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AKTIV > Services > Exhibit Design > Trade shows in the U.S.

Booth Construction in North America

„Trade Shows“ and „Conventions“ in the U.S. came about in a much different manner than those in Europe and have developed differently as well. Whereas especially in Germany, trade shows have developed through a long transition of the markets, in North America, professional conferences sponsored by the trade associations formed the basis. Over time, small accompanying exhibitions grew into important, major trade shows - a process that is still ongoing.

The range of trade shows is enormous - according to various estimates, there are between 5,000 and 13,000 trade shows and exhibitions per year in the U.S. And yet, the actual net exhibition space is extremely small - some can be as small as 500 square meters (app. 5,400 square feet). But for certain specialized topics, such a small event is sufficient to enter the market. As a result, the exhibitor must accept the fact that in the U.S. often times the small to middle-sized trade shows are the shows that will attract an important target group bringing with it the possibility of success.

In some areas there is also a division between the East and West Coasts. And some events change their location every year.

But nothing is more constant than change itself. This applies especially to trade shows in the U.S. Trade shows that in the past have been purely “Pipe and Drape“ events, can grow into large important industry gatherings in just a few years - others, however, may lose their importance, perhaps even disappear altogether.

The growth of certain trade shows in the U.S. is a direct result of increased international interest bringing with it a high degree of foreign participation - companies that through their presence hope to substantially improve their image - a goal that can be reached if optimally implemented.

In doing so, it is important when planning for a trade show booth in the U.S. to consider certain particularities and to include them in the budget.

The trade show booth rental fee is just one factor. How high the amount is often determined by the importance of the trade show. It is also necessary to know the manner in which the spaces will be assigned and how they are allocated. Generally, during the planning stage there is a floor plan where all trade show spaces are outlined including their measurements. These are specifically chosen - whereby, the procedure can vary from show to show. In many cases, for example, exhibitors who have already participated in past events may have staggered privileges - determined by the number of past shows and/or the size of the rented spaces. It is also possible that especially sought after spaces may only be offered with an additional premium surcharge or may be reserved for only those exhibitors willing to purchase a sponsor package. Regardless, one thing is for sure - the sooner you book, the better.

A trade-show booth in the U.S. (with a few exceptions) can generally be booked in increments of 10 x 10 feet (10 feet = approx. 3.05 meters). The 10 x 10 version being the smallest. Booths with a maximum depth of 10 feet are generally limited to an overall height of 8 feet (approx. 2.44 meters). Only when booking a "Peninsula" or "Island" starting at 20 x 20 feet is it possible to have flexibility of design in the overall height of the booth. Special rules are applied to "Perimeter Booths" - booths located on the sides of the hall.

The fact that all measurements are in feet and inches is quite different compared to most of the rest of the world - which can quickly become a problem if one wants to simply send an existing stand to a U.S. trade show.

It is relatively easy to calculate when assuming that 10 feet are approximately 3 meters - in many instances, however, major mistakes can be made. Forty feet for example, are not 12, but 12.192 meters - almost 20 centimeters more. A carpet brought from Europe, measuring 4 meters in width, will not reach the edge of the booth. It is very important, however, that the carpeting reach the edge of the booth as the organizers often line the aisles with their own carpeting right up to the booth's edge - a gap does not look very nice and in the U.S. may lead to an insurance problem.

An additional difficulty in the U.S. is that the electric cables needed for the booth are almost always hidden under the carpeting. Therefore an additional padding is required to be installed underneath the carpet in order to even out the surface. Not every carpet is compatible. A raised floor is also not a good idea as people may trip. If an accident were to occur, this can lead to extremely high insurance claims.

There is an additional, important difference to be noted when discussing electrical requirements: the normal voltage in the U.S. is 110 volts at 60 Hz - compared to Europe with 220 volts at 50 Hz. It is, therefore, not possible to run certain devices without a transformer. Differences also exist with extension cords, cable cross-sections, distribution and performance calculations.

Furthermore, the regulations for a trade show booth in the U.S. can differ considerably from one convention center to another. These are often influenced by the unions, which in some regions are very large. Thus in many trade show contracts it is clearly specified which occupational group is to be employed for a particular job and when overtime rates are to be paid.

Two other key points cannot be left out as they differ greatly when compared to European locations: drayage and catering.

Drayage is the handling and transport of materials. The fees are calculated using CWT (price per 100 lbs). They include the offloading of the container, the transport from the loading ramp to the trade show booth, the storage of the empties during the event, return to the booth and later the final loading. Often times the fees will also include guidance systems and aisle carpets. As a result, it is sometimes the case that minimum fees are to be paid. Unfortunately, due to the highly mechanical loads, it is impossible to do without sturdy crates when transporting the products - but, if a "lighter" booth construction is employed, costs can be reduced substantially. Additionally, it is important that the shipment not consist of many single deliveries as each delivery is calculated anew and rounded to the next CWT unit.

In regard to catering the booth, there are generally very strict rules to be followed. There is normally only one licensee from whom all catering needs must be ordered. A gray zone exists when providing staff with coffee, soft drinks and snacks. Alcohol at the booth can only be served by a licensed barkeeper. And yet, one is generally not limited to only the menu offerings of the licensee - if a unique theme or promotion is desired, and the supplier cannot provide the necessary products, then it is also possible to have them delivered from outside. The licensee caterer, however, must perform the serving and distribution of any food or drink at the booth. He will also be responsible for the final billing. Therefore, it is very important that all catering for customers is meticulously planned and coordinated in advance.

Some exhibitors find themselves in despair when they see the Exhibitor Manuals - sometimes a few hundred pages thick with deadlines, target days in addition to countless order forms for everything from material handling, the electrician, the carpenter and the rigger to card retrieval, EAC or the requested insurance policy and payment form - to include a credit card guarantee which can reach some rather high sums.

And this is not our only strength. As a service provider with over 30 years of trade show and trade show stand experience in the U.S., we have all planning and implementation requirements firmly in our grasp. This does not necessarily mean that trade show participation will be considerably less expensive - but safer and more efficient. It is, therefore, extremely important for us to discuss the objectives and wishes with the customer in a timely manner - in this way we can provide an optimally prepared trade show stand for any venue where the event is taking place.

Pipe & Drape - the name stems from the fact that smaller trade show booths in the U.S. are often divided by cloth drapes, which hang from a piping system that has been installed by the organizer. When this is the case, many exhibitors simply bring a foldaway display system - and the booth is finished.

Las Vegas • not only our trade show venue in the U.S.

Las Vegas is not home to the largest exhibition center in the U.S. - but three of its exhibition centers are included in the U.S. Top 15 list and together account for a gross hall space of over 400,000 square meters (4,3 million square feet). Approximately 20 smaller sites with up to 10,000 square meters (approx. 107,500 square feet) of hall space each and hotels are also available - most recently supplemented by the new City Center and the Cosmopolitan. As a result, the city has the largest and most flexible exhibition space on offer in the United States - for any event. This, combined with an immense hotel capacity, forms the basis for the innumerable conventions and trade shows that take place here. It is also the reason why Las Vegas has such a high concentration of the largest trade shows.

We have been at home in these exhibition centers for over 30 years. With our trade show warehouse and workshop in Las Vegas and our local partners, we know and understand how to get the job accomplished - but not only here. From our office in Las Vegas we realize any trade show booth throughout North America - from the West Coast to the East Coast - from Canada to Mexico.

Talk to us. We look forward to getting AKTIV for you.


List of the 20 largest exhibition centers in the U.S.

McCormick Place


Chicago, IL


250.840 sqm

Orange County Convention Center


Orlando, FL


235.930 sqm

Las Vegas Convention Center


Las Vegas, NV


200.410 sqm

Georgia World Congress Center


Atlanta, GA


155.480 sqm

New Orleans Morial Convention Center


New Orleans, LA


140.170 sqm

Sands Expo and Convention Center


Las Vegas, NV


123.260 sqm

Dallas Convention Center


Dallas / Ft. Worth, TX


103.710 sqm

The Moscone Center


San Francisco, CA


96.430 sqm

Phoenix Convention Center


Phoenix, AZ


95.605 sqm

George R. Brown Convention Center


Houston, TX


93.550 sqm

Mandalay Bay Convention Center


Las Vegas, NV


86.870 sqm

Donald E. Stephens Convention Center


Rosemont, IL


81.660 sqm

Cobo Conference and Exhibition Center


MI - Detroit


80.455 sqm

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center


New York, NY


78.480 sqm

Anaheim Convention Center


Anaheim, CA


75.715 sqm

San Diego Convention Center


San Diego, CA


75.625 sqm

The Colorado Convention Center


Denver, CO


72.965 sqm

America's Center


St. Louis, MO


72.580 sqm

Los Angeles Convention Center


Los Angeles, CA


66.890 sqm

Boston Convention & Exhibition Center


Boston, MA


66.220 sqm

*Gross hall space according to data published in Destination Guide, Tradeshow Week and the individual Convention Center websites - calculated from square feet to square meters and rounded.

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