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5 Tips To Reduce The Stress Of Trade Show Shipping

Your trade show exhibit can reach thousands of potential customers over a period of three or four days.  That puts a lot of pressure on you, your shipping department, and your carrier to make certain that each display arrives on time to the appropriate venue and stays intact.

Trade show shipping is different than other freight moves.  However, there are things you can do to maintain control and reduce your stress levels. Here are five tips to remember:

1. Properly fill out your bill of lading


Accurate and complete information is essential. Whether shipping to the advance warehouse or shipping directly to the show site, you must include: show name, exhibitor name, booth number, service contractor, the number of pieces, weight per piece and total weight, the payer and the target move-in date. Failure to record any of this information could result in a delay or a very inconvenient situation.

The shapes and sizes of trade show displays can make packaging a challenge.  Custom-made crates and molded cases provide the greatest protection while in transit.  Skids or pallets can also be used, letting you save on packaging materials, but increasing the possibly for damage.  Keep in mind that skids may add to your freight costs since they cannot be stacked.  Consolidating your shipments into fewer containers can be an effective way to achieve minimum weight charges.  Be sure to pack together only items that won’t damage one another.  It’s always a good idea when you are shipping to or from a show to put your business card in each shipping container to help identify pieces if they become separated from the shipment.

2. Properly pack and label your shipment

Be creative about how you mark your packaging when you ship to a show. Packaging that can be identified from a distance (i.e., different-colored shrink-wrap) will help identify your shipment on the venue’s crowded dock and make the move run more smoothly.

When it comes to labeling your shipment, clearly mark each piece of freight with the same information that you included on your bill of lading. If more than one trade show is in progress at a site – and that’s often the case – this information is critical in ensuring your exhibit gets to its destination on time.  Lastly, be sure to remove old labels.

3. Ship to the advance warehouse

Ship your display to the trade show early and avoid last minute worries. When you ship to the advance warehouse you can feel certain your display will move in on schedule.  Displays sent directly to the show site must wait to unload until after advance-warehouse deliveries and this runs the risk of missing the start of the show.  If the inbound shipment goes go directly to the show site, advise your carrier of the show’s move-in hours and let them know whether your shipment is a targeted booth for a specified move-in date or time.

4. Fill out the paperwork for your move out

When the show is over, a show’s general service contractor (GSC) will require that you complete the material handling agreement (MHA) before you can move out.  Frequently, a GSC names a specific carrier for the outbound move.  Remember, the carrier decision is yours; you do not need to use the carrier specified by the GSC.  To use your own choice for your outbound carrier, simply insert their company name into the materials handling agreement.

5. Know your contacts

Keep the names and phone numbers of the following people in your phone contact list.  If problems develop, you’ll be easily able to reach those who can help.

• General services contractor name and on-site representative

• Trade show shipping carrier and customer service center

• Show decorator


What's Working In ExhibitingNow that you have your trade show display where it needs to be, find out why it’s so important at trade shows.  Get the inside scoop from exhibitors just like you in the What’s Working In Exhibiting White Paper, yours free by clicking here

About the Author

Bill Schwar is Vice President of Association Sales, Exhibit Services, Reverse Logistics, and Mexico for YRC Freight. He brings 36 years of experience in the transportation industry, 30 years with YRC Freight. Schwar has been leading strategy and planning for Exhibit Services for nearly 18 years.

5 responses to “5 Tips To Reduce The Stress Of Trade Show Shipping

  1. I think shipping to advance warehouse is really difficult as not all exhibition standards are able to cater to effective logistic. I had bad experience with event organizer previously. Nice article anyway. Cheers

  2. Your choice for a transportation provider for your tradeshow shipments very well may need to be someone other than your companies every day B2B carrier. Choose a provider who knows the in’s and out’s of trade show venues. It can make or break your budget!

  3. I remember at one of my old jobs I had to help prep things for a trade show. You make a great point about how it is important to make sure that you get all of your materials shipped in advance. As you mentioned, it is essential that your products or displays be in pristine condition; so, it can be a good idea to make sure that you use crates that have the protection needed for transit. That way you can put your best foot forward.

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