Is this your first time hitting the trade show circuit? If so, there’s something you need to know. Actually, there’s a whole lot you need to know, and it’s the terms commonly used on trade show floors. Yes, there is an entirely different set of terms that you just might not understand right away. Better to be prepared with a list of them rather than standing there wondering what the show organizer just said to you.
Here’s a handy list of common trade show terminology so that you aren’t left scratching your head in your exhibit booth.
Advance Order: This describes goods or services that are ordered and delivered to the show floor before you’ve set up your booth exhibit.
Advance Rates: The fees associated with advance orders. Usually, there is some sort of discount for paying these fees in advance.
Advance Receiving: The area the event coordinators designate for freight deliveries prior to the date of the show. The items remain at this location until it is the right time to ship them to the show.
Baffle: A partition specially designed to manage light, sound, air, or traffic flow.
Boneyard: This is the area empty crates and materials are stored.
Build and Burn: Don’t worry, nothing is really burned. This is a term used to describe a booth built to be used only one time.
C.I.F. (Cost, Insurance, Freight): A term used for pricing that means the charges for these services are included in the listed price.
Corner Booth: Space offered to exhibitors where there is exposure on at least two aisles.
Cross Aisle: An aisle that creates a right angle to the main aisle.
CWT: This is a unit of measurement for shipping of exhibit materials (also called drayage, defined below), and is equal 100 pounds.
Dead Man: This frightening term is actually quite harmless. It is used to describe a temporary post used during installation of the booth to support the weight of overhead components of the structure.
Drayage: Describes the movement of show materials from the shipping dock to the booth for set up, and then back to the dock again when the show is over. A drayage contractor is responsible for moving these materials, and you must fill out a drayage form to request handling of your booth’s materials.
End Cap: An exhibit booth with aisles located on three sides.
Exhibitor Kit: A packet containing information regarding rules and regulations of the show and all associated forms that need to be filled out and given to the show manager. Also known as a Service Kit.
FHC: You might see these letters on the floor plan. This notation describes locations of fire hose cabinets.
Floor Load: This is the most weight per square foot a floor is able to support.
Floor Order: An order for goods or services that is placed after the exhibit installation has started.
Floor Port: No, it’s not a trap door. It is a utility box that is recessed into the floor that contains electrical, plumbing, or telephone hookups.
Frontage: The measurement across the front of an exhibit.
Gangway: Another term for “aisle.”
Hard Card: Used to describe either a work order for labor or services, or a record of materials received or shipped held by the drayage contractor.
Header: A sign, graphic, or structure located above the booth.
I&D: Stands for “Installation & Dismantle,” and refers to the exhibit. Also called Set Up and Take Down.
In-line: Another term for Linear Display. The exhibit is constructed in a straight line along the aisle.
Island Exhibit: This booth has aisles around all four sides.
K.D. (Knockdown): This term describes an exhibit that has several components that must be assembled on-site.
Less Than Truckload (LTL): A rate a freight company charges for any freight weighing less than the minimum weight for a truckload.
Light Box: Often used to backlight signs or graphics, it is a light behind a translucent material.
Lock-Up: This term describes the secure area used for storage within the facility.
Marshaling Yard: A lot where trucks wait to be dispatched in an orderly fashion to the trade show.
Masking Drape: A cloth that covers up storage areas or other unsightly parts of a booth display.
Peninsula Display: An booth with aisles located on three sides.
Perimeter Booth: Booth space located on an outside wall.
Pipe & Drape: Simply tubing covered with fabric that comprise the rails and back wall of an exhibit.
Return Panels: Side panels meeting perpendicular to the back wall.
Rheostat: This is just a fancy term for a dimmer switch.
Scrim: Fabric that is opaque when lit from the front, and transparent when lit from the rear.
Security Cages: These are cages given to exhibitors for securing their materials and valuables.
Self-contained Exhibit: This type of display uses the shipping case as a part of the exhibit.
Side Rail: This is a low divider wall that separates one exhibitor for another. It is most commonly pipe and drape.
Swag: Though teens and young adults use the term to describe how one carries oneself, it stands for “Stuff We All Get” or “Stuff We All Giveaway.”
Transient Space: Short-term rental space.
Visqueen: This describes the clear plastic sheeting that is laid down over exhibit carpeting to protect it until the show starts. It has the added bonus of allowing easier movement of booth components as things just slide right across the smooth surface of the plastic.
There are some terms you might hear around the trade show floor. Are there any you’ve heard that aren’t included on this list that you think should be?