Become a Better Exhibitor: Trade Show Logistics and Shipping

Organizing trade show logistics and shipping takes careful planning and attention to detail to guarantee all exhibit components arrive at the show venue on time. Whether you attend one or multiple shows during year, our trade show shipping post will help you increase efficiency and hedge against potentially expensive mistakes and that can happen when shipping assets to and from an event.

Trade Show Logistics and Shipping: Pre-Show

Trade Show Logistics and Shipping for new exhibitors

Trade Show Logistics and Shipping Pre-Show:

To begin, you need to decide whether you want to transport your trade show exhibit, or if you need to hire a trade show freight carrier to transport it for you.

If you have a portable trade show display, it may save you time and money to transport it yourself. Many portable displays are lightweight, pack in convenient carry bags and cases and are easy to transport by car or as carry-on or checked baggage. The mobile and packing-friendly nature of portable displays means that contracting a trade show freight carrier—especially for regional trade shows—may not be necessary.

If you have a custom or custom modular trade show exhibit, you should hire a trade show freight carrier. Custom and custom modular trade show exhibits have many delicate components and are shipped in large trade show shipping crates, making it important to have them handled carefully. An experienced freight professional can ensure the safe and timely transfer of your trade show assets.

Picking a Trade Show Freight Carrier

Before you select a trade show freight carrier, carefully evaluate multiple companies to find the right fit for your trade show logistics needs. In your initial meetings with potential vendors, ask representative for a full list of logistical services provided, customer support and how long the company has been in business.

Also, make sure to check references and request a price quote that covers all your trade show logistics and shipping requirements, including:

  • The complete name of your trade show (not the acronym), along with your booth number.
  • Show dates and move-in and move-out times.
  • Times when the dock is available for loading and if there are pick-ups and deliveries taking place at multiple locations.

*Quick Tip: See if your trade show has an official carrier. Official carriers may offer redcued pricing or other special benefits.

Determine the Destination

When it comes to the shipping destination of your exhibit assets, you have two options:

1) Ship directly-to-show

2) Ship to an advanced warehouse

If possible, always ship your exhibit to an advanced warehouse. You may receive up to 30 days of free storage as well as getting your exhibit materials on the show floor before direct-to-show-site shipments begin unloading. You may also save money on transportation wait time and storage expenses which is a huge win in trade show logistics terms.

Drayage Pre-Show:

Once you have registered for your trade show, you will receive a comprehensive exhibitors’ manual that includes exhibit moving and shipping guidelines and forms required by the show’s drayage contractor. Carefully read through your exhibitors’ manual to make sure you understand the drayage regulations and requirements, as well as what the on-site drayage contractor is responsible for.

A drayage contractor should be responsible for the following:

  • Transporting your exhibit crates from the loading area to your booth space in the exhibition hall.
  • Removing your shipping crates and boxes once your exhibit is assembled and returning them at the end of the show.
  • Loading your exhibit crates and boxes on the truck for the delivery to a storage facility or the next event.

There are many fees attached to drayage services that depend on the number of items transported, the weight of your exhibit materials and your arrival and departure time. Make sure pre-show coordination between yourself, your drayage contractor and your freight company is established to ensure timely delivery and to avoid extra fees and charges.

Meet Deadlines

Missing deadlines is a sure way to overspend your trade show budget. For example, if your freight carrier fails to meet the inbound delivery deadline, their truck will be sent to the back of the line to unload. This will cause you to fall behind on your drayage pick up and you will incur a financial penalty or your materials will be unloaded at overtime rates.

In addition to drayage fees for missed deadlines, the time your materials arrives at your booth space can also affect installation costs. If your exhibit does not arrive in time for your setup crew, you may have to pay overtime rates for your setup labor.

*Quick Tip: Make sure to include a time cushion in your trade show logistics and shipping schedule to account for mechanical failure on a vehicle, accidents, weather-related delays and human error.

Trade Show Logistics and Shipping: Post-Show

Trade Show Logistics and Shipping

Drayage Post-Show:

After the show, you will need to complete a “bill-of-lading” (a detailed receipt given by the freight carrier listing the shipment of trade show items) and submit it to the show’s drayage contractor.

After you submit a bill-of-lading, the drayage contractor will deliver your empty exhibit crates to your exhibiting space and you or your installation and dismantle vendor will pack your trade show exhibit and prepare it to be moved to the loading docks.

Once your exhibit is packed, the drayage contractor will move your exhibit crates back to the loading dock and work with your freight provider to set a pick-up time.

*Quick Tip: Be sure crates, boxes and skids are properly labeled to ensure all of your exhibit assets make it back home with you.

Trade Show Logistics and Shipping Post-Show:

To make sure all of your items arrive on your freight carriers truck undamaged and accounted for, oversee the movement of your exhibit materials each step of the way, from exhibit space to loading dock to your shipping company’s vehicle. Make sure you have a camera ready to document any damage to your trade show display caused by mishandling by your drayage contractor.

The driver for your trade show freight company will need to list any exceptions to the bill-of-lading before loading your freight so their company will not be held responsible for damage that occurred by the drayage contractor.

In the event that damage occurs during the moving of materials, file a claim with the drayage contractors soon as possible and ask what procedures you can expected timeline and how to follow-up.

Show-To-Show Shipping

If your company plans to exhibit at multiple shows, it is usually more cost-effective to ship your trade show materials from one venue location to the next. By shipping show-to-show, you will save on trade show logistics and shipping costs by avoiding shipping your exhibit back to a warehouse location, then out to your next trade show.

Remember, if you can meet the advanced warehouse deadline for your next trade show, you may get up to 30 days free storage. Also depending on your freight carrier, you may get your trade show materials stored by the company for up to a month, free.

Become a Better Exhibitor Today

If you would like to learn more trade show marketing tips and advice for exhibitors, download our Beginner to Winner: Trade Show Guide to Become a Better Exhibitor, which contains expert guidance on how you can take your trade show program to the next level.