Tips for Preparing To Exhibit in Chicago

The Windy City is known for its art infused culture, rich and plentiful entertainment and being food centric. The city that has 40 million visitors a year is also home to the largest exhibit hall in North America, McCormick Place. It boosts 11 display halls with over 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space. IMTS is a manufacturing show held every other year in Chicago that brings in 100,000 people. It is the largest convention in the city. 

The Navy Pier is the second most popular venue to exhibit in. Festival Hall offers 170,100 square feet of exhibition space and can accommodate 900 10x10 booths at once. SOFA Chicago is the longest running sculpture and functional art fair held at the Navy Pier yearly.

Exhibiting at a trade show in Chicago is different than almost any other city due to the extensive labor union laws. Although it has become easier over the years, there are still lots of rules you must follow that don’t apply in other cities. Breaking these labor union laws WILL result in hefty fines, so don’t test your luck.

  • Exhibitors can only hang signs in their booth as long as no tools or ladders are needed, and the time it takes to complete is no more than a ½ hour.
  • Riggers are responsible for un-crating and un-skidding, then re-crating and re-skidding, all machinery. Exhibitors can only carry handheld computers and appliances.
  • Teamsters are responsible for handling all other materials. They load in and take out all booth related items at the venue.

It is also important to know how labor rates vary with time of day. Scheduling install and dismantle at the right time is important to save your company lots of money.

  • 6am-10pm is known as straight time, as long as the laborer does not work more than 8 consecutive hours. If they do, it becomes overtime (pay equals hourly rate plus half).
  • 12am-5:59am is double time pay (twice the hourly rate).
  • Saturday 12pm-4:30pm is overtime for the first 8 hours. After that you will pay double time.
  • Sunday and all holidays are billed at double time.

The most commonly used trade show venues are close to downtown, so when attending or exhibiting in Chicago most likely you will want to stay downtown. Be sure to research your venue before booking your hotel. When you are not on the trade show floor take advantage of Chicago’s rich culture, but keep in mind you are there to represent your company. If you have a show coming up in the Chicago, contact us today to see how we can help you be a qualified leads champion.