a facility and on the trade show floor.
  • Florist - Contractor providing plants and floral arrangements.
  • Forklift Operator – Laborer who operates a forklift and is certified to do so.
  • Painters - Responsible for sign painting and graphics. May also have other duties depending upon union jurisdiction and current collective bargaining agreements at the facility or with the Official Contractor.
  • Plumbers - Responsible for all plumbing installation.
  • Porters – Laborer that performs sweeping, cleaning and trash removal with the booth spaces on the show floor. Is usually an exclusive vendor appointed by Show Management.
  • Rigger – Either a skilled laborer responsible for the handling and assembly of machinery, hoisting tackle, cranes, scaffolding and heavy materials. Or an individual that hangs overhead signs or exhibit material in some regions.Trade Show Rigging | Exhibitor Tips
  • Show Photographer - Official photographer for trade show or event, appointed by Show Management.
  • Subcontract Labor - Labor hired to perform work that cannot be fulfilled by the union labor pool.  Ex: United Maintenance to clean carpet, Advance Warehouse Labor, Lease Drivers, etc.



Exhibit Builders

  • Contractor - An individual or company that provides services or materials to a trade show and/or its exhibitors, who is not the Official Show Contractor of the show.
  • Display Builder – Either a company that fabricates (builds) displays or a show worker capable of fabricating displays.
  • Exclusive Contractor – A company other than the “general” or “official” service provider on the show or a third-party service provider who is designated by show management as the provider of a specific service. A non-official contractor may only provide services in the venue that are not designated by the venue as “exclusive” to a venue provider or by show management in a contract as an exclusive service for the “official” or “general” contractor. No solicitation or providing of services contracted to others is permitted by the non-official contractor. This covers a variety of services like floral, electrical, security, AV etc. Also known as: Non-Official Contractors.
  • Exhibit Designer / Producer - Company responsible for designing and constructing exhibit booths.
  • Exhibit House - An exhibit builder or the company who rents, stores and manages an exhibit for an exhibitor who is not the Official Show Contractor of the show. Also known as: Exhibitor Appointed Contractor (EAC), Independent Service Contractor or Third Party.
  • Exhibit Service Contractor – A company hired by show management to be the exclusive provider of materials and services to a trade show and/or its exhibitors. Also known as: Exposition Service Contractor, Full Service Contractor, General Contractor, General Service Contractor, Official Contractor or Official Service Provider. General Service Contractor | Trade Show Tips
  • Producer – Either an Exhibit Producer: An individual or company that designs and/or builds. Or a Show Producer: An individual or company that manages trade shows.
  • Subcontractor - Company retained by Official Service Provider to provide services.


Install and Dismantle

  • Carpenter - A skilled worker used to uncrate, install, dismantle, and re-crate exhibit properties.
  • Craftsperson - A skilled worker who provides services at the exposition facility. Also known as: Labor or Union Labor.
  • Display Labor - Required for all installation and dismantling of exhibits, including signs and floor covering installation. 
  • Drayage Contractor - A company responsible for handling exhibit materials at a trade show.
  • I & D Company - Installation & Dismantle Company - A company that is hired to install and dismantle exhibits.
  • I & D Labor - Installation and dismantle of an exhibit, or set-up and tear down of an exhibit.
  • Installation Contractor - May be either official (hired by show management) or an independent, EAC - hired directly by an exhibitor who is responsible for supervision and coordination of installation and dismantle labor.
  • Journeyman - Worker who has satisfactorily completed an apprenticeship in a skilled trade.
  • Shop Steward - An on-site union official elected by co-workers to oversee union’s work in the warehouse and resolve jurisdiction issues. Also known as Union Steward when on the show floor.
  • Stagehands - Individuals that are responsible for the installations of theatrical and stage lighting systems, which includes high rigging on suspended truss systems depending on the work jurisdiction.
  • Steward - An on-site union official elected by co-workers to oversee union’s work in the facility and resolve jurisdiction issues. Also known as a Union Steward.
  • Supervised Labor - Union labor that is provided to a customer/exhibitor to install or dismantle a booth or exhibit space and is supervised and/or directed by Official Service Provider.
  • Union - An organization of workers formed, for the purpose of, dealing collectively with their employer in wages, hours, working conditions and other matters pertaining to their employment.
  • Unsupervised Labor - Union labor that is provided to a Customer / Exhibitor to install or dismantle a booth or exhibit space and, per customer’s election, is not supervised and/or directed by the Official Service Provider. Customer / Exhibitor assumes the responsibility for the work of union labor when Customer / Exhibitor elects to use unsupervised labor.


Miscellaneous Personnel

  • Agent - A certified representative with proper credentials from the party represented.
  • Attendee – One who attends the trade show.
  • Booth Personnel – Staff members assigned by an exhibitor to work an exhibit.
  • Exhibitor – A company or person offering goods or service at a trade show.

About the Author

Stacey Tedesco

Stacey Tedesco is a Marketing Coordinator located in the Las Vegas office. She manages Exhibition Marketing and coordinates Corporate Accounts pre-show campaigns for the GES National Servicenter®. Her 20 year tenure at GES makes her a resource to her peers. She enjoys traveling with her son and volunteer work in her free time.

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