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Glossary of Trade Show and Exhibition Terms

March 2nd, 2022 COMMENTS
Glossary of Trade Show and Exhibition Terms

With anything new, half the battle is learning the unfamiliar lingo or terminology. Trade shows are no different. Trade shows, exhibitions, and events have a very specific language. The Glossary of Trade Show Terms will shorten your learning curve and increase your productivity with North American trade shows.


Advanced Order: An order for show services sent to the contractor before move-in. Examples include electrical, hanging signs, labor, and rental furniture.

Air Freight: Materials shipped via airplane.

Air Walls: Movable barriers that partition large areas. Some walls may be sound resistant, but they are rarely soundproof.

Aisle Signs: Signs, usually suspended from the ceiling, indicating aisle numbers and the show name to assist in navigating the show floor.

Audio/Visual: Equipment, materials, and aids used in sound and visual. (Also A/V)


Backlighting: When graphics are internally illuminated, aka backlit, with LED lights.

Backloader: Truck that loads from back door.

Backwall: The panels, structure, and/or graphics at rear of a booth.

Backwall Booth: Booth spaces typical along the perimeter of the show floor.

Baffle: Partition to control light, air, sound, or traffic flow.

Bill of Lading (B/L or BOL): Document or form listing goods to be shipped by exhibitor.

Blanket Wrap: Non-crated freight shipped typically shipped via a van line covered with protective blankets or padding.

Blister Wrap: Vacuum-formed transparent plastic cover.

Bone Yard: General Contractor storage area at show site. Depending on the show, this can be indoor or outdoor.

Booth Number: Number designating each exhibitor’s space.


CAD: Computer-Aided Design

Canopy: Drapery, awning, or other ceiling-like covering.

Capacity: Maximum number of people allowed in any area.

Carpenter: Union that is responsible for uncrating of exhibits and display materials, installation and dismantle of exhibits including cabinets, fixtures, shelving units, furniture, etc., laying of floor tile and carpet, and re-crating of exhibits and machinery. A carpenter’s exact duties and rights depends on location and union contract with venue.

Cherry Picker: Equipment capable of lifting a person (s) to a given height. (Also HIGH JACKER, SCISSOR LIFT)

Chevron: Type of cloth used for backdrops.

Corkage Fee: The charge placed on beer, liquor, and wine brought into the facility but purchased elsewhere. The charge sometimes includes glassware, ice, and mixers. In some cases, it can even apply to non-alcoholic drinks and bottled water.

Cross Bar: Rod used in draping or as a support brace.

Cut & Lay: Installation of carpet other than normal booth or aisle size.

CWT: Hundred weight. A weight measurement for exhibit freight. Usually 100 pounds. Some post-COVID shows are switching to a per-pound charge.


Decorator: Union that is responsible for hanging all signs except electrical signs, drape and cloth installation, and tacked fabric panels. A decorator’s exact duties and rights depends on location and union contract with venue.

Direct Billing: Accounts receivable mailed to individuals or firms with established credit.

Dismantle: Take down (disassembly) and removal of exhibits.

Display Builder: Exhibit company that designs and fabricates displays. Often referred to as the custom house or custom builder.

Dock: A place where freight is loaded onto and taken away from vehicles. (Also see LOADING DOCK)

Dolly: A flat two-feet square platform on four wheels used for moving heavy loads.

Drayage: The unloading of your shipment, transporting it to your booth, storing and returning your empty crates and cartons, and reloading your shipment at the close of the show. Also called Material Handling.

Drayage Charge: The dollar cost based on weight –100-pound units or hundredweight, abbreviated CWT, calculates drayage. There is typically a minimum charge. Also called Material Handling Fee.

Duplex Outlet: Double electrical outlet.


EAC (Exhibitor Appointed Contractor): Independent contractors (vs. the GSC) appointed by exhibitors to provide services such as installation and dismantle, A/V, furniture rental, etc. EAC’s often are contracted to provide services for an exhibitor at multiple shows and venues.

Electrical Contractor: Company contracted by Show Management to provide electrical services to the exhibitors.

Electrician: Union that handles installation of all electrical equipment. An electrician’s exact duties and rights depends on location and union contract with venue.

Empty Crate: The reusable packing/shipping container for exhibit materials. Typically wood. Once empty, an “EMPTY” sticker should be attached with the booth number and company name. The crates are then removed, stored, and returned (at the end of the show). This service is covered by the drayage or material handling fee.

Exclusive Contractor: Contractor appointed by the show or building management as the sole agent to provide services. (Also OFFICIAL)

Exhibit Booth Space: Space rented by an exhibitor during the show for their display or exhibit. For example, 10 x 10 or 20 x 20 booth.

Exhibit Directory: Program book for attendees listing exhibitors and exhibit booth location. (Also SHOW GUIDE)

Exhibit Manager: Person responsible for a company’s exhibit booth and trade show marketing program.


Fire Exit: Door, clear of obstructions, designated by local authorities to egress.

Fire Retardant: Term used to describe a finish (usually liquid) which coats materials with a fire-resistant cover.

Flameproof: Term used to describe material, which is, or has been treated to be fire-retardant.

Floor Manager: Person retained by show management to supervise exhibit area and assist exhibitors.

Floor Marking: Method of marking booth space. Typically with tape which is then covered by carpet or flooring before the start of the show.

Floor Order: Goods and/or services ordered on-site.

Floor Plan: A map showing layout of exhibit spaces. Most trade shows have the floor plan available on their website.

Foam Core: Lightweight material with a foam center used for signs, decorating, and exhibit construction.

Fork Lift: Vehicle for for lifting and carrying loads.

Freight: Exhibit properties, products, and other materials shipped for an exhibit.

Freight Aisle: Aisle to remain clear for incoming freight.

Freight Forwarder: Shipping company.

Full Booth Coverage: Carpet or other flooring covering the entire area of booth.


Garment Rack: Frame which holds apparel.

General Contractor: Company, designated by the show organizer, that provides all services to exhibition management and exhibitors. Also called the General Service Contractor (GSC).


Hand-Carryable: Items that one person can carry unaided (meaning, no hand trucks or dollies).

Hand Truck: Tool with two wheels and two handles for transporting small loads.

Hardwall Booth: Booth constructed with plywood or similar material as opposed to a booth constructed with aluminum extrusion or drapery.

Header: 1. Fascia 2. Overhead illuminated display sign.

Hospitality Suite: Room or suite of rooms used to entertain guests.


I&D: Install and dismantle.

ID Sign: Booth identification sign.

Illuminations: Lighting available in hall, built into exhibit, or available on a rental basis.

Infringement: The illegal use of floor space outside exclusive booth area.

Inline Booth: An exhibit space with one or two aisles. For example, 10 x 10 or 10 x 20 booths.

Inherent Flameproof: Material that is permanently flame resistant without chemical treatment.

Installation: Setting up exhibit booth and materials according to instructions and drawings.

Island Booth: An exhibit space with aisles on all four sides. For example, 20 x 20 or 30 x 40 booths.


Job Foreman: Person in charge of specific projects.


Kiosk: Freestanding pavilion or light structure in a booth or the show hall.


Labor: Refers to contracted workers who perform services. Labor is typically available through the General Contractor or the Exhibitor can hire independent labor companies, typically referred to as Exhibitor-Appointed Contractors (EAC).

Labor Call: Method of securing union employees.

Labor Desk: On-site area from which service personnel are dispatched.

Light Box: One or two-sided enclosure with backlit graphics. These can be freestanding or mounted to a wall or structure. Typically fabric graphics.

Loading Dock: Area where goods are received.

Lobby: Public area which serves as an entrance or waiting area.

Lock-up: Secure storage area in the show hall or convention center.


Marshalling Yard: Check-in area for trucks delivering exhibit material.

Modular Exhibit: Exhibit constructed with interchangeable display components. These can be portable or custom displays.

Move-In: Date(s) set for installation. Process of setting up exhibits.

Move-Out: Date(s) set for dismantling. Process of dismantling exhibits.


Net Square Feet: The amount of space occupied by exhibits in a facility, not including aisles, columns, registration area, etc. For example, an exhibitor with a 20 x 20 exhibit has 400 sq. feet of booth space.

No Freight Aisle: Aisle that must be left clear at all times during set-up and dismantle. Used to deliver freight, remove empty boxes and trash, and in case of emergency.


Official Contractor: The General Contractor or decorator (GSC).

On-Site Order: Floor order placed at show site.

On-Site Registration: Process of signing up for an event on the day of, or at the site of, the event.

O.T. Labor: Work performed on overtime. Work performed before 8:00 am and after 4:40 pm Monday through Friday, and all hours on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays. OT rules may vary depending on the show and the venue.


Package Plan: When the General Show Contractor offers furniture, exhibit rentals, labor, and/or services to exhibitors for a single fee. Often referred to as bundling. Industry associations such as EDPA consider this an ethically questionable and anti-competitive practice.

Padded Van Shipment: Shipment of crated or uncrated goods such as product or display materials. (Also VAN SHIPMENT, AIR-RIDE).

Pallet: Wooden platform used to carry goods. (Also SKID)

Pegboard: Framed panel of perforated hardboard for displaying products.

Perimeter Booth: Exhibit space located on an outside wall of the show hall.

Pipe and Drape: Tubing with drapes, which separates exhibit booths.

Planting: Floral décor to enhance the appearance of the exhibition. Typically available from a designated show contractor.

Portable Displays: Generally, portable refers to displays that can be shipped via UPS or FedEx, typically in roto-molded or fabric cases with wheels. Portable does not mean that the display will assemble without tools (although most are tool-free) or that the display can be hand-carried into the exhibition hall.

Pre-registered: Registration which has been made in advance with necessary paperwork.

Press Room: Space reserved for media representatives.

POV: A privately owned vehicle, such as a passenger car, van, or small company vehicle, as distinguished from trucks, tractor-trailers, and other over-the-road vehicles. A POV left unattended will almost certainly be towed away. If you must unload a POV, use the POV line. (See below).

POV Line: Special loading dock reserved for POV’s where materials are unloaded at prevailing drayage rates. To get on a POV line, driver reports first to marshalling area.

Private Security: Security personnel hired from a privately operated company. (Also BOOTH SECURITY)

Pro-Number: Number designated by the freight forwarders to a single shipment, used in all cases where the shipment must be referred to.


Quad Box: Four electrical outlets in one box.


Rail: Low drape divider between exhibit booths. (Also SIDE RAIL)

Rear-Lit: Method of lighting transparency from behind. (Also BACKLIT)

Registration: Process by which an individual indicates their intent to attend a trade show.

Rental Booth: Complete booth package offered to exhibitors on a rental basis either from the general show contractor or an exhibit house.

Rigger: Union that is responsible for crating, unskidding, positioning, and reskidding of all machinery. A rigger’s exact duties and rights depends on location and union contract with venue.

Riser: A raised platform for people or products.


Security Cages: Cages rented by exhibitors to secure materials.

Silicone Edge Graphics (SEG): Silicone Edge Fabric Graphics are typically dye-sublimated fabric with a silicone bead or welting sewn around the edge. The welting is then inserted into a groove (usually aluminum extrusion) for a seamless image.

Service Charge: Charge for the services of waiters/waitresses, housemen, technicians, and other food function personnel.

Shop: Service contractor’s main office and warehouse.

Showcard: Material used for signs.

Showcase: Glass-enclosed case for articles on display.

Show Manager: Person responsible for all aspects of exhibition.

Show Office: Management office at exhibition.

Shrink Wrap; Process of wrapping loose items on pallet with transparent plastic wrapping.

Side Rail: Low divider wall in exhibit area, usually 36” high.

Skirting: Decorative covering around tables/risers. Also called table throws or table cloths.

Space Assignment: Booth space assigned to exhibiting companies.

Space Rate: Cost per square foot for exhibit area.

Special Handling: Applies to display and/or product shipment requiring extra labor, equipment, or time in delivery to booth area. To avoid special handling, always consult with your exhibit house or display provider.

Staging Area: Area adjacent to main event area for set- up, dismantling, and temporary storage.

Stanchions: Decorative posts which hold markers or flags to define traffic areas. Ropes or chains may be attached.

Stop Job; When an exhibitor is doing some type of work in the booth which is claimed by a union, that union’s steward will request that you go to the service desk so that the contractor can supply the exhibitor union labor.

S.T. Labor: Work performed on straight time. Usually work performed 8:00am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.


Target Date: Move-in date assigned to exhibitors by the general contractor and the show management.

Tent: Portable canvas shelter for outside.

Time & Materials; Method for charging services on a cost-plus basis. (Also T & M)

Traffic Flow; Movement of people throughout an area.


Union: An organization of workers formed for mutual protection and for the purpose of dealing collectively with their employer in wages, hours, working conditions and other matters pertaining to their employment.

Union Steward: On-site union official.


Velcro: Material used for fastening. (Also HOOK AND LOOP)

Visqueen: Protective plastic sheeting used to cover flooring during installation. Visqueen is removed once the show floor and aisles have been set.


Waste Removal: Removal of trash from the building.

Classic Exhibits has been designing and building solutions since 1993. We’ve been honored as an Exhibitor Magazine Find-It Top 40 Exhibit Producers and an Event Marketer Fab 50 Exhibit Builders multiple times. Along with numerous Portable Modular Awards. 

With over 200 Distributor Partners throughout North America, there’s a Classic representative closer by. Contact us today whether you need a durable hand sanitizer stand built to last, a rental display guaranteed to attract trade show attendees, or a custom 30 x 40 exhibit with all the bells and whistles. We’re not just different. We’re better. 



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