As someone who has been in the tradeshow business — or at least attended trade shows — for over twenty years, I’ve helped set up and break down booths at expos many times, and hung out and kept exhibitors company during the slow times too. Heck, I’ve worked in various booths over the years too.
What I realized this time, as I was walking around watching companies disassemble their booths from Affiliate Summit West‘s vendor expo, is that most people have probably never seen how the booths are put together and taken apart.
And so, with my trusty iPhone camera (which, alas, isn’t very good), I wandered around and took a few photos. I hope these are interesting:
Usually right behind a curtain or temporary wall there’s a massive pile of cartons and wooden crates piled up. This was a small show so the pile is quite modest, but the storage area behind the enormous CES show, by contrast, is a veritable city of crates stacked 15-20′ high. It’s quite something!
Often the people who work in a booth are not the ones who have to assemble or disassemble the booth. In fact, in most big cities, the halls are run by strong unions and it’s quite a big mistake to start working on your own booth. That’s another story, but anyone who has worked a trade show knows exactly what I’m talking about, where you pay $200 for someone to run an extension cord.
Did you know that Google has an affiliate program? They do, and that’s what this booth was focused on, before the show wrapped up and the union guy started pulling it apart.
And sometimes the company employees are responsible for pulling things apart, which often looks like an exec standing around “supervising” while the actual employees, who are all exhausted from working a multi-day trade show, do the work.
Finally, even the simplest booth needs to be taken apart gently because they cost rather surprisingly large amounts of money and you hope to be able to use them for years to come.
One thing I didn’t catch here was something I’ve always found amusing at trade shows: when the show actually ends on the last day, there’s a cheer raised from the booth workers before the flurry of disassembly activity. Next time you’re at a trade show exhibit hall, try to time your visit so that you’re there when it ends. You’ll hear.
(and a tip: if you want to score free stuff, it’s the last 30 minutes of the show that are the best time to walk around and ask: most companies find it cheaper and easier to give things to potential customers than pack them and ship them back to the office)