Drayage? What’s a Drayage?: Breaking Down the Jargon of the Exhibit Industry

Like any industry, the exhibit industry is graced with terms and phrases specific to the industry itself.  These terms can be confusing to an outsider, so I’ve noted a few common terms for both the show site and for your trade show exhibit company to help navigate through the jargon.

Show Site Terms:

Advanced Rates:  These are any fees associated with services ordered in advanced of the deadline date.  These are discounted costs, and can save you a few extra dollars.  Rule of thumb: Try not to order anything at the show as these costs go up substantially.

Drayage (Also called “Material Handling”):  The shipment facility and service associated with shipping your components into a warehouse facility prior to the show.  This also includes the handling of your materials from the warehouse to the convention center.  Check the show kit to gauge the cost differences between shipping to drayage or advance to show.  Note that certain items, such as hanging signs, will need to go into drayage.

Direct Shipping:  Shipping your booth components directly to the convention center, as opposed to going into drayage.  As with drayage, note the cost differences and see which works best for you.  If you need a bit of extra time for construction or shipping of product/literature, direct shipping is perfect for you.

Exclusive Contractor:  A contractor appointed by show management as the exclusive provider of this service/product.  Exclusive contractors are highlighted in the show kit.

Exhibitor Appointed Contractor (EAC):  A service provider appointed by the exhibit company other than the show exclusive contractor.  An EAC form must be submitted, in advance, to use an outside contractor.

Installation and Dismantling (I&D): The set-up and take down of exhibit elements.  Also called set-up and tear-down (or knock-down.)


Hanging Sign: A dimensional sign that hangs above your exhibit to help attendees locate your booth.  It is common practice for an attendee to look up as soon as they enter a hall, as this is where the aisle signs are.  This is a perfect way for attendees to find your booth space.


Move-In: The date specified by show management when installation can begin on an exhibit.  Make note of your move-in date, there may be penalties involved for moving in before or after this specific date.

Move-Out: The date specified by show management when the dismantling can begin.

Show Services: The services needed for the duration of a trade show such as material handling, booth cleaning, electrical, internet and I&D.  Make note of the show service deadlines and price breaks for advanced orders.

Special Handling: Any shipment that requires extra labor, equipment or time for delivery to the exhibit space.  Check with your exhibit company to ensure all items will receive standard handling, as special handling is often a non-budgeted cost.

Subcontractor: A company contracted by your exhibit company to provide specific services not offered internally.  Talk to your exhibit company about how they handle sub-contractors and what fees/mark-ups are passed on to you for these services.

Target Date: A date established by show management for the arrival of all freight for a particular show.  Make note of this date and ensure you hit your target date, as fees will be associated for going off target.

Exhibit House Terms:

Backwall Exhibit:  Any tradeshow exhibit that is back-to-back with another exhibit, or against an existing building wall.  Rule of thumb: Check your show’s rules and regulations for height requirements, these can vary from show to show.

Check-In: A service provided by a tradeshow exhibit company to inspect an existing booth upon the return of a show, checking for damages and to ensure all pieces have returned from the show.

Check-Out:  A service provided by a tradeshow exhibit company to inspect an existing booth prior to ship for damages and to ensure all pieces are accounted for.

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Machine: A machine that is driven by a computer to route specific cuts into materials (such as wood, metal, etc.).

Corner Booth:  A trade show booth with at least one open side.

Custom Trade Show Exhibit: A display designed and built to the exact specifications of the exhibitor.

Custom Rental Exhibit: A display designed and built to the exact specifications of the exhibitor, but rented, as opposed to purchased.

Elevations: Computer-Aided Drawings (CAD) showing a scaled view of your exhibit from various angles.

Fabrication: The construction of a custom trade show display.

Hardwall Exhibit:  A type of trade show booth where the exhibit is made up of solid material walls, as opposed to fabric or portable exhibit components.

In-line (also called linear): An exhibit that is constructed as one continuous line along the aisle.


Jigged Crate: A custom crate built specifically to hold exhibit elements firmly in place to eliminate shifting and damage during shipping.

Modular Exhibit: An exhibit designed and built to have interchangeable components that conform to various sizes and configurations.

Peninsular Display: An exhibit that is open on three sides.


Pipe & Drape: Show supplied fabric drape to make up a backwall and rails of an exhibit space.

Portable exhibit: A lightweight display that can easily be installed and can be shipped via a common carrier.

Prefab exhibit: An exhibit that is already constructed.

Handle In: the service of taking exhibit materials off the truck and returning to inventory.

Handle Out: The service of prepping ship exhibit materials for shipping.

Return Panels: side panels joined to the exhibit’s backwall.

Side Rail: a low dividing wall used to separate one exhibit from another.

Skid: a wooden frame used to transport heavy objects via forklift.

While these are only a handful of the terms, they will certainly help get you on your way to fully understanding the intricate, yet exciting, world of conventions and exhibits.  Don’t hesitate to talk to your trade show exhibit company for further explanation or clarification on any of the above items.  They will provide the insight needed to ensure you are exhibit in the most effective and efficient way possible.

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