Written by: Natalie Relf
Monday, January 14, 2013
Not all contractors are created equal when it comes to installation and dismantle (I&D) services. And although all contractors are focused on providing a seamless experience for exhibitors, there are decided pros and cons depending on which type of service provider is used.
Exhibitor appointed contractors (EAC) specialize in exhibit-building services, and general contractors (GC) with I&D divisions have the resources to make all aspects of production convenient. The decision on which to choose to best suit the exhibitor's needs can be tricky without the facts.
“There are hundreds of EACs available with a vast array of levels of service, offerings and accountability,” said Linda Lizardi Rubin, CEM, director of exhibit solutions and services, Shepard Exposition Services. “Exhibitors need to understand their specific program to best determine who would be the best vendor fit, whether an EAC or the show official service contractor.”
With so many alternatives available, exhibitors need to take a comprehensive look at their options. According to Aaron Bludworth, president and CEO of Fern Exposition and Event Services, the selection process involves numerous factors, and when an EAC is also the show's official service contractor, there are some distinct logistical advantages.
“These differentiators, in many cases, include nationwide operations with local warehousing and full-time personnel, advanced access to show site, tighter coordination with the delivery of contractor provided services, and other natural efficiencies that come from having a single provider for numerous services,” said Bludworth.
Other considerations consist of the GC's ability to provide a wide variety of rental exhibit options, because of large inventories of equipment, and the creation of turnkey packages, which include all contractor-provided services.
Another distinct advantage to using a GC is their capability to facilitate a set-up before the client arrives. Larger shows with targeted move-in dates can delay an EAC, whether the exhibitor is there or not. The GC has the ability to complete a booth set according to their specifications and time constraints because they control all aspects of logistics.
“The booth can be handled as a priority and will be available and show-ready at the beginning of the exhibitor move-in,” said Rubin. “The official service contractor has been selected by the show organizer to provide services to their show. So the exhibitor can be confident they have a clear understanding of the event, the show rules, regulations, schedule and the unique aspects of the venue.”
Still other benefits to using a GC, according to Rubin, are savings with transportation, no added charge for various rental components, no material-handling fees on rental properties, onsite move-in lounges, early return of empties, early access to the space and show-management approvals handled by staff. The financial aspects can be simplified as well with a single invoice and all insurance liabilities being covered.
“Using a (general) contractor as an EAC no longer means simply ordering labor from the service manual and dealing with what you get from a general pool of laborers,” said Bludworth. “Contractors have teams that are dedicated to exhibitor services, both for installation and dismantle work, as well as custom exhibit builds.”
The flip side of the coin allows for extremely personalized service since I&D is generally all an EAC is hired to complete. There is a significant reduction in the red tape often encountered when using a GC, and with an EAC, often times exhibitors will find they have better access to managers, account executives and even company owners.
“We make sure that every aspect of the show is working cohesively and smoothly,” said Julie Mckernin, vice president of sales and marketing, Stevens Exhibits and Displays. “Not just the booth structure itself, but we check on all components and services to make sure the client is completely ready to show; even if we did not place the orders. We confirm with the client that everything is satisfactory and they are show ready.”
The labor used by EACs also can be customized to suit the client. For example, Stevens Exhibits keeps its supervisors and labor staff on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to accommodate the exhibitor. There are no lines to wait in for labor assistance and the same labor is assigned daily to avoid the confusion of random help.
“An I&D house offers very personal service,” said McKernin. “Our supervisor-carpenters make sure to actively participate and communicate with the client. When we dispatch, we're familiar with each carpenter; their years of experience, their specific skill set and their personality types. We can custom pick our carpenters to fit each job.”
Often times, things need to be constructed from scratch on the show floor. Having experienced, hand-picked labor can help guarantee things will be accomplished with efficiency and precision. Materials needed to complete a job are easily located as well since EACs bring everything to the show site.
“Using an EAC offers more accountability in all phases of the tradeshow and is by far the biggest advantage,” said Jean Keefe, relationship manager, Sholink. “We know the A to Z's of the client, what they have budgeted, and we create a booth around this budget to best capture their needs, audience and follow up.”
There are advantages to using either type of contractor, but which is right for the exhibitor is a decision they must make. Whether the topic of interest is service, speed or resources, all companies are looking to provide efficient, seamless experiences for its customers.
According to Rubin, for most exhibitors a clear understanding of exactly what their requirements, expectations and needs are will assist them in making the most effective decision when selecting any vendor or vendor partner. After potential vendors are narrowed down, then elements, such as contract terms, costs, discounts and service guarantees, should be factored in.
“Usually, it boils down to trust and confidence,” said Rubin. “Our industry is a people business, and most folks like to work with people they trust and are confident can provide the best service. With so many choices, if a client has done their homework, they'll choose who they trust and is committed to them.”