Trade Show Shipping 101

As you begin to prepare for your next trade show, one of the most critical logistical items to consider is shipping your booth and supplies. Timing is key because 1) if you arrive and your booth doesn't, you won't be able to participate in the show effectively, and 2) most venues provide only a small window in which freight can arrive to show site. Be sure to check with your exhibition contact on the availability of an advance warehouse – where you can often ship your freight weeks in advance. Read on as we've provided key trade show shipping tips and go over the basics of exhibition freight, including everything you need to know to ship yours in a timely and cost-effective way.

What is Trade Show Shipping?

Trade show shipping refers to the process of getting your goods and displays used for a show to its destination on-time and intact. Trade show booth shipping can be accomplished via truck, rail, or air freight.

Trade show booth shipping typically includes these key items:

  • Your trade show booth and booth materials (wraps, banners, tables, etc.)
  • Products you're bringing with you to exhibit or share with attendees
  • Electronic devices that are part of your trade booth like iPads, tablets, televisions, or laptops
  • Literature including business cards, booklets, brochures, flyers, and more

Shipping this freight requires careful planning; shipping too early can lead to your booth arriving outside of the approved show site arrival window, and shipping too late can lead to exorbitant costs or, worse, your exhibit not arriving in time for the show.

In some cases, you may need to ship from one trade show directly to the next, especially in industries with busy conference seasons during certain months of the year. That requires additional coordination and may require you to work with more than one freight carrier.

Tips to Get the Best Rate on Trade Show Shipping

When shipping your booth and other trade show freight, there are several steps you can take to ensure you get the best rate.

Ship Your Booth with Time to Spare

When transporting large items like exhibits, freight carriers can offer the best rate when they're able to consolidate large shipments for multiple clients in a single trip. Shipping less-than-truckload freight is a great way to save money, but it does take a little longer due to multiple stops. Waiting too long can leave you with increased costs for expedited shipping or air freight.

Manage Material Handling and Drayage Fees

Generally speaking, you'll be charged the lowest material handling fees by the trade show venue if your freight: 1) doesn't have special handling instructions, 2) isn't fragile, 3) is on a pallet or crate and can be moved by forklift, 4) arrives when it's supposed to arrive, and 5) it can be moved directly to the space you've rented. Any time your freight doesn't meet these criteria trade show material handling prices increase.

Additionally, drayage fees apply to have your booth materials moved on and off the show floor by professionals hired by the show organizer. Trade shows calculate this charge by weight – rounding up to the nearest hundred pounds. To save money and avoid surcharges, it is advised to consolidate shipments and check with the show organizer on late-to-warehouse fees, uncrated fees, and mixed shipment fees.

Ensure the Bill of Lading is Thorough and Accurate

The Bill of Lading (BOL) is especially important for trade show booth shipping. Be sure to include that the destination is a trade show; the address; the event name; your booth number; the date of the event; the contact information of the on-site coordinator; the move-in date; and the freight class for the shipment for "trade show materials" is Class 125.

Choose an Experienced Trade Show Freight Carrier

An experienced freight shipping carrier is accustomed to the tight timelines and coordination that accompany trade show shipping and can help save last-minute expenses that may arise. Request a trade show booth shipping quote online today!

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