Do You Know What 3 Things Determine If Your Trade Show Shipment Arrives On Time?

Who would you rather be?:

Gary: “Honey, I think we should cancel our booth showed up to the show on the last day and I only booked one small sale. Also, I need you to pick me up from the airport at 2 AM, I think we should cut back on Uber for now”.


Barry: “Hey babe, the show went great! I’m going to stay an extra night to grab dinner with a new client, these guys bought everything we had left AND pre-ordered the next container! Let’s celebrate this weekend, I’m thinking steak Friday night?” 

 It’s hard to underestimate the importance of getting your trade show exhibit in front of thousands of industry eyeballs. Imagine all the orders popping up on your email the week after the show, your phone ringing off the hook. With all of this potential balancing on just a few days of activity, how much would it suck if your booth never showed up? Keep reading to learn how to avoid being Gary so you can focus on being Barry

Step 1: Material Handling Agreement

 Would you try to drive to a restaurant you’ve never been to without Google Maps or Waze? Uh, no. Maybe Gary would, but Barry doesn’t! Your Material Handling Agreement is like Google Maps for your trade show. It’s going to tell you everything you need to know for Trade Show Logistics, including:

  • Show check-in date & time

  • Booth #

  • Advance warehouse*/Show Address

  • Decorator

  • Contact Info

  • **House Carrier

 *Trade shows often have the exhibitors send their shipments to an “advance warehouse”. It’s usually operated by the house carrier and it’s just a parking lot for the shipments to hang out in until the convention center is ready for them to come in and party. With big, busy expo centers, they might have a different show coming and going every week, maybe 2 shows!

 **Not all Agreements explicitly show the house carrier but this is an important detail. It’s ideal to work with the show’s freight carrier of choice but not 100% necessary. Sometimes it might make sense to use another expo freight service to pickup some transit time or for a big price difference. That’s okay too! Just make sure you contact that LTL carrier to make sure they’re going to that show so there’s no issues on the day of truth.

Step 2: Paperwork & Labels

 Once you’ve gathered the above info, you can move onto your Bill of Lading (BOL) and shipment labels. Don’t gloss over this step! A wrong move with either could result in your booth missing the show entirely or only having half your shipment show up.

BOL info must-haves: 

  • Company / Decorator / Trade show name

  • Delivery address (Double check address, could be show or advance warehouse)

  • Booth number (Recommend writing in two different places)

  • On site Phone#

  • Email

  • On site Point of contact

  • Piece count 

  • Must arrive by the date

When you setup your BOL, you’ll also choose your carrier. Check the carrier’s transit time to make sure they can arrive by the date you need them to. I can’t recommend using a guarantee enough...that gives the carrier incentive to move your shipment in time. I would also recommend shipping AT LEAST 2 days me things happen, it’s shipping. Gary leaves no extra time but Barry schedules his stuff for pickup 3 days early.

Labels info must-haves:

  • Exhibitor / Decorator / Trade show name

  • Delivery Address

  • Booth #

  • Piece count (1 of 2, 2 of 2, etc.)*

*Barry puts the piece count info on all 4 sides of the crate or pallet.

The labels help the nice folks physically handling the shipment to keep them together. If you have all your info and the piece count on there, there’s a much better chance they will stay together.

Step 3: Tracking

After you scheduled your pickup 2-3 days in advance (Barry) then you can start tracking it. Once per day should suffice as long as the shipment is moving along. If you went full Barry and got the guarantee, just confirm with the carrier it was applied correctly. 

As your shipment gets closer, just keep an eye on the carrier’s website for anything weird (exceptions, alerts, etc.). This is a painless step but it can help you avoid missing your show altogether if you catch something early enough. 

The Wrap:

Trade shows are a great way to give your sales an instant charge. Or maybe you’re exhibiting because you need to peacock in front of the industry to let everyone know you’ve still got it. Either way, plan ahead and follow these steps to make sure you show up with all your feathers, like Barry, so you don’t have to make that terrible phone call, like Gary.

Too complicated? I’d love to help! Hit the button below and let me worry about it while you practice struttin’.