8 Tips for Trade Show Shipping

Trade show shipping and logistics

Now that in-person trade shows are returning, it is a good time for some memory-refreshing tips to successfully maneuver the complexities of trade show shipping. Getting materials to and from a trade show in a timely, safe manner involves several things that when done right, will create a smooth trade show experience. If they are done incorrectly, it can be an expensive, time-consuming hassle. While this is not an exhaustive tutorial on complete trade show logistics, you will find a number of helpful tips that will help make your show a success.

1. Review the important information in the exhibitor manual.
The manual includes all key dates, shipping guidelines, pre-show storage details, move-in and move-out dates, as well as points of contact for the show.  Services and pricing relating to the handling and delivery of your goods will also be included. Not knowing this information can cost time, money, and create difficulty.

2. Select your logistics provider well ahead of time.
The date of the show and the date your materials need to arrive are different.  The arrival date for materials to the show warehouse is usually in advance of the show. Because of this, it is important to lock down your vendor well in advance. While every show has a preferred shipping service, you can usually use your own and save some money. It is always good to get 3 estimates and check references when making a final decision.

3. Build a good relationship with your logistics provider
There are a number of benefits to building a relationship with a good trade show logistics company, such as:

  • A dedicated contact knowledgeable on the industry, many requirements at specific large and local venues, as well as your company’s needs
  • Help with paperwork
  • Flexibility with scheduling
  • Booth warehousing between shows
  • Additional services, such as crating, padding, and materials storage

An experienced trade show logistics provider is critical. Booth materials are delicate and require an experienced handler to ensure they travel safely. Additionally, many venues have detailed rules and requirements for moving your equipment into and out of the show. A seasoned, experienced shipper knows these and will eliminate much of the stress.

4. Decide your shipping destination
When shipping materials to the show, they can go either to the show’s advanced warehouse or directly to the site. What is the advantage to early shipping to the warehouse? Everything will be in your booth and ready for you the moment set-up time begins. There is no waiting. Direct to the show is less expensive, but there can be significant wait times to receive your materials in your booth.

The marshalling yard can be a busy location and wait times can vary. Hiring an experienced trade show shipper who knows the ins and outs of the marshalling yard can get your materials to you faster.

5. Labeling
It is important to label all cases, boxes, and other items clearly with:

  • Show Name
  • Show drayage contractor’s name (Freeman, GES, etc.)
  • Delivery address
  • Arrive by date
  • Number of pieces (1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc.)
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Company name
  • Booth number

Be sure to put more than one label on each box. A label on each side is best. This will ensure that no matter how the boxes are arranged, your shipping information will be easily seen.

6. Packing
The best way to reduce the risk of damage during trade show shipping is to use durable crates. If you have fragile equipment that will be transported regularly, consider having custom crates made especially for those items. For small items, use padding such as bubble wrap to secure them in boxes.

All items should be a part of one large shipment. Small boxes sent via common carrier are more likely to get lost. By palletizing everything together, large, small, and oddly shaped items like a carpet roll, you ensure nothing gets lost. In addition to creating a safer shipment, by palletizing everything, you minimize handling charges.  Make sure you have multiple labels on every individual piece on the pallet. If the pallet should get broken up in transit, everything will still arrive at the show.

If you do have few small things that need to be shipped to the show via a common carrier, have them shipped to your hotel so you can hand-carry that box in with you.

7. Tracking
Always get the tracking number from your shipper. That way you can check on the progress regularly to ensure everything arrives in a timely fashion. After the show, when you shipper picks everything up to either return it to you or your storage facility, make sure you get that tracking number so you can make sure everything gets back safely.

8. Return shipping after the show
After a show there is the tendency to repack hastily and just get going. It’s been a long day, and everyone is tired. It is important to not get careless at this point. Things to remember:

  • You must complete the material handling agreement (MHA form) prior to leaving the venue site. It’s IMPERATIVE that you include your carrier’s name in the proper section of the MHA before you turn it in to the freight desk. Record the number of pieces (skids, crates, etc.) in the product section of the form, identify the destination address on the form(s). By doing so, it provides the show management with the proper information for loading out. Once the MHA form is turned in, it belongs to the drayage contractor.
  • Repack everything for the journey back as carefully as you did to send it out.
  • Wait with your items until your shipper arrives for pick up to ensure nothing goes missing or gets damaged. If there are any questions or problems, you will be the only person there who is concerned with your materials. Show management will either dispose of anything not moved out by the specified time or charge you to store it.

It is easiest to let the carrier hired by the trade show perform the initial movement of materials from the show back to the advance warehouse. From there, your carrier can do the pickup. Relay the time and location of pickup to your carrier.  Make sure all labels and paperwork are filled out correctly and turned into the show management booth in a timely manner. If you wish for your carrier to pick up directly from the show floor, relay detailed information to them to let them know where to find your shipment and what time window they can pick up your order.  Missing that window can be costly. If the carrier arrives late, the shipment can be sent into storage, and you will be charged for that.

Once everything returns, check all contents to make sure nothing is missing or damaged. There is a greater chance of finding missing boxes the sooner you know about them. Also, there is a timeframe for filing an insurance claim.

Let Sterling Handle your Trade Show Shipping Needs

Our dedicated trade show team coordinates and tracks every aspect of your shipment – advance warehousing, direct to show, as well as the move-out, freeing you to focus on a successful show. With our experience in trade shows logistics and a network spanning the U.S. and Canada, we are the perfect, on-time-on-budget resource for all your needs. If you need help preparing for an upcoming show, our team is here to help! Contact us today to get more information.