A successful trade show exhibit is a careful choreography that requires extensive logistical knowledge and great attention to project management. You will need to handle inbound shipping of your booth and promo items to a warehouse or the venue. Then, drayage or interim material handling to the floor and back, and outbound shipping from the event. Whether you are participating in one show a year or keep a more frequent schedule of events, knowing the most effective and efficient strategies for shipping both your booth and supplies is critical to saving time and money—and making the experience a positive one for your trade show team and prospects. Let’s take a look at the steps you can follow to ensure shipping success.

Shipping Success

  1. Know the Venue Rules
  2. Research Shipping Companies
  3. Plan Ahead
  4. Know the Shipping Rules
  5. Be Smart About Timing

Make Shipping Easy

Related: Your 2024 Trade Show Booth Checklist: Extreme Makeover Edition

How to Ship Successfully

There are important factors to consider when shipping—and some pitfalls to avoid. By following this guide, you’ll ensure seamless shipments and a smooth schedule:

1. Understand the Venue Rules

Various restrictions and other special instructions can vary from event to event. Familiarize yourself with the exhibitor manual, which outlines the schedule of move-in and move-out dates along with setup and dismantle. The manual should also detail any policies regarding what you’re able to display, sell, and give away. It will advise on whether the event has advanced warehouse shipping, along with the charges per pound and shipping container labels to be placed on each package, with location and shipping dates, and any packaging restrictions. With this information, you can plan with accuracy.

2. Consider Show Management

Consider using show management to handle the shipping logistics. While it may cost more, it can save time and effort for your team.

  • Bulk Shipment to Avoid Fees: Send all packages at once to the event location to avoid additional fees. Advanced warehouses may charge a minimum per shipment, so consolidating shipments can be cost-effective.
  • Coordinate Return Shipments: Have show management coordinate the return shipments to prevent your packages from being left at the show. This ensures a smoother and more organized process.
  • Consider Waiting Times at Marshaling Yard: Note that carriers like FedEx or UPS may not wait in line at the marshaling yard, a designated location for all trucks carrying exhibitor freight to wait, to pick up shipments, so having show management handle the return can be worth the extra cost.

Overall, these strategies aim to optimize the shipping process, reduce costs, and ensure a more efficient experience when participating in events and exhibitions.

Related: 11 Insights to Kick-Start Your Trade Show

3. Plan Ahead

Just as we recommend you book your trade show spot as early as possible, we advise you to start thinking through shipping from the start. Supply chain delays can snag the best schedules, and early planning helps you avoid these hiccups. You’ll need to be sure to plan in advance of the dates and times you need.

4. Know the Shipping Rules

Now it’s essential to understand the shipping protocols to ensure you transport your trade show booth display safely and securely. You’ll need a bill of lading if shipping freight, which is the contract detailing shipping terms. You’ll need insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents that could damage your booth and supplies. 

5. Be Smart About Timing

Sometimes it makes sense to store your items prior to pickup to take advantage of the most cost-effective shipping times and rates. In this case, you can use advanced warehousing shipping, which lets you send shipments to temporary storage first. They’ll be housed in a local warehouse and then transported to the facility’s exhibit space during the prearranged move-in time, for perfect timing. For best results, you should confirm when the advanced warehouse begins accepting shipments. Sometimes, it makes more sense to ship direct to show. If your items aren’t packed in crates, pallets, or other standard sizes, you may need to use this option. Note: Direct to show site shipping has very specific dates and times.


Make Shipping Easy

With some thought and planning informed by the above considerations, you’ll ensure that you’re shipping your trade show booth displays and other items as safely, securely, and cost-effectively as possible. Our team at Ironmark understand the demands of frequent trade shows, which is why we offer a solution to streamline your exhibition experience. Consider utilizing our fulfillment warehouse to store and manage your trade show booth, ensuring it's ready to go for your next event. This service is especially beneficial for companies participating in numerous shows throughout the year, providing unmatched convenience, time savings, and peace of mind. We’ve been shipping items for over 60 years, let us handle the logistics while you focus on making a lasting impression at each trade show.

TALK TO A Trade show Expert

Written by Scott Kravitz

As a graduate of RIT University and with over 25 years of experience, Scott Kravitz has been bringing his wealth of print knowledge to Ironmark since 2019. Kravitz manages Ironmark's sales representatives and provides alignment and communication between sales, marketing, clients, and production. With his charismatic personality and effective management skills, Kravitz leads strategic partnerships and increasing sales with new, emerging, and enterprise clients for Ironmark.

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