How Trade Show Shipping Works

Trade show shipping is the logistics process behind moving your booth, goods and equipment to and from the show. ...
Trade Show Shipping
April 10, 2019
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Exhibiting at a trade show can feel overwhelming at times. There are numerous moving parts that go into trade show logistics like getting there, setting up, storing your goods, and displaying your product. If you’re not familiar with the process already, you may not be sure where to start and how to find the right carrier for you.
In order to understand how trade show shipping works, you’ll need to understand standard operations and find a company to handle the transportation and delivery of your trade show goods and equipment. When it comes to trade show shipping, it’s important to decide which carrier is best for your business.

What To Know About the Trade Show Shipping ProcessWhat To Know About The Trade Show Shipping Process

Navigating through trade show logistics can be stressful, especially if you’ve never done it before. There are standard practices and jargon you’re not familiar with and mistakes can cause delays and thereby incur extra costs. Start at the beginning to understand terminology and what’s essential information when you’re shipping to a trade show.


Here are some of the more commonly used terms that you’ll come across when shipping freight to a trade show.
advance warehouses: Trade show freight is usually delivered to an advance warehouse that is near the trade show, not the actual venue itself. The trade show host usually provides exhibitors with a preferred timeline and detailed instructions for the advance warehouse, such as:

  • Location of the advance warehouse
  • A specific date and time window for delivery
  • Restrictions for packaging or guidelines
  • Correct shipping labels

The advance warehouse is the most beneficial and full-proof way to handle trade show freight, despite the added cost. You can track your shipment to and from the advance warehouse and make certain that your freight arrives on time to your booth.

  • Drayage Fees: these fees cover the storage, transportation, and delivery of your freight from the advance warehouse to the trade show booth and then back to the advance warehouse. This cost is unavoidable when it comes to trade show freight, but worth the expense to ensure your materials are where they should be when the show starts.
  • Marshaling Yards: the marshaling yard is used if you cannot deliver your freight within the given timeline to the advance warehouse. In that case, your freight must be taken directly to the venue. Marshaling yards exist to keep loading docks at the event facility from getting congested.

Drivers arrive at an offsite marshaling yard to wait their turn to unload their truck. You cannot set an appointment arrival time and must wait in the order the truck arrives, so drivers may be delayed for hours. Waiting can result in hours of lost productivity and therefore result in the driver charging you more fees for delivery.

  • Forced Freight: your booth and its products are only allowed on the show floor for a certain period of time. If you exceed that period of time, your freight will be moved, or “forced,” to another location. It is moved back to the advance warehouse in many cases. Forced freight causes more expenses, such as drayage and detention fees.

Need help shipping your trade show booth and materials?
Fill out a short form or give us a call and one of our trade show specialists will answer your questions.

Getting Down to the Shipment Details

Don’t forget about these points when it comes time to start the shipment process. The small details are what can make the difference between smooth-sailing shipping and turbulent travel.

  • Shipment Paperwork: You run the risk of misplaced materials without the correct paperwork. For that reason, proper labeling and paperwork are absolutely necessary for correct trade show shipping. Include the following on all trade show paperwork:
    • Company name
    • Point of contact
    • Phone and email
    • Delivery address
    • Booth number
    • Arrival date
    • Number of pieces (1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc.)
  • Get Started Ahead of Time: Shipping timelines are longer for trade shows than for traditional freight. You may need to ship your goods weeks in advance so once you decide to attend the trade show, create a detailed timeline. You’re more likely to have more transportation options and lower pricing if you arrange to ship early, and not at the last minute.
  • Arrange Return Transportation: Know how you’re going to get your return shipment before you get to the trade show. Most shows will require you to have plans for return shipping ahead of time. You will need to tell your shipping carrier where to find your products and what time window they have to pick up the freight. This will also help to avoid any forced freight, and the extra fees involved with it.

Need help shipping your trade show booth and materials?
Fill out a short form or give us a call and one of our trade show specialists will answer your questions.

How to Choose Who Handles Your Trade Show ShippingHow To Choose Who Handles Your Trade Show Shipping

Once you design your booth, create marketing collateral, train employees for trade show-specific sales, and make travel arrangements, you’re ready to just get to the show and start exhibiting. You can’t get hasty in the final steps though.
Diligent planning and legwork are necessary in order to get your booth and materials to your show on time, damage free, and for a good price. The guidelines below will help you know what to look for in a shipping company that can do those things, and more!

Experience Matters

Your shipper should be experienced in both trade show shipping and shipping in general. An experienced shipping company is more likely to be knowledgable in all areas and therefore will perform better overall and be an efficient problem solver, if necessary. They’ll know exactly how to get your goods to the exhibit on time and in good condition.  

Large Shipment Experience is Also a Plus

It’s possible you can get a price break if your shipper offers multiple truckloads or less than truckloads to the trade show location. There can be fees associated with delivery and unloading at the dock but those fees are sometimes waived if your shipper has multiple trucks and shipments. The fees are rarely waived for companies who have fewer trucks and shipments, causing those companies to have an increased cost for delivery.

Good Communication is Key

You want to be informed throughout the transportation process. After all, if a problem occurs you want to know right away, not after the fact. Trade shows aren’t 9-5 events as decisions are sometimes made outside of business hours. Therefore, a company that offers 24/7 customer service support with a live person is paramount. The company gets bonus points if they can send a bill of lading out on request, in the case that yours is lost and need another immediately.

Shipping with R+L Global Logistics

R+L Global Logistics fully understands the process of shipping to a trade show. We offer a wide variety of logistics and shipping services, with some of those services listed below:

  • Truckload
  • Less than truckload (LTL)
  • Warehousing
  • Storage
  • Expedited ground
  • Shipment tracking

In addition,  we also provide world class customer service with 24/7 live support. Contact us through chat, email, or a phone call at 866-415-8986 when you’re ready to find an official carrier to handle your trade show shipping needs.

Need help shipping your trade show booth and materials? Fill out a short form or give us a call and one of our trade show specialists will answer your questions.

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Need help shipping your trade show booth and materials? Fill out a short form or give us a call and one of our trade show specialists will answer your questions.

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