[Podcast] Easing the Blow of Unionized Labor By Better Communication With Your Exhibitors

Life is full of weighing the good with the bad and analyzing the benefits versus the costs.
It’s a constant series of trade-offs.
Let me give you a scenario…

As a Show Manager, you have done your research and as a result, found the best host city for your show.

And the venue is to-die-for good.

There is, however, one snag in your plan that was going so well until now.

Your show is to be hosted in a union-only town leaving you no option but to embrace union labor.

It is what it is (you can check out this past post of mine about how to deal with union labor).

After all, this is where your core customers live as well as the customers of your exhibitors.

The show must go on.

A question that often arises from this scenario is this: how do you handle exhibitors that are concerned about the extra cost and red tape that comes with a union show?

You prepare them ahead of time so there are no surprises.

Stress-Free Zone

Exhibiting at a show can be stressful, especially for first-timers.

While we don’t want our exhibitors to get bogged down with all the minutia of regulations, it’s important that you educate them on what matters to them, like cost and how to navigate it.

Be Upfront

In my experience, exhibitors often forget to take labor into account before they come up with their show budget instead focusing on the booth materials and design.

This is where you enlighten them.

I suggest collaborating with your GSC to help explain the unexpected costs of union labor to exhibitors.

Spell out for your exhibitors exactly what and where the union labor will need to be used.

Be upfront when it comes to telling exhibitors how much it’s going to cost by showing them the total that includes all the labor expenses that will incur during setup and tear down.

We all want to know exactly what we are getting ourselves into before we commit, and so do your exhibitors – once they sign the paperwork it’s your job to hold them accountable.

The more you can help them plan in advance, the less stressed out they will be on the big day.

Cost vs Value

Let’s get realistic for a minute.

We all know that exhibitors are scoping out the competition to see who can offer them a better deal – I know I would.

If competing shows don’t have to use union labor you’ll have to work a little extra to prove to your exhibitors that they will see a return on their investment if they choose you.

Help them to understand that yes, while it may be cheaper for them to go with your competitor, your show isn’t some bargain basement event, it’s a premium show that offers a higher ROI than others.

Ways to Save

There are ways exhibitors can save despite added union labor costs.

For example, encourage them to plan booths that are more modular in design that will be easier and more cost-effective to set up. It also pays off to keep lighting simple. If it doesn’t require a ladder or special tools then they shouldn’t have to pay union contractors to install it.

I always suggest having your GSC host a webinar before the show to educate your exhibitors on how to save money and what rules they need to adhere to.

A webinar gives exhibitors an opportunity to ask questions in return and gain a better understanding of what to expect.

Educate Your Staff

I’m sorry to say this, but your sales team isn’t off the hook on this one…they need an educational session or two on how union labor affects the bottom line.

They aren’t always aware of the pains and costs that exhibitors deal with and teaching them is necessary to get everyone on the same page.

Again, we want no surprises.


It can be frustrating when I don’t feel like I’ve been properly equipped to handle something.

I imagine the feeling is universally felt when something feels like it’s been hidden.

When you are fully transparent with your exhibitors about what they can expect when it comes to having a show on union turf, you are preparing them for a successful presentation.