NAB exhibitors revolt – costs explode as trade show model reviewed

By Buck Freeman, Detroit.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention is the largest trade show for any of the industries CX covers, with around 100,000 trade and over 1,700 firms represented. Held each April at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, the exhibitors are now pushing back against excessive costs.

“Exhibiting requires significant investment of time and money; and it can be unnecessarily complicated”, a report last week from the Exhibitor Advisory Committee at NAB confirms. “Without significant change, exhibitors would pay an average of US $635 per 10×10 booth space – for material handling services alone. Based on historical data, similar increases are expected in electrical, hanging signs and rigging services.”

Material handling is just the part where the truck has arrived, and the exhibitor freight must make its way to the exhibitor stand. To understand why this is so expensive, CX examined several venue manuals across the USA. Nevada (home of Las Vegas Convention Centre) is a ‘free to work’ state and yet the Convention Centre – like most – has agreements in place with various unions.

Over at a major Chicago venue, their manual details the challenges. The Teamsters Union unloads the trucks and hands the freight over to the Stagehands Union. Stagehands have a minimum eight hour call while Teamsters specify four hours. Yet if work exceeds four hours, the next Teamsters call is six hours. This incentivises the labour force to go slow, since working one minute over four hours produces almost 50% more pay – and can break into overtime.

Union rules around electrical work are equally inflated. A company manufacturing distribution boards were denied use of their own boards – the very thing they were exhibiting – and compelled to use older, other branded ‘house’ equipment at one Vegas tradeshow.

The NAB Exhibitor Advisory Committee highlights ‘Points of Pain’ such as ‘Hidden costs’, ‘Automatic dismantle charge’, ‘crew size too large’, and ‘Way too expensive, impossible to budget’. They say that change is on the way for 2019, with Material Handling the first to be sorted out.

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