Different Types of Exhibition Companies

Here is a guide that will help you categorise who looks after what in the exhibition industry!

The exhibition industry is a combination of different companies, each specialising in a particular service. All the popular events are hosted in large venues such as Sydney ICC and MCEC, then you have the event organisers that manage each event to make sure it runs smoothly. You could be in contact with a range of suppliers who can ultimately get the job done, some will outsource a particular scope out to others. As an exhibitor, it is very useful to understand the following types of exhibitions companies which includes exhibition head contractor, exhibition stand builder, design agency and niche service providers. Each can get you a similar end-result, but the price you pay will vary because different companies will outsource different scope. We hope to help you wrap your head around this so you can be in the position to make the make the right choice for your business!

Venue

The popular events are usually hosted in large venues such as Sydney ICC and MCEC – the venue is selected and booked by the event organiser well in advance to ensure there is sufficient time for all exhibitors to book their booth spaces in. The venue will have typical facilities such as toilets and large spaces for people to gather and network, it can also offer services which can only come directly out of the venue such as wired internet services, electricity, plumbing, catering, stand cleaning, rigging and any onsite emergency support etc. For certain services, only exhibition head contractor and niche service providers will have a contract with the venue to offer these services to exhibitors – then the exhibitors book these services through them. Services that can directly be arranged with the venue include wired internet services, catering services and stand cleaning.  

 

Examples of Venues: ICC Sydney, MCEC, BCEC etc.

Event Organiser

The event organiser looks after all the event marketing and operational side of things and one of their sales representatives will be the person you would speak when you’d like to book a booth space at an event. They will be able to provide you all the different booth price packages, most of the time it will either be a standard shell scheme booth package or a space only (where you’ll need to engage a stand builder to execute the design and booth build). The event organiser also is the primary contact between the venue, onsite event logistics, head contractor and any niche service providers that may apply to each event, and one of their key roles are to make sure everything is runs smoothly leading towards the event, during the event and after the event (bump in, bump out, loading dock access for head contractor and custom stand builders etc).

 

Examples of Event Organisers: Informa, Diversified Communications, Exhibitions & Events Australia etc.

Exhibition Head Contractor

The exhibition head contractor looks after the bulk of the physical scope for the event organiser, each event is different so the scope could vary, but in general they would look after install and dismantle of shell scheme booths, hired equipment and electricity. The head contractor can also look after custom booths if you prefer to only deal with one supplier throughout the whole event – but it is useful to understand that most of the time they will be outsourcing any custom work to third parties such as stand builders (which means you would be paying more than what you need to). Due to the large scope of the exhibition head contractor, they would get early access to the venue to ensure there is sufficient time for them to complete the bulk of their scope, you can view it as rather than managing a single booth space, they need to look after whole venue as a complete package. 

 

Examples Exhibition Head Contractors: Harry The Hirer, ExpoNet, Moreton Hire etc.

Shell Scheme Booths

Due to the efficient cost of shell scheme booths, this option is desirable for first time exhibitors who are just entering into the market (just wanting to see what it’s like). All shell scheme booths are built in the same manner, out of aluminium frames with panel inserts and the only areas where you can have your own branding is the fascia panels and walls panels. These booths are typically grouped together and depending on the event it can make up 20-30% of the booth types. This bulk build package is handled by the exhibition head contractor who is responsible to make sure these shell scheme booths are built correctly and have access to electricity and hired items as required by each exhibitor.

 

Hired Equipment

Hired equipment includes furniture, flooring, lighting and even audio visual – these can all be arranged directly with the exhibition head contractor. In a way, it can be convenient to arrange it through them because they will have onsite support, but it is useful to consider other third parties who can offer the same thing and most likely at a more competitive rate. With hired equipment you are not paying for something that is brand new, therefore if you are after brand new it may work out cheaper to purchase it yourself then look after the logistics of how it gets to the venue and back. Going through the head contractor is purely for convenience to minimise the amount of project management required to get things done.

 

Electricity

When it comes to electricity, there is only one method to arrange this, and it is directly with the head contractor. The exhibition head contractor has a contract with the venue (where the source of power is coming from) and to ensure all electricity is handled safely and appropriately this can only be looked after by one company which will be the head contractor. Electricity can be a very sensitive component of exhibition; one wrong move could affect the whole event. They will be able to supply whatever power is required for your booth and products to operate, but this needs to be booked in advance, otherwise you could be stung with a late fee or shortage of electrical equipment etc.

Exhibition Stand Builder

For all your custom stand needs, you should consider the exhibition stand builder as your primary contact. They can look after the design, fabrication, and onsite construction of your booth. In a way, you can view the stand builder as the head contractor for your booth space (rather than the whole venue). Depending on your requirements, a stand builder has the capacity to arrange everything that is required to complete your custom booth – everything from design to the final touches before your booth to make sure its show-ready. Some examples that stand builders can cover are hired items, signage, project management to make sure all scope and services are aligned for an on-time booth completion. 

 

Examples of Exhibition Stand Builders: UCON Exhibitions

Design

Stand builders have direct knowledge of how much things cost, and the labour involved to make things happen, therefore if you have a certain budget you need to fit your project into it would make sense to have a chat with your stand builder to see what they can offer. Certain stand builders will have their own design department, so do not assume that you will only get standard designs – it is important that as the exhibitor you communicate everything that is important to your business and brand and any “must haves” you want in your booth, this way the design department can frame their proposal based on your requirements.

 

Fabrication

Fabrication is where your booth transitions from a drawing to physical components, it requires an agreement between you and the stand builder on how you want your final product to look like – this is done through production drawing approval (dimensions, finishes, materials etc). Once approved, the appropriate materials will have to be ordered and builders briefed on what the scope and priorities are. Different stand builders will have different machinery in their factory, which means the fabrication method will differ but can ultimately achieve a similar effect as an end-product, this may also explain the difference in costs between different stand builders (one may rely on heavy manual labour while the other may rely on machine operational costs etc). If you are after something which is custom and built to suit your branding and product display – then get in contact with a stand builder to get started, you do not want to leave it last minute!

 

Construction

The construction scope refers to all onsite work (installation and dismantle of your booth). Your stand builder will make arrangements with the venue to get a slot for bump in and bump out, transport your stand components at the allocated time and have all the tools and manpower required to complete the installation of your booth. Some stand builders may choose to preassemble your booth at their own factory just to make sure there won’t be any hiccups onsite to ensure everything is completed in time. To ensure there are no delays on site, it is highly recommended that you and your stand builder are fully aware whether there are any electrical, plumbing or wire internet cables applicable to your booth as these will have to be laid out on the floor prior to assembling the flooring.  

Design Agency

As the name suggest, design agencies main focus is on design, and they are experts in graphic design and creating purposeful marketing materials. If impactful branding and unique custom booth designs are what you are after, then you could look into this option. Since they are an agency and do not build, they will be outsourcing the fabrication and construction scope to a stand builder – which means based on their pricing structure you may be paying more to get the end-product. The upsides of cooperating with a design agency are that they will focus on your brand and are able to guide and create purposeful artwork to reflect your business to make it stand out. The stand builder will take the design agency’s stand design and make slight modifications to make it as buildable as possible then will provide artwork dimensions to the design agency so they can make sure your brand is positioned for maximum impact.   

 

Examples of Design Agencies: Best Case Scenario, Sussex Australasia, Campaign Architecture etc

Conceptual Stand Design

This involves working out the overall look and feel of the stand, making sure the big picture idea is represented in the design and agreed upon so that there is a clear direction to move towards. Design agencies may not have as much construction background knowledge, therefore there is a chance that their ideas may not be the most cost-effective way to build your stand. The stand builder can take these conceptual drawings and make slight modifications to reduce costs so that your booth will still have maximum impact as per conceptual designs from the design agency. For some, getting to a point where they are happy with the overall design is a big hurdle (may require design expertise to get it right), that is where approaching a design agency may be the right pathway for you.

 

Graphic design

Graphic design plays a massive part of your branding, it gives you the flexibility to create something super minimalistic to something that is full on complex sci-fi. Depending on your booth design, you may have huge empty walls which will need some sort of artwork to capture the attention of the crowd and the best way appear professional is to integrate the artwork so that it seamlessly works with the structure of the booth. You could go as far as making artwork that flows from the flooring to the walls to the ceiling, and to get this right it, design agencies would have the experience and knowledge to guide you in the right direction.

 

Marketing materials

Marketing materials are usually in the form of brochures, promotional products, and any type of print outs – having attractive looking designs will increase audience engagement and brand awareness. These are things that you can give to you visitors as they enter the stand and express their interest in your product/service. If your marketing material is boring it will serve no purpose and most likely would just be thrown away, therefore a well-designed marketing material would be much more effective in promoting the key features and it can keep some customers occupied while they wait for you – make sure the information you put on these are relevant to the type of audience you are expecting to visit the event. 

Niche Service Providers

There are several services that providers that operate specific roles in the exhibition industry, mainly because those services are more complex and requires expertise to ensure everything runs smoothly. Examples of niche services providers we will discuss are audio visual, rigging, onsite logistics and plumbing. These are usually booked separately and are cost you’ll need to consider if you require those specific services to operate your booth. It is also important to keep the stand builders in the loop because these will affect the build schedule and if one service provider is held back, it could hold back the whole booth build – this is not something you’d want to be dealing with, especially if you need the booth to be complete before you can position your products etc.

AV

Audio visual are items such as TV’s, touchscreens, LED video walls, iPads, laptops, speakers, projectors etc. To make these easy for exhibitors, AV companies will offer these as hired and they will look after the delivery of the items to your booth and collection after the event. It is recommended that if you are using touchscreens or more complex AV equipment, you should also include technical support if any issues arise during the event. If suddenly part of your AV equipment stops working, it creates a negative impression for you because it would look like you as the exhibitor are unprepared and unprofessional which may differ some customers from approaching your stand.

 

Examples AV providers: Microhire, Hire Intelligence, Blue Shadow Group etc.

 

Rigging

Rigging is for any suspended items in the air, this includes hanging banners, lighting and other architectural elements etc. Anything suspended will generally be connected to trusses to ensure they are safe and stable in the air. If you are looking to use rigging on your booth, be prepared to pay for it because they don’t come cheap. Regarding scheduling, you would most likely try to get whatever you want hung to be done first because you’ll need a nice flat area to assemble you hanging banner. Is a hanging banner worth the additional cost? For a first-time exhibitor, probably not – but if you are a large company and making a presence at an exhibition then you may want to consider this.    

 

Examples Rigging providers: Clifton Productions, Get Rigged, Pollard Productions etc.

 

Onsite Logistics

To get access into the loading dock, you will need to be in contact with an onsite logistics company – this is usually one company which looks after everything that goes in and out of the loading dock and they will have a schedule for this. They also provide onsite forklift and storage services; your booth will mostly likely come on pallets, and you will need to book forklift services in so they can unload your truck and move your pallet to your booth space. After the build is complete, you can choose to store the empty pallets onsite/offsite with the onsite logistics company (either that or you take the empty pallets back to the factory and back for bump out). It will generally work out more cost effective to just store it with the onsite logistics company.

 

Examples: Agility, DB Schenker, Gel Events etc.

 

Plumbing

If your booth requires water connection, then you’d need to get in touch with a plumber who specialises in exhibitions. They can supply you all your plumbing needs and even hire self-contained units for you to use (cost apply). To maintain a professional look to your stand you’d want to make sure you have raised flooring and a clearance of 40mm so you can hide all the pipes under the floor. Plumbing services are commonly used at large food exhibitions where exhibitors connect to their products for live demonstrations.

 

 Examples of Plumbing providers: F Wood & Son Plumbing

Diagram showing the different pathways an Exhibitor can take to get an Expo Booth

Conclusion:

Exhibitions require the management and collaboration of several companies to ensure everything falls into place. As an exhibitor, there are several pathways you could take – the most convenient (often most expensive) is to go through the head contractor for all your needs and they can arrange everything, another option to go through a design agency that can elevate your brand graphics and stand design or the most cost efficient is to go through the stand builder directly (often the most cost efficient) – it will all come down to what your core goals are. UCON Exhibitions is a hybrid company with an established supply network that can handle pretty much everything for you, from design to construction – why not reach out and have a chat?   

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