5 Types Of Trade Show Contractors

Running a successful trade show can only happen when everyone involved understands the unique role they play and the roles of everyone else involved. It’s important that you recognize who the players are and what they do.

If you are slow to get acclimated, you could end up with a lot of confusion.

When tasks aren’t clearly designated to a specific person, work can overlap or get overlooked altogether.

Things can get very messy, and quick.

Need a Contractor?

What’s in a name? In this industry everything, Shakespeare.

Hiring a contractor sounds simple enough but in the trade show industry, there are many different types of contractors that all sound similar, but each one has unique responsibilities that set them apart from the rest.

And just to shake things up, sometimes their roles change from show to show.

But don’t panic. You’ve got this.

By the end of this, you should have a clear grasp of the distinctions between the different types of exhibition contractors and know who to hire for what tasks.

Rookie mistakes? Not here.

Contractor ABC’s

General Service Contractor (GSC)

A General Service Contractor is a contractor that has been hired by the trade show coordinator to handle a majority of the essential logistics. Not only is a GSC put in charge of setting up and tearing down the physical aspects of the show, but they also have a myriad of other responsibilities that come with producing a show, such as…

  • Conducting an inspection of the show venue, making note of any obstacles or problems that will need to be taken into consideration when planning a layout.
  • Creating show-floor layouts that take the following into consideration: locations of entrances, utilities, freight access, exhibit installations, food vendors, and registration booths.
  • Freight loading/unloading, storage, and the management of the docks/marshaling yard.
  • Supply all equipment needed for the installation of exhibits and the teardown including, forklifts, ladders, high lifts, and dollies.
  • May hire subcontractors for physical labor.
  • Install and maintain aisle carpet.
  • Provide furniture for offices, lounge areas, etc.
  • Hang up signs including overhead exhibit, aisle, and hall.
  • Decorate the hall: pipe and drape, hiding unsightly wiring, putting up registration tables, welcome banners.

Official Contractor

Suppliers or service providers that have been chosen by the general service contractor are known as official contractors. Don’t let the title be deceiving…a trade show coordinator can choose any supplier or specialty provider that they want (but they might have services at a discounted price, so always check).

Services and supplies that an official contractor might provide can include any of the following…

  • Floral or Plant decorations
  • Audio/visual
  • Technology (such as interactive screen displays or virtual reality)
  • Security providers (monitor attendee data and registration)
  • Travel and hotel
  • Videography and photography
  • Furniture rental if not provided by GSC

Exhibitor-Appointed Contractor (EAC)

An exhibitor-appointed contractor is an outside subcontractor that has been hired by an exhibitor to help with booth installation and dismantling, as well as other non-exclusive services they might need during and after the show.

If an exhibitor chooses to appoint their own independent contractor, then they must notify the show coordinator and GSC of their intentions. There is a process that must be followed including filling out forms and providing proof of insurance coverage. There are deadlines that must be met during the notification process. Failure to do so will result in an exhibitor using products and services provided by the already appointed GSC and official contractors.

Exclusive Contractor

Exclusive contractors are not appointed by an exhibitor or contracted by a show coordinator, but by the facility. These facilities like to offer a one-stop-shop solution for trade show managers, making the job of selecting a service partner a little easier.

Facilities will choose an exclusive, general service contractor that trade show managers need to use if they are going to have their event in that facility. This means that everything is handled by the exclusive contractor. Decorating, freight management, booth setup, and exhibit hall needs will be handled by the exclusive contractor. It’s important to note the exclusive contractor and contract rules in your communication with your exhibitors.

This can be a win for trade show managers as the exclusive contractor will know the floor layout and be able to assist a show manager with ideas for the specific venue. In return, some facilities may see a small referral payment from their exclusive contractor. Make sure you research and investigate your potential exclusive contractor before signing the agreement with the facility.

Preferred Contractor

Similar to an exclusive contractor, these contractors are typically the in-house contractor of choice for a facility. A trade show organizer is not bound to using them if they host an event in their facility. However, like an exclusive contractor, they are very familiar with the space and know any pain points of a facility and how to work around them. Working with a preferred contractor for a facility might also help your event’s bottom line as they may offer pricing incentives or have partnerships with the local labor force.

While an exclusive contractor is like an arranged marriage, a preferred contractor is more like a blind date. Maybe you’ll get along, maybe not, but you can choose for yourself if you want to pursue a relationship with them.

Speaking the Language

Hopefully, this will ease any confusion or stress you may have had about the contractor selection process. Understanding the differences can save you time and resources on your next event by knowing who the players are and how they fit into the overall show picture. Good Luck!