Hammer Down what You Need for a Construction Trade Show

February 19, 2019
Andrew Doerfler
Voiced by Amazon Polly

You might know how to expertly build a house, but building up your business is a different story. That’s where exhibiting at a construction trade show can come in handy. Whether you’re looking for new building equipment or trying to increase your brand exposure, a trade show can offer the perfect opportunity to break ground on a new business strategy.

Construction trade shows throughout the country feature industry professionals, cutting-edge building materials, and an engaged audience looking for businesses like yours. To get in on the action, you need to prepare for the big event. Follow these tips and discover what you need to know for a successful construction trade show.

Find the Right Construction Trade Show for You

Lay the groundwork for a great exhibition by choosing the perfect event for your area of expertise. You want to ensure that the convention you attend features top industry leaders that will attract serious attendees. Some of the most popular expos dedicated to construction include:

  • World of Concrete
  • JLC Live (Journal of Light Construction) Residential Construction Show
  • NAHB International Builders’ Show (IBS-NAHB)
  • Conexpo/Con-Agg
  • Build Expo USA
  • New York Build construction expo
  • Pacific Coast Builders Conference – PCBC
  • Greenbuild International Conference & Expo
  • Buildex Construction & Design Northwest
  • World of Modular (Modular Building Institute)
  • AGC Convention (Associated General Contractors)
  • The National Association of Women in Construction Annual Conference (NAWIC)
  • Design-Build Conference & Expo

A well-established trade show has its advantages, but it’s not the only option to help your business. A newer trade show can provide opportunities to engage with forward-thinking startups showcasing the latest products and construction technology in a less overwhelming setting. More recently launched shows bringing innovation to the construction trade show scene include:

  • Construction Technology and Innovation Conference
  • BuildingsNY
  • PlanGrid Construction Summit
  • DesignWell Conference
  • Women in Design+Construction Conference
  • ABC Convention (Associated Builders & Contractors)

Remember, exhibiting at a construction equipment trade show or building materials expo requires a significant investment. When picking a trade show to commit to, it is important to consider a number of factors.

Who Attends a Construction Industry Trade Show

Hammer Down what You Need for a Construction Trade Show 1

Before you decide on which trade show to attend, research who you should expect to encounter at the event. National conferences often break down the attendee demographics for their trade shows. Use this data to identify which trade show will give you the best return on investment.

Depending on their focus, different events will attract a unique audience. For example, the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, the world’s largest trade show dedicated to green building that draws 18,000 attendees and features more than 550 exhibiting companies, says this is its annual breakdown by field:

  • 35% architecture, engineering and design firms
  • 22% contractors, builders and developers
  • 7% facility managers and operations
  • 7% government and utilities
  • 7% manufacturing and servicing
  • 5% consultants
  • 5% associations and nonprofits

Other commercial construction trade shows will list the job titles and roles of their attendees, from field crew to construction management to CEOs. This information also speaks to the trade show’s offerings -- and can tell you whether the event is worthwhile for your business objectives. As an example, here are the positions that attend the JLC Live conference, according to its website.

  • 52% Owner / President / Executive
  • 13% Field Crew
  • 9% Sales / Marketing
  • 8% Project Manager
  • 7% Supervisor / Job Foreman

Every trade show will appeal to its own category of industry professionals. Some have broader scope, while others are more narrowly centered on one area of construction and building. Maximize your return on investment by finding a convention whose audience will be likely to engage with your products and services.

Who Exhibits at a Commercial Construction Trade Show

You don’t only want to look up a construction trade show’s attendees -- it’s also important to know who else will be exhibiting on the trade show floor. Often, you can find a list of partners or trade show directory on an event’s website, but you can also search for past lists of exhibitors to evaluate how your business would fit next to them. At a construction trade show, exhibitors could include the following industry professionals:

  • Manufacturers
  • Regional distributors
  • Contractors
  • Remodelers
  • Developers
  • Architects
  • Engineering firms
  • Craftspeople
  • Tradespeople
  • Home improvement professionals

Every show will have a different mix of fields represented. Getting a sense of your fellow exhibitors can help tell you if prospective clients and customers will be drawn to the show.

However, it can also help to find a trade show where your business will stand out from the crowd. A convention that is related to your field but not necessarily focused directly on your services can be a chance to offer something new on the trade show floor. The absence of direct competitors offering similar services will set your exhibit apart.

Where is the Construction Show Located?

Considering a trade show’s location can be essential -- especially in the construction industry. Attendees often look for contractors, distributors and manufacturers who have a specialized understanding of their business needs.

Those needs can vary drastically based on their region.  The Center for Exhibition Industry Research found that 85% of trade show attendees are from within 400 miles of the show location. If you’re from out of town, you should consider tailoring your messaging and talking points to local concerns to demonstrate that you have a handle on the area.

In some spots in the United States, national construction industry shows return every year. Construction trade shows in Las Vegas, Nevada, include major shows like World of Concrete and Conexpo/Con-Agg. The Associated Builders and Contractors has begun holding its ABC Convention in Long Beach, California.

JLC Live, meanwhile, holds annual events in both New England and the Northwest, with recent shows taking place in Providence, Rhode Island and Portland, Oregon. San Diego, with its famed convention center, is another popular location for industry trade shows, drawing events such as Build Expo San Diego.

Planning Your Construction Trade Show Booth

In an industry defined by heavy equipment and towering structures, standing out at a trade show can be a real challenge. The trade show floor is likely to feature feature hulking heavy-duty trucks and industry leaders claiming key spaces. To make an impact, you’ll have to prepare your exhibit space and refine your message to reach your potential customers.

Before you do any other planning, reserve the best possible exhibit booth space available within your budget. Optimizing your exhibit location will make every element of your booth have a greater effect -- go for spots near major industry leaders, near entrances or at the intersections of aisles.

The type of booth space matters as much as the location, though. At a construction industry expo, size matters. A large exhibit space will allow you to showcase your equipment and materials in all their glory, or present models of your projects. Whenever possible, you want to give visitors a chance to have a hands-on interaction with your products and services .

An island booth, one with aisles on all sides, offers prime access to the booth and a larger area. A split island or peninsula booth is usually the second largest, while an inline booth, wedged in a row with other booths, allows the least access and size.

What You Need for a Successful Trade Show Booth

They say a bad carpenter always blames his tools -- don’t give yourself that excuse. Make sure you have all the essentials for a successful construction trade show experience.

Check the show’s booth guidelines

Every industry conference will have its own rules, restrictions and requirements for its exhibitors. Before you start brainstorming for your exhibition, make sure you know the standards your exhibit space will need to meet. These can usually be found on the trade show’s website. If you can’t find them, reach out to the show manager or your contact at the show.

Most importantly, you need to be aware of the correct times for move-in and loading of your booth. All your preparation will be for nothing if your exhibition never makes it to the show floor. Especially when dealing with large equipment, it’s critical to have a firm grasp on the correct procedures for transporting and setting up your exhibition. No matter what the requirements, a qualified shipping and logistics company like R+L Global Logistics can help you coordinate your trade show exhibit transportation.

Prepare a budget for your trade show exhibit space

After evaluating the trade show’s restrictions, now you need to think about your own. Exhibiting at a building expo can be a substantial investment, which is why it’s important to consider all the costs involved. The following are just some of the important budget items to remember:

  • Space reservation fees
  • Shipping
  • Storage
  • Labor (booth construction and more)
  • Booth staffing
  • Graphic design
  • Giveaway items and activities
  • Display materials
  • Design and printing marketing materials
  • Carpeting/flooring
  • Trade show service costs such as utilities
  • Booth furniture
  • Security for materials

Show off your products and services

Construction trade shows offer an uncommon chance to present your products and services to thousands of new people. The fact-to-face opportunity shouldn’t go to waste. You need to think about the best ways to present your offerings at your trade show exhibit booth.

If you’re promoting equipment or materials, include actual examples of these products in your exhibit, whenever space allows. But when your booth space doesn’t allow you to show off your company’s items in all their glory, there are still ways to convey their advantages to visitors. You can display 3D models, include touchscreen displays or other audiovisual presentations to demonstrate how your products can meet prospective clients’ business needs.

If you hope to show off your craftsmanship or services at a trade show, a live demo can go a long way in setting your booth apart from the crowd. These in-booth demos and educational sessions will create a sense of movement and activity at your exhibit that will draw in passersby.

Make sure the demonstration has a visual component, or else people won’t stay engaged. Whenever possible, allow for hands-on participation by your visitor. And don’t forget: Any demonstrations or workshops need to comply with the event’s rules and regulations.

Lastly, make sure your booth has informational materials and giveaway items on hand for visitors to take with them. This will help keep your products, services and brand fresh in their minds. Moreover, be sure to keep track meticulously of any leads gathered during the event, and follow up with them promptly after the show.

Organize your trade show booth materials

The Las Vegas Convention Center, which often hosts construction trade shows, features more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space. You don’t have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to know that it’s difficult to stand out on a trade show floor. If you offer construction equipment and building materials, displaying them is crucial -- but you’ll need to do more if you hope to make an impact.

It’s first necessary to meet any standards that the trade show establishes. Events frequently require that exhibitors provide their own carpeting or flooring for their booth. Usually, the booth will also list out restrictions on how tall your walls and display materials can be. Once you know the rules you need to follow, you can get to designing your booth. When planning your trade show booth construction, keep the following products in mind for building your booth.

  • Hanging signs
  • Pop-up displays
  • Tension fabric displays
  • Touchscreen kiosks
  • Video walls
  • Tabletop displays
  • Table skirts
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Modular displays

Networking Opportunities at the Construction Trade Show

Hammer Down what You Need for a Construction Trade Show 2

For commercial building teams and others in the construction industry, it’s essential to build your rolodex of useful contacts that can help your business grow. Besides laying the groundwork for potential sales, meeting new people is great for getting your brand name out there and potentially attracting new talent down the line. Keep these tips in mind for networking at a building and construction trade show.

  • Have a warm, enthusiastic greeting prepared.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Memorize the key selling points for your business so you can bring them up naturally in conversation.
  • Avoid bombarding attendees with your sales pitch. Let the conversation flow naturally.
  • Have activities, demos and interesting displays on hand at your exhibit to keep visitors engaged.  
  • Remember to hand out business cards and follow up with people after the show.

Establishing Yourself in the Green Building Space

While every construction trade show has guidelines, an expo dedicated to green building will have specialized requirements with environmental concerns in mind. At Greenbuild Expo, the world’s largest green building conference and expo, here are a few of the guidelines that exhibitors are instructed to follow:

  • Lighting. In some cases, exhibitors must use LEDs or compact fluorescent light bulbs, not incandescent bulbs. Light bulbs used in prior exhibits should be used, and should only be replaced upon burnout.
  • Electronic displays. Displays must be powered down outside of business hours and should be reused from a previous show.
  • Flooring. Floor should be not used at all, reused from a previous exhibit, or made of recycled or sustainable materials.  
  • Water. If water is used in the display, water reclamation like a holding tank must be used. At the end of the show, the water must be recycled, not dumped down the drain.

Shipping to a Construction Trade Show

So you’ve decided what your company will be exhibiting -- now it’s time to figure out how it will get there. Whether you’re showcasing heavy equipment or building materials at the trade show, you’ll need to carefully plan how to transport safely and on time. This can be one of the most complicated aspects of exhibiting at a construction trade show, and you don’t want to leave it chance.

Considering the heft and value of these items, it’s smart to contact a trusted shipping and logistics company to guarantee the items arrive at the trade show. An experienced and knowledgeable company like R+L Global Logistics can take your products, promotional items and marketing materials through every step of the process, including packaging, securing space on a truck, transportation, and storage.

You’ll have to figure out whether you need direct to site shipping or advance warehouse shipping.

Direct to Site Shipping

In direct to site shipping, your items will be transported to the site during the trade show’s move-in window, usually within only a day or a few days of the event. This cuts down on handling, lowering both risks and costs. You’ll also have more time before the show to prepare. However, timing is more important -- if your shipment ends up arriving late or even too early, it can cause fees or throw off your schedule. Make sure to hire a logistics company with a strong track record of loading on-time.

Advance Warehouse Shipping

For advance warehouse shipping, your materials will be transported to a storage facility well in advance of the show. This will likely increase your handling costs, but removes the risk of arriving or loading in late. With warehouses, you will also probably find stricter packaging requirements than you would when shipping directly to the event.

Whichever option works best for you, shipping to a construction trade show requires a professional hand leading the way.

R+L Global Logistics

Trust R+L Global Logistics to handle your construction trade show shipment. With an experienced team and top-notch service and communication, R+L Global will transport exhibit materials safely and in a timely manner. Contact the team today.

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