Attending a trade show as an exhibitor is an excellent way to make your mark in your industry. Before you can wow people at the show, you have to get your exhibit there. Shipping may seem like the easy part, but it’s not always that simple. There are issues to be aware of and avoid as you move your exhibit to the place it needs to be. It pays to do some advance research when choosing a shipping provider.
Plan in Advance
For any event, it’s a good idea to give yourself lots of time for preparation. This ensures that if problems do arise, you have time to solve them. Make your to-do list well in advance with plenty of buffer time between each task.
Choose a Shipping Company
1. Choose a Company That Focuses on Trade Show Shipping
General shipping experience isn’t enough. It’s important to choose a company that has specific experience shipping trade show exhibits because they’ll be able to handle the specific problems you’re likely to encounter.
Another reason to choose an industry-specific company is that they’re more likely to have a good rapport with relevant unions. Why does this matter? Drayage—the transfer of your booth between the loading dock and the exhibition floor—is usually performed by union workers. Good union relationships can help avoid service delays and may prevent your drayage costs spiraling in the event of a mishap.
Your carrier benefits from knowing the industry venues well, whether it’s McCormick Place® in Chicago, the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Santa Clara Convention Center, or the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. If your carrier has specific venue experience, you benefit too!
2. Look for an Experienced and Established Company
Not only should your shipper get the trade show industry, they should be experienced in general. They’ll know what to do with broken or missing boxes—and how to avoid them altogether. They’ll know how to get your exhibit to its destination on time. These are issues you don’t want to have to worry about, as they may affect your ability to do a great job at the show.
An experienced shipping company is likely to perform better overall, and solve problems more efficiently. A major winter blizzard, for instance, could put your schedule in disarray—not to mention your budget! An established company has seen its share of bad weather and can pull out all the stops to get the job done.
Pro Tip: Many trade shows have an official show carrier, and it’s tempting to opt for them. Before you do, research your options. You’re not required to use the official carrier, and it often ends up being the costlier choice.
3. Look for a Company That Handles Large Shipments
You can benefit from price breaks if your shipping company has multiple truck-loads, or less-than-full truckloads, to the same convention site.
For example, at very popular shows, trucks full of supplies sometimes have to wait for hours in the marshaling yard before they are able to deliver their shipments at the unloading dock. Marshal-yard fees range from $45 to $85 an hour. If your shipping company has multiple trucks and shipments, the usual waiting fees may be waived.
It’s unlikely those fees would be waived for a company with fewer trucks and shipments. And that company would have to pass their increased costs on to you, the exhibitor.
4. Make Communication a Priority
If problems arise with your shipment, you want to know about them right away. You need a company committed to keeping customers updated. Look for one that does the following:
- Offers 24/7 contact with a live person – Trade shows aren’t 9-to-5 events where the action and decisions stop outside of business hours. Your freight carrier should be able to provide you with live support any time of the day or night.
- Sends Internet air bills and bills of lading out on request, in case you lose one and need a duplicate in a hurry
Don’t forget that communication goes both ways! Provide your freight carrier with the names and mobile numbers of all your trade show booth staff, as well as your own contact information.
Pro Tip: Your trade show exhibit details—including details of your freight carrier—should also be shared with the company you hire to do your booth installation and dismantle, and vice versa. If you choose ProExhibits as your trade show shipper, we can do the install and dismantle as well, saving you that extra step!
5. Send Your Booth with Time to Spare
Your event shipping needs won’t always be time-critical. Even so, it’s important to give yourself as big a margin of error as you can. Poppe suggests that once you’ve picked a freight company, you ship 7 to 10 days ahead of your booth installation day. This ensures you avoid late penalties.
Another option is to send your booth early for advance warehouse storage. This way, your booth is stored in a secure warehouse until the first day of move-in. Once you arrive, your shipment is waiting for you at your booth space, ready for installation. The benefits of this?
- You avoid late penalties.
- It gives you time to address any problems that arise during shipping.
- It prevents the stress of doing things at the last minute!
Record All Details
Technological advances such as GPS have been great for the shipping industry, but GPS can’t find what isn’t labeled! Several different people will handle your shipment as it travels to its destination, and there’s always room for human error.
To reduce the risks, clearly label all boxes and containers. Ensure your shipping company records all the essential information about your trade show exhibit.
Your trade show freight company should take down the following details:
- Origin and destination of each package
- The full shipping schedule
- Weight and exact dimensions
- The number of pieces in the package
- The total number of packages in the shipment
This is important not just for keeping track of your exhibit, but also because some of this information determines your shipping costs. This means the cost of transporting your booth to the exhibition site and the costs of drayage. Boxes must be clearly and accurately labeled, as drayage is calculated at the point of service.
Don’t Ship Unnecessary Items
This one might seem self-explanatory, but many people give in to the convenience of sending other exhibit items along with their booth, like:
- Marketing materials
- Snacks and water bottles
That’s all extra weight and more shipping cost.
Instead, arrange to have marketing materials printed at your destination, and pick them up when you arrive. Use the same strategy for swag and any other small items. You’ll have less to pack and ship, and you control your freight costs.
Double-Check Your Insurance
Whichever shipping company you choose, make sure you understand what your insurance covers. The only thing worse than a booth that’s lost or damaged in transit is a lost or damaged booth that’s uninsured!
Choose ProExhibits for All Your Exhibit and Shipping Needs
When you’re shipping your trade show exhibit to a venue, it’s wise to avoid unneeded risks. Do your homework before the show, and choose a trade show shipper that knows the ins and outs of the industry—better yet, the event you’re attending!
To make things easier, you can choose an experienced, full-service provider like ProExhibits and have them arrange the shipping. With ProExhibits on the job, your trade show exhibit will make it to the show on time, in perfect condition.