An online community dedicated to answering your exhibiting questions

TradeShowHelp.Org header image 3

Trade Show Terminology

A dictionary of trade show terms, special words and abbreviations used in the exhibiting industry.

If you see one we missed please let us know so we can keep up with new trade show terminology.



Audio/visual support such as television monitors, VCRs, DVD’s or taped music.

A/V Contractor

A supplier of audio/visual equipment and services, monitors, projectors.

Advance Order

An order for services sent to the service contractor prior to the installation date. Compare with Floor Order.

Advance Rates

Fees associated with advance orders, which typically include discounts when paid in advance.

Advance Receiving

Location set by show management to receive freight before the start of show. Freight is stored at this location and then shipped to the show at the appropriate time. Also known as advance warehouse.


A bona fide representative with proper credentials from the party represented.

Air Freight

Goods shipped via airplane.


A walkway intended for audience movement through an exposition or exhibit.

Aisle Carpet

Carpeting installed in trade show aisles.

Aisle Signs

Signs, usually suspended, identifying exposition aisles by number or letter.


The process of erecting a trade show exhibit from its components. Also called Installation, Set Up.


See On-site.


Those persons who visit an event that are not exhibiting or connected with the event itself.



A light source that illuminates translucent material from behind.


The panels at the rear of an exhibit.

Backwall Exhibit

An exhibit that is back-to-back with another exhibit or against a building wall.


A partition designed to control light, air, sound, or traffic flow.


A suspended panel used as a decoration or a sign, usually made of fabric or paper for temporary use.

Bill of Lading (B/L)

A document that establishes the terms between a shipper and a transportation company for the transport of goods between specified points for a specified charge. Also see Air Waybill, Inland Bill of Lading, Ocean Bill of Lading, Through Bill of Lading.

Blanket Wrap

Uncrated goods covered with blankets or other protective padding and shipped via van line. Also called Pad Wrap.


A scale drawing of booth space layout, construction, and specifications.


A storage area for empty crates and contractor materials.


An area made up of one or more standard units of exhibit space.

Booth Area

The amount of floor space assigned to an exhibitor eg 10’x20′.

Booth Number

A number assigned by show management to identify an exhibitor’s floor space.

Booth Personnel

Staff members assigned by an exhibitor to work in an exhibit. Also known as booth staffers

Booth Size

The dimensions of the floor space contracted by an exhibitor. Usually sold in 10′ x 10′ increments.


The level at which a discount is given for a volume order.


C.I.F. (Cost, Insurance, Freight)

A pricing term indicating that these charges are included in the stated price.


Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing.


A skilled worker used to uncrate, install, dismantle, and recrate exhibit properties.

Carpet Tape

Double-sided tape used to adhere the edge of a carpet to the floor.


A transportation line moving freight. Usually a van line, common carrier, rail line, or air carrier. Also see Common Carrier.


(1) The fee charged for transporting freight. (2) The moving of exhibit properties over a short distance.

Certificate of Inspection

A document certifying that merchandise was in good condition immediately prior to its shipment.

Cherry Picker

Equipment used to lift people to a given height.

Clean Bill of Lading

A carrier-issued receipt indicating that transported merchandise was received in apparent good condition. Compare with Foul Bill of Lading.

Collective Agreement

A contract between an employer and a union specifying the terms and conditions for employment, the status of the union, and the process for settling disputes during the contract period. Also known as Labor Agreement, Union Contract.


A pillar in an exposition facility which supports the roof or other overhead structures. Usually shown on a floor plan as a solid square.

Commercial Invoice

An itemized list of shipped goods usually being shipped overseas.

Common Carrier

A transportation company moving people or goods. For exhibit freight, the carrier usually accepts only crated materials and consolidates the properties of several customers into one shipment bound for the same destination.


A person to whom goods are shipped.


A delivery of merchandise from an exporter (the consignor) to an agent (the consignee) under the agreement that the agent will sell the merchandise, receive a commission, and remit the net proceeds to the exporter.


A person who sends freight.


To ship freight to a central depot where several loads bound for the same destination are put together before being shipped to that destination.

Construction Drawing

A drawing which gives detailed diagrams and instructions for building an exhibit.


An individual or company that provides services or materials to a trade show and/or its exhibitors. Also see Official Contractor, Exhibitor Appointed Contractor.

Corner Booth

An exhibit space with exposure on at least two aisles.


A skilled worker who provides services at the exposition facility. Also called Labor.

Crating List

An itemized list of the contents of a crate.


An aisle at a right angle to a main aisle.

Cubic Content

Literally, length x width x height. With reference to booth space, the placement of exhibit properties at a height of 8 feet or more above the leased area. Also a measurement used in determining shipping costs for van lines.

Custom Exhibit

A display designed and built to meet the specific needs of an exhibitor.

Customhouse Broker

A person or company licensed to enter and clear goods through Customs.

CWT (Certified Weight Ticket)

A measurement for shipping exhibit materials where the total weight is rounded up to the next 100 lbs and then divided by 100; example: 760 lbs = rounded up to 800 lbs = 8 CWT.



Department of Transportation.

D.T. Labor

Double Time Labor. Work performed on overtime and charged at twice the published rate.


Doing Business As.

Damage Report

A report submitted by an exhibitor to a freight company or drayage contractor itemizing damage to shipped goods.

Dead Man

Temporary post used during installation to help support the weight of an overhead structure.

Dead Time

Time when a worker is unable to perform duties due to factors beyond his or her control.

Declared Value

A shipper’s stated dollar value for the contents of a shipment.


A company (usually contracted by show management) responsible for the labor, drayage, signage, installation, decoration and dismantling of exhibits at the show facility. Also called the Official Show Contractor.

DIM Weight

Length x width x height divided by 194 for domestic shipments, or divided by 166 for international shipments.


A catalog of basic information about the show, including exhibitors, floor plan and schedule of events. (This is also sometimes referred to as an On-site Program or Program.)


To take apart an exhibit. Also known as Take-down, Teardown.

Display Builder

A company which fabricates trade show exhibits.

Display Rules & Regulations

Exhibit construction specifications endorsed by major exhibit industry associations. Also the specific set of rules that apply to an exposition.


A platform where freight is loaded onto and removed from vehicles or vessels.


A low, wheeled frame with a platform used for carrying heavy or cumbersome objects.


A two-storied exhibit. Also known as Multiple Story Exhibit.


A craftsperson who installs drapes, fabric, and special decor.


The movement of show materials from shipping dock to booth for show set up and back to dock for return shipment at end of show.

Drayage Contractor

A company responsible for handling exhibit materials at a trade show.

Drayage Form

A form completed by an exhibitor requesting handling of materials.


Deadweight (tons of 2240 lbs.)



A stand for displaying objects.

Electrical Contractor

A company hired by show management to provide electrical services to exhibitors.


Scaled drawings depicting front and side views of an exhibit.

End Cap

An exhibit space with aisles on three sides.

Est. Wt.

Estimated Weight.

Event Marketing

Face-to-face promotional experiences between customers and companies.

Exclusive Contractor

A contractor appointed by show management as the sole provider of specified services.

Exclusive Use

The rental of a carrier’s entire cargo space by one shipper.

Exhibit Designer/Producer

Company responsible for designing and constructing exhibit booths.

Exhibit Directory

A guide for exhibition attendees which lists exhibitors and exhibit locations.

Exhibit Hall

The area(s) within an exposition center where exhibits are located.

Exhibit Manager

Person in charge of a company’s exhibit program.

Exhibitor Appointed Contractor

A contractor hired by an exhibitor to perform trade show services independently of show management appointed contractors. Also called Independent Contractor, I&D (installation & dismantle), I&D House, and EAC.

Exhibitor Services Manual

A package of information containing all rules, regulations, and forms relating to an exhibition, provided to exhibitors by show management. Also called the ESM and Exhibitor Kit


To send or transport goods out of one country for sale in another.

Export Broker

An individual or company that brings together buyers and sellers for a fee.

Export Management Company

A company that transacts manufacturers’ export business for a fee.

Export Merchant

A company that buys products directly from manufacturers, then packages the merchandise for resale under its own name.

Export Trading Company

A company that buys foreign merchandise for resale in its own local market

Exposition Manager

See Show Manager.

Exposition Rules

The set of regulations which govern a given trade show.



The construction of an exhibit.


A notation on floor plans indicating the locations of fire hose cabinets.

Fiber Optics

The use of cut glass fibers to display colored light.

Fire Exit

A door designated for emergency egress, which must be kept clear of obstructions.

Fire Lane

An aisle that must be kept clear of obstructions to allow emergency egress.

Fire Retardant

Term used to describe a finish which coats materials with a fire-resistant (not fire proof) cover.

Floor Manager

An individual representing show management who is responsible for the exhibition area.

Floor Marking

Method used to mark booth spaces.

Floor Order

Order for services placed after exhibit installation has begun. Compare with Advance Order.

Floor Plan

A map showing the size and locations of exhibit spaces.

Floor Port

A utility box recessed in the floor containing electrical, telephone, or plumbing connections.

Foam Core

Rigid foam covered with heavy paper stock used for mounting signs, art, etc.

Folding Display

A display which folds open like a folder. Sides are interconnected. Panels may be equally stacked to increase height.

Forklift, Forktruck

Motorized vehicle used to load, unload, and transport heavy items.

Foul Bill of Lading

A carrier-issued receipt indicating that transported merchandise was damaged when received. Compare with Clean Bill of Lading.

Four Hour Call

Minimum work period for which union labor must be paid.

Free Trade Zone

A port designated by the government of a country for duty-free entry of any non-prohibited goods.


Exhibit properties and other materials shipped for an exhibit.

Freight Desk

The area where inbound and outbound exhibit materials are handled at a trade show.

Freight Forwarder

A shipping company which handles export shipments for a fee.



International term referring to the “aisle”.


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. A multilateral treaty intended to reduce trade barriers between the signatory countries and to promote trade through tariff concessions.

General Contractor

Show management appointed company providing services to a trade show and/or its exhibitors. Also called Official Contractor. Compare with Exhibitor Appointed Contractor.


A photo, copy panel, or artwork applied to an exhibit.

Grid System

A network of structural members, electrical conduits, and other support systems on a pattern of centers.



General term used for an exposition facility or the exhibit area within a facility.

Hand Truck

Small hand-propelled vehicle used for transporting small loads.

Hard Card

(1) Work order for labor or services. (2) Drayage contractor’s record of materials received or shipped.

Hard Wire

Any electrical connection other than receptacle to receptacle.


A type of exhibit construction in which walls are made of a solid material, rather than fabric.


A sign or other structure across the top of an exhibit.

High Jacker

Equipment used to lift people to a given height.


International term referring to “rent” a service or product.

Hold Harmless Clause

A contract clause that relieves one party of responsibility in the event of a legal claim.



Installation & Dismantle (of an exhibit). Also known as Set Up and Take-down.


Interstate Commerce Commission.

Independent Contractor

A contractor hired by an exhibitor to perform trade show services independently of show management appointed contractors. Also called Exhibitor Appointed Contractor, EAC.


An exhibitor’s unauthorized use of floor space outside the leased booth area.

Inland Bill of Lading

A contract between a shipper and transportation company used when transporting goods overland to an exporter’s international carrier. Compare Ocean Bill of Lading, Through Bill of Lading.


An exhibit that is constructed in a continuous line along an aisle. Also called Linear Display.


The process of setting up exhibit properties according to specifications. Also called Assembly, Set Up.

Installation & Dismantle

The set up and take-down of exhibits. Also called I & D.

Installation Contractor

A company responsible for supervising and coordinating workers who install and dismantle exhibits.


Total amount of equipment available for a show.

Island Exhibit

A display with aisles on four sides.


Jigged Crate

A special-purpose crate with hardware to secure exhibit properties in place to prevent shifting during shipment.

Job Foreman

A person in charge of supervising and coordinating workers.

Junction Box

A distribution point for electrical power.


K.D. (Knockdown)

An exhibit with separate components that must be assembled on-site.


See Service Kit.



Work performed during normal work hours at the standard rate. Overtime and Double Time – work performed outside the hours specified as normal working hours and (depending on the union and/or facility) usually billed at 150% and 200% of the standard rate respectively.

Labor Call

(1) Method of securing union employees. (2) Time specified for labor to report (as in a 7 A.M. call). (3) Minimum amount for which labor must be paid.
Labor Desk
Exhibit hall location where exhibitors may place orders for labor.

Labor Form

The form used by exhibitors to order labor.


See Craftsperson.


The process of bonding two or more substances together.

Lead Recorder

A automated system used to conduct follow-up activities for sales prospects resulting from a trade show.

Less Than Truckload (LTL)

The rate charged for freight weighing less than the minimum weight for a truckload.

Letter of Credit (L/C)

A document issued by a bank at the request of a buyer of goods which authorizes the payment of a specified amount of money to the seller when certain terms are met.


A legal term referring to responsibility for damages or injuries.

Light Box

An enclosure which contains lighting underneath a translucent facing material. Used to back-light signs or graphics applied to the face.
The amount or type of illumination in an exhibit or exhibition hall.

Linear Display

An exhibit that is constructed in a continuous line along an aisle. Also called In-line.

Loading Dock

An area within an exposition facility where freight is received and shipped.


A secure storage area within an exposition facility.


A specific symbol chosen to represent a company. Usually comprised of stylized type alone or in conjunction with graphic art.

Low Voltage

A term applied to electrical currents of 24 volts or less. Usually used in animation and specialty lighting.


Machinery Handling

This includes shipments of machinery with proper lifting bars, points, hooks or skids which may be moved on or off loading dock or vehicle or show floor by forklift with no other special handling required.


See Exhibitor Service Manual.

Marshaling Yard

A lot where trucks gather for orderly dispatch to show site. Procedurally, truck drivers will check-in at a check-in trailer near the exhibit facility and are then directed to the yard to await their turn to proceed to the dock for unloading/loading.


To cover for painting or protection.

Masking Drape

A cloth used to cover storage or other unsightly areas.

Material Handling

Inclusive to the unloading of exhibit material, storing up to 30 days in advance at the warehouse, delivery to the booth, the handling of empty containers to and from storage, and removal of the material from the booth for reloading onto outbound carriers.

Material Handling Agreement (MHA)

A document that establishes the terms between a shipper and a transportation company for the transport of goods between specified points for a specified charge. Also referred to as Bill of Lading.


The most common width for an international backwall panel. (1 Meter = 39.37 inches)

Modular Exhibit

An exhibit constructed with interchangeable components designed to be set up in various arrangements and sizes.


The date specified by show management for beginning exhibit installation.


The date specified by show management for dismantling exhibits.


Combining two or more types of audio/visual support in a presentation.



Not Otherwise Herein Provided.

Net Square Footage

The total amount of leased booth space in an exposition facility (approximately one-half the Gross Square Footage, which is the total available space).



Owner’s Risk.

O.T. Labor

Work performed on overtime.

Ocean Bill of Lading

A contract between a exporter and an international carrier for transport of merchandise to a specified foreign market. Compare Inland Bill of Lading, Through Bill of Lading.

Official Contractor

Show management appointed company providing services to a trade show and/or its exhibitors. Also called General Contractor. Compare with Exhibitor Appointed Contractor.


A reference to the exhibit location. Also called At-site.

On-site Order

Floor order placed at a show site.


A designation for work performed outside the hours specified as normal working hours. Usually work performed on overtime is charged at a substantially higher rate.



Per Diem.


Packed Weight.

Packing Case

See Shipping Case.

Packing List

A document prepared by a shipper itemizing contents of shipment and including other information needed by the carrier.

Pad Wrap

See Blanket Wrap.

Padded Van Shipment

Uncrated goods covered with blankets or other protective padding and shipped via van line.


See Skid.

Panel System

A prefabricated exhibit composed of connected rectangular panels of various sizes.

Particle Board

A panel made of compressed, glued wood chips.

Peg Board

The trade name for a type of hardboard with perforations at regular intervals. Usually used for hanging items.

Peninsula Display

An exhibit with aisles on three sides.

Perimeter Booth

A booth space on a outside wall.

Pipe & Drape

Tubing covered with draped fabric to make up the rails and backwall of a trade show.


A demonstration area, usually higher than the surrounding floor.

Pop Up

A portable display which has a ‘pop up and open’ framing with attaching panels and/or graphics.

Portable Exhibit

A lightweight display unit that can be moved without a forklift.

Power Strip

A movable unit having multiple electrical outlets.


A pre-built exhibit ready for installation.

Press Kit

A package of materials put together for the media. Usually a folder containing press releases, product announcements, and other materials.

Press Release

An article submitted to the media for publication. Usually announcing news about a product, company, or individual.

Pro Forma Invoice

An invoice sent to a buyer prior to the shipment of merchandise which provides detailed information about the kinds and quantities of goods to be shipped.


(1) Exhibit Producer: An individual or company which designs and/or builds exhibits. (2) Show Producer: An individual or company which manages trade shows.


A carrier-assigned number used to designate a specific shipment.


Quad Box

Four electrical outlets in one box.



Metal or insulated rubber tubing used to channel electrical wires.


A low wall used to divide exhibits.

Rear Illumination

A technique of using a light source to illuminate a translucent image from behind. Also called Back-lighting.

Rear Projection

A video technique in which images are projected on a screen positioned between the projector and the audience.


The process of repairing or reconditioning an exhibit to extend its life span.


An electrical device used to produce programmed effects by interrupting the flow of current.

Release Forms

Forms provided by show management to permit the removal of materials from an exhibition.

Rental Booth

A complete booth package offered to exhibitors on a rental basis.

Return Panels

Side panels joined perpendicular to the backwall.


A device used to regulate lighting intensity. Also known as Dimmer Switch.


A skilled worker responsible for handling and assembly of machinery.

Right To Work State

A state where no person can be denied the right to work because of membership or non-membership in a labor union.


A platform for people or materials.


S.T. Labor

Straight Time Labor. Work performed during normal work hours at the standard rate. Compare with D.T. Labor, Overtime.

Schematic Model

A diagram in model form.

Scissors Lift

A motorized platform used to lift people to a given height.


An electric or gas cart used to transport people and materials.


Fabric which is opaque when lighted from the front and transparent when lighted from the rear.

Security Cages

Cages provided to exhibitors for locking up materials.

Self-contained Exhibit

A display which uses the shipping case as an integral part of the exhibit.

Service Desk

The location at which exhibitors order services from show management.

Service Kit

A packet of show-related information and order forms provided to exhibitors by show management. Also called Exhibitor Kit.

Set Up

The process of erecting an exhibit from its components. Also called Assembly, Installation.

Set-up Drawing

Drawings which give detailed instructions for the installation of an exhibit.

Shipping Case

A reusable container for transporting exhibit materials.

Shipping Crate

A wooden container for transporting exhibit materials, which may be designed for a single use or custom built for extended reuse.

Show Break

Time specified for the closing of an exhibition and beginning of dismantling.

Show Decorator

A company or individual responsible for providing draping, carpeting, and signage services for the trade show and its exhibitors.

Show Manager

The organizer and operator of an exposition.

Show Office

The show management office at an exposition.

Show Photographer

The show management appointed photographer for an exhibition.

Show Producer

An individual or company which manages trade shows, including leasing the exposition facility, hiring official contractors, and promoting the show.

Show Rules

The general rules and regulations governing a specific trade show.

Shrink Wrap

A process used to seal materials in transparent plastic.

Side Rail

A low divider wall, usually pipe and drape, used to divide one exhibit space from another.

Sign Standard

A frame on a stand into which a sign can be inserted for display.

Silk Screen

A method of creating graphics with a reusable stencil.


A low wooden frame used to support heavy objects or groups of materials for easier handling. Usually used as a platform for objects moved by forklift. Also called Pallet.


Decorative covering around tables and risers.


A lowered portion of a ceiling.


The area occupied by an exhibitor in the exhibition hall.

Space Rate

The cost per square foot of exhibit area.

Special Handling

Applies to exhibit shipments requiring extra labor, equipment, or time for delivery to exhibit space, such as stacked, loose pieces and side load trailers.


A lamp that provides a defined circle of light.

Staging Area

A location used for demonstrations.


Posts used to support signage or other elevated objects.


European term for booth.

Stock Exhibits

A predesigned display modified for a particular use by the exhibitor.


An individual or company retained by a general contractor to provide services.


T & M

See Time & Materials.



Table Top Display

An exhibit designed for use on the top of a table or similar surface.


An individual or company hired to work in an exhibit to greet visitors, demonstrate product, or stage a performance.

Target Date

A date set by show management for the arrival of freight at a trade show. Usually shipments received before or after this date are assessed a penalty charge.

Tariff Rates

Shipping charges for various types of cargo.


The dismantling of an exhibit. Also known as Take-down.

Telescopic Pipe

Tubing in which one section slides inside another. Used to support drapes.


Freight handling or dock area.

Three Wire

Electrical cable with a continuous ground wire in addition to a positive and a negative wire.

Time & Materials

A form of billing in which a consumer is charged for labor costs (time) and materials.

Tow Motor

See Forklift.

Trade Fair

Broadly used as the international term for an exposition.

Trade Show

An exposition related to a particular industry or group, and open only to the members of that group.

Traffic Flow

The movement of visitors through an exposition or exhibit.

Transient Space

Short-term rental space.


A rigid framework, as of wooden beams or metal bars, designed to support a structure, such as a roof. Displays are aluminum and steel truss display Framework.

Turnkey Packages

Pre-arranged booth packages which offer an additional discount on decorator materials including furnishings and exhibit displays.

Twist Lock

A type of electrical plug that connects by twisting together.



Underwriters Laboratory. An organization which grants electrical ratings.


U.S. Standard Gauge.




An organization of workers formed with the purpose of protecting workers’ rights and increasing bargaining power with an employer on such issues as wages, hours, and benefits.

Union Steward

An on-site union official elected by coworkers to oversee a particular union’s work in a facility and resolve any disputes over union jurisdiction. Also known as Shop Steward.



Value Added Tax. A tax that has been added to the overall price of a product reflecting the value added to the product by processing.


An overhead banner typically used as a light baffle.


The trade name for a fabric closure with two components: hooks and loops. The two components adhere when pressed together and separate when pulled apart, allowing repeated use.





A construction product used for panels which are temporary.

Warehouse Receipt

A receipt issued by a warehouse for goods received for storage.

Waste Removal

The removal of trash from an area or building.


A charge assessed for handling cargo at a pier.

Work Rules

Regulations that specify the conditions of a craftsperson’s labor, including work hours and pay structure.

Work Time

The period of paid time which begins when craftspersons are turned over to an exhibitor and ends when they are released by the exhibitor.







The booth two hours before the show opens!

TradeShowHelp.orgAnswers For Exhibitors

An online community of trade show exhibitor, event planners and anyone wanting to know more about trade shows