New to Tradeshow Shipping

We know tradeshow shipping can be confusing. When you’ve been to as many shows as we have, you learn a thing or two. Here are some helpful tradeshow hints that will help you have a successful, and less stressful, tradeshow experience.

Before the show

Review your show’s exhibitor manual closely! You will save yourself money, time and stress by familiarizing yourself with the following:

  • » Move-in dates
  • » Move-out dates
  • » Advance warehouse shipping dates
  • » Show site shipping dates
  • » Deadlines to order utilities like electric, internet, special services, etc. (hint: order these well in advance to take advantage of discounts).

Important materials to ship with your booth

It seems obvious, but we’ve seen it a thousand times — booths showing up at the tradeshow without the basic essentials to make unpacking and setup a breeze, including:

  • » Clear packing tape and a tapegun
  • » Hook-and-loop fastening tape, two-sided self-stick. Priceless.
  • » Scissors
  • » Permanent markers
  • » Stapler and staples
  • » Shrink wrap. Also priceless.

Place at least two labels on each box in the event pieces get separated during transit. Clearly mark your company name and booth number on each box/label.

Should you ship to the advance warehouse or show site?

You have two options to ship your tradeshow shipment to your show: the advance warehouse or the show site. If you plan to ship your booth and materials to the show well in advance of the show date, you will want to ship to the advance warehouse. If time is tight and you cannot get your materials there early, shipping to the show site is a viable option.

When shipping to the advance warehouse, your freight may arrive up to 30 days prior to the show dates — check your show’s exhibitor service kit for information on advance warehouse ship dates. If your freight is ready early, we suggest shipping to the advance warehouse whenever possible. Shipping to the advance warehouse gives you the ability to track your freight and ensure that it has been received, with plenty of time to double-check. Also, your freight will already be in place when you arrive for show setup. Although some show decorators may charge slightly higher drayage for a shipment sent to the advance warehouse, the benefits generally outweigh the cost.

When shipping to the show site, your freight may only arrive during the scheduled times of exhibitor move-in. When shipping direct to the show site, you do run the risk of your shipment not arriving in time, being refused by the facility, or incurring additional charges. If your freight is sent directly to the show site, the carrier controls your delivery time. Carriers are assigned an unloading number according to driver check-in time, so make sure they arrive early!

When it comes to getting your tradeshow shipment to your show, it is critical to understand your options.

Material handling / drayage fees

Drayage is the charge for moving your exhibit materials from the dock to your booth space on the tradeshow floor, as well as moving your materials back to the dock at the end of the show. Drayage is typically calculated as a fee per 100 pounds of freight. Drayage fees vary depending on the type of shipment, the amount of handling, the time of day, and other factors. Be sure to review and anticipate drayage fees when you prepare your show budget.

Drayage service provides for:

  • » Completing inbound carrier’s receiving documents
  • » Moving your shipment from the advance warehouse to your booth
  • » Unloading and delivery of the goods to your booth space from the receiving dock (if shipping direct to the show)
  • » Storing of empty cartons/crates and extra products at an on-site warehouse
  • » Returning empty cartons/crates and pickup of the exhibit materials from your booth space to the receiving dock and loading back onto the truck of your chosen carrier
  • » Completing outbound carrier’s shipping documents

Common mistakes that typically result in additional drayage charges include:

  • » Multiple small shipments arriving separately (it’s always best to consolidate your shipment)
  • » Shipments being delivered after the deadline date
  • » Missing your target move-in date
  • » Trucks arriving during "overtime" hours, which include all weekend shipments
  • » Not correctly noting the weight of your shipment

At the show

Always bring master copies of your shipping information, including the shipping carrier pro number, in the unlikely event that your shipment is lost or delayed. If the worst happens, at the very least you’ll have the ability to track your shipment.

Prepare for the opening of the show

The first thing to do is set up your booth! After you set up, have your empty packing material/containers ready for removal and storage during the show by labeling them with your company name and booth number. The official service contractor will clear the floor of all labeled material to be stored throughout the show and return the items to your booth when the show is over. If at all possible, try to break down your boxes and store your move-out materials in your booth, this way you won’t have to wait — sometimes for hours — to receive your empties at the end of the show.

Closing day

Once the show is closed, pack up all of your materials to be shipped out and leave them in your booth. You will need to complete an official show contractor’s Outbound Material Handling Form and turn it in at the service center desk once you have your exhibit material packed up and ready to go.

Double check that the carrier and billing information are correct on your form. Show site personnel will collect your freight and take them to the dock for pickup. If you do not select an outbound carrier, the show may “force” your return freight through their carrier, which may cost you extra. To ensure that your materials stay together and minimize the possibility of lost or damaged items, you will want to shrink wrap your material and place shipment labels so that they are easily seen and read.

After the show, prepare for next time

After the show, make notes of what you learned through your show experience — these will be valuable throughout your exhibiting future. Keep copies of any forms, invoices, and show materials. The next show may be handled by someone else or may be too far in the future to remember all the details when the time comes. Remember to take the time to compare your costs with your benefits after the show as well.

The next show

Sometimes your schedule demands that you exhibit at another show, in another state, in a few days. This is when you definitely need an expert in handling and expediting your tradeshow materials. PartnerShip can help move your booth and materials in a timely manner, to be sure you are ready to go. We do all the tracking and communication with the carriers to assure this is one thing you don’t have to worry about. Now that you’re a tradeshow expert, let PartnerShip take care of the rest. Request a free, no-obligation rate quote for any of your upcoming tradeshows or events. As your shipping connection, we are here to help!

Awards & Affiliations

Partner Name
Northcoast 99
Northeast Ohio Top Workplaces
Ohio Best Employer