Shipping logistics for trade shows can be complicated. Timelines are tight, and you're often dealing with oddly shaped and oversize displays, furniture, and breakable promotional items. It's essential to follow good organizational and shipping practices to get everything where it needs to be.
Here are a few ideas for managing the shipping process to ensure your trade show materials arrive at the right place, on time and intact — without breaking your budget.
Make Shipping Logistics an Early Priority
It pays to work far in advance. Your event venue will provide you with information on how to take advantage of an advance warehouse — the site that can hold your materials before the show. Shipping to the warehouse is cheaper than shipping directly to the event venue, and venue staff will make sure your items arrive to the trade show floor when you need them. But the advance warehouse only accepts items within a short timeframe, which usually occurs well before the show itself. Look to see when you can use the advance warehouse, and plan accordingly.
Also, remember to obtain packing materials such as bubble wrap, fillers, tape and case padding, and always get more than you think you'll need. Pre-print your shipping labels and double-check all your timelines.
Be Thorough With Labeling
Your items are delivered to the show's on-site team. Labeling your boxes with the right information can ensure they're delivered to the right place and set up properly.
Consider using a trade case or boxes emblazoned with your company's name and logo. Label each case and box with your company information, along with your booth number, show details and contact information. Consider adding the same information inside packages in case exterior labels fall off.
Fill Out Your Bill of Lading
Your bill of lading, a document detailing the contents of a shipment, provides instructions to the carrier and on-site crew about any special requirements for your shipment. Are any items delicate? Have they already been assembled and just need packing materials removed?
Ultimately, this document helps everyone who handles your packages understand your expectations when those items leave your office. Take care to anticipate the information shippers will need from end to end.
Make Contact With the Receiving Team
You may need to reach someone at the show, whether it's to confirm receipt of your display, request a last-minute change or address an issue someone spots when they arrive on site. Find out the name of the show's logistical floor manager.
Take the time to contact them well before the show to introduce yourself and find out the best way to contact them during the show. Their team may be running around the floor, so they may ask that priority requests are sent as urgent texts or via a quick phone call, for example.
Have a Show Close-Down Plan
Include instructions on the bill of lading for repacking and return shipping, or coordinate it through the trade show's management office. If necessary, include specific guidelines for packing and shipping. Ensure you've included a clear list of items, specific carrier details and a company contact. Show tear-downs can get busy, so planning ahead ensures successful return shipping.
Also, remember to hang onto your boxes and shipping materials during the show so you can use them again — many attendees absent-mindedly throw them away when they arrive, and only realize their mistake when the event winds down.
Shipping trade show displays, booth furniture, promotional items and more requires significant planning. Take the time to map out your needs, connect with the show floor team and think about shipping both to and from the event.