trade show shipping

There are tons of materials you need to get to an event, making trade show shipping a daunting task. Many brands send marketing collateral, products, and even a booth across the country to attend an event.

Despite the many factors that go into a successful event, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. We have a few best practices you can follow to make trade show shipping run smoothly, getting your materials where they need to go on time and in one piece.

Planning: A Key to Trade Show Shipping 

The most crucial piece of the puzzle when shipping everything you need to a trade show is deliberate and advanced planning. You often have months to get ready for a show and should use that time to your advantage.

Trade show shipping requires a longer timeline than traditional freight. You may be required to ship product and other materials weeks, even months, in advance. It is crucial to prioritize the transportation part of the equation because working ahead can open the door to more options.

Shippers should plan to start the quoting process at least two weeks to one month before your preferred shipment date. Carriers that specialize in trade shows could book up their capacity if you don’t schedule your orders in time. Additionally, with notice, carriers can optimize the movement of your freight, which can equate to more favorable pricing.

Keep Track of Essential Paperwork 

Just like with other orders, paperwork is a critical part of the shipment. You will need to properly account for all the materials in your shipment to ensure that individual pieces are there when your order arrives to the show. Be sure to include the following on all paperwork. Place this information on all sides of your pallet or crate/case since freight will be stored with numerous other trade show shipments, clarification matters.

      • Booth number
      • Company name
      • Point of contact
      • Phone
      • Email
      • Number of pieces (1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc.)
      • Must-arrive-by-date
      • Delivery address

Schedule Return Transportation for Your Trade Show Shipping 

Return transportation is an integral part of trade show shipping that could fly under your radar if you have not gone to previous shows. The best practice would be to let the carrier hired by the trade show itself help with the initial movement of goods from the show back to the advance warehouse. That carrier can also handle return shipments if their service is good.

If you do not want to use the suggested provider for the return shipment, you can use a different service provider to pick up from the advance warehouse and bring your goods back home. This choice can often help you save on transportation costs.

You can also choose to bypass the suggested provider altogether and have your chosen carrier pick up freight directly from the show venue. If you choose this route, you will need to relay detailed information to the carrier about where to find your shipment and what time window they can pick up your order.

Trade Show Shipping Specificities to Keep in Mind 

Some things make trade show shipping different than everyday order transportation. They are outside the periphery of what most deal with and are important to remember when dealing with trade show shipping.

Advance Warehouses

Trade show freight is typically delivered to the advance warehouse instead of the event venue. This offsite information is usually provided by the event staff to shippers well ahead of shipment. Here’s what to look for:

  • Delivery warehouse location
  • Date and time window for delivery
  • Any packaging restrictions or guidelines
  • Proper shipping labels

When your freight arrives at the warehouse, they charge a small holding fee and an added drayage charge for delivery to your booth. Depending on the volume of your materials, this usually costs a few hundred dollars.

Drayage Fees

Facilities charge drayage fees for storing, transferring, and delivering material to or from the advance warehouse or venue. Rates can vary, but trade shows typically have a 100 lb. minimum handling charge. Palletizing product or using a crate or case can help keep drayage costs down.

Marshaling Yards

If you cannot deliver your freight to the advance warehouse within the timeline outlined, you do have another option. You can deliver directly to the venue within a specific time window leading up to the event.

Drivers must go to an offsite marshaling yard to wait to be unloaded. Incoming trucks line up by arrival time and delivery location. But, with no set appointment times at these facilities, drivers can wait for hours.

If you must deliver to a marshaling yard, set expectations upfront and arrive early. Carriers will charge your organization for extended waiting times.

Forced Freight and Trade Show Shipping 

Event staff only rents venues for a limited time, and all freight must be removed by a specific date to make room for the next show. If your freight remains on the show floor after this deadline, it will be moved to another location or “forced.”

If your designated carrier does not arrive as scheduled or can’t find your booth, you can either have your freight moved to the show’s advance warehouse for holding or use the show’s preferred carrier.

The costs associated with forced freight will be higher than the actual shipping rates you quoted. There will be added drayage and detention fees, plus inflated rates from the show carrier.

Common reasons for forced freight are when a carrier doesn’t arrive on time or has the proper paperwork. Other causes are more difficult to control, such as show staffers removing booth numbers or floorplan markers before all freight is picked up. These missing details make it difficult for carriers to find the freight they are assigned to move.

Preventing Forced Freight Situations

To prevent forced freight and unnecessary fees, do the following:

      • Clearly communicate deadlines, locations, and special instructions to transportation partners
      • Complete all your paperwork and be as detailed as possible
      • Clearly mark your crates, boxes, and pallets with legible labels
      • If freight is going to multiple locations, use different colored labels for each destination
      • Indicate piece count on paperwork, labels, and in communication
      • Include contact information on paperwork and labels

Refrigerated Trade Show Shipping 

If you are delivering temperature-sensitive food or beverage samples to an event, delivery logistics are slightly different.

Temperature-sensitive deliveries can usually bypass the advance warehouse and marshaling yard but must deliver against an appointment and to a specific location. Be sure to ask your show contact for clarification. Freight is then kept in large coolers at the show venue for safekeeping.

Trade Show Shipping Services

If handling your trade show freight still sounds overwhelming, know that a 3PL partner can help remove the stress.

A 3PL partner can research the best available carriers and pricing, coordinate delivery, assist with paperwork, and keep track of your shipment, confirming its final delivery and pickup.

Do you need help with trade show shipping?

Contact Us