How to Prepare and Save for Your Next
Trade Show Shipping

When it comes to trades shows, shipping generally costs an average of 10%-13% of the overall trade show budget. However, unexpected costs can quickly skyrocket with clearance delays at the border, missing or incorrect paperwork, and damaged, delayed, or lost cargo. This can have a ripple effect, putting the exhibitor’s time sensitive show schedule in jeopardy, potentially causing them to incur a fines and penalties issued by the trade show organizer for not arriving on schedule.

The logistics involved in coordinating the delivery times with the exhibit dates and handling delicate display material requires preparation and expert care.  It’s important to consider not only the cost of your shipping provider, but the customer attention and delivery service you’ll be receiving. Here are some suggestions to help prepare your next exhibit for shipping:

Beyond the “Official” Carrier

Generally a trade show will have an agreement with a company to act as the “official carrier,” usually at a premium rate. You are under no obligation to use this them, so, consider your options. Look for a shipping expert that offers a competitive rate, but more importantly, brings the most value to the table. For instance, do they provide customer support 24 hours a day, 7 days per week?  If there is a problem with clearing customs at the border in the middle of the night, you’ll want somebody available to troubleshoot on your behalf?  Also, find out if they send out regular communication updates and offer visibility that keeps you informed. Finally, what their customers have to say and get references.

What Is Your Delivery Guarantee?

An exhibitor display may only take up two palettes on a truck, and rarely uses a truckload.  Less Than Truck Load carriers (LTL carriers) can be used to transporting trade show displays, but it means not traveling direct. For example, a shipment from Tampa to Toronto will make multiple stops – and crossdocked at every terminal, frequently transferring trucks, with items being handled multiple times and increasing the chances of freight being damaged. It also makes the delivery time more unpredictable, so the LTL carrier will often just give an estimated date of delivery.  

With a time sensitive trade show you will benefit from finding a shipping company or freight broker that offers a delivery guarantee.  A freight broker may be able to arrange a direct shipping option, without a multi-stop LTL transit mode.

Plan for the Unpredictable

Look for a shipping company or freight broker who offers added insurance for higher value materials you might be transporting to your trade show. If materials are ever lost in transit, a typical carrier liability is only pays 2 dollars per pound. Whichever company you choose to work with, or trade show you’re preparing for, remember to look for piece of mind when you’re shipping.