Logistics Tips for a Worry-Free Trade Show Experience

Making sure that all your ducks are in a row not only saves time and money, but also allows you to focus on your potential customers.

By Lisa Shackelford

There is a lot of planning that goes into attending a trade show, from setting the budget, staffing the exhibit, designing the booth itself, creating pre-show and post-show marketing campaigns, etc. However, if the display does not arrive, all of the effort put into preparing for the show is lost. Here are some tips to prevent a last-minute trade show emergency:

  • Read (and re-read) the exhibitors’ kit. The kit will include anything that you will need to know about participating in the show, including shipping instructions, show regulations, the availability of power and internet connection, the forms required and a list of trade show logistics service providers. Reading the rules thoroughly and understanding them will prevent you from unknowingly breaking height restrictions or set-up regulations.
  • Consolidate shipments. Not only does consolidating shipments decrease the chance of losing parts of the exhibit in transit, but also reduces shipping costs.
  • Ship to the advanced warehouse if possible. Shipping ahead instead of directly to the show alleviates the anxiety of wondering if the display will arrive on time. By shipping to the advanced warehouse, you can start setting up your booth immediately, since it will already be at your assigned booth space on the first day of set-up.
  • Set your deadline for a few days earlier than necessary. By doing this, if there are any last minute fixes or problems that arise, they can be corrected before the show begins. This also allows a buffer for any shipping issues that would delay delivery, such as bad weather or a delayed plane.
  • Have several copies of all show forms available. Sending a copy of the show paperwork to the person installing and dismantling the exhibit is also smart.
  • Label your materials. Include your company name, show name, booth number and a phone number on each label, in case the display gets lost or misplaced.  Try tying a colorful piece of ribbon on your cases or crates so that they will be easy to spot if they are misplaced.
  • Track the shipment to and from the show. Tracking the display’s transit route to the show indicates if the shipment will arrive on time, or if there are any delays. Tracking the return of the display ensures that all the pieces have been shipped back. If a shipment is lost, not only will you have more time to devise a Plan B, but also there is a better chance of finding a lost shipment if a claim is filed immediately.
  • Inspect the display when it returns to ensure that every piece has returned and also to check for damages. It is much easier to find the cause of damage and repair the display immediately after a show. It is also more likely that missing pieces of the display can be located if their absence is noticed immediately.
  • Avoid last minute shipments as much as possible. Last minute shipments are very costly, and there is no guarantee that the display will make it to the show on time, even when using overnight shipping.
  • Make sure that all required documentation is available when crossing an international border to avoid delays.  Build time into your shipping schedule to account for international delays. If there are problems getting the display through customs, the display can still arrive in time for the trade show.

Pre-show planning is the best defense against unexpected setbacks when exhibiting. By taking some additional steps along the way, you can feel confident that your display will arrive on time and in one piece. You can then focus your energy at the trade show on meeting and talking with potential clients, which is the ultimate purpose of your exhibit.


Lisa Shackelford is the Marketing Coordinator for FB Displays & Designs, Inc.