Whether you are exhibiting for the first time or the 50th, when it comes to transporting your precious trade show displays panic can ensue if you haven’t taken the time to carefully plan every detail and execute accurately. After all, your goal is to securely transport your trade show materials, on time, on budget, and make sure they’re delivered exactly where you need them.  This area of exhibit planning isn’t sexy, but neither is having your booth arrive late! Let’s help you out a little. First things first.

Transporting trade show exhibitsThe List

As soon as you start planning your show, make a detailed list.  What are your exhibit components, literature, giveaways, graphics, tools, furnishings?  These lists should contain crate dimensions and weights so your carrier can provide an accurate quote.  Are these items crated, skidded or pad-wrapped?  Each option means a different material handling rate, which is the cost of moving your crates from the dock to the booth.  Are you shipping to the Advance Warehouse, a location set up to receive all shipments for an event in advance, or Direct to Show site? Advance Warehouse has an earlier delivery deadline and higher material handling rate.

There are software options for the trade show industry that can help you plan. One huge benefit of using a good cloud based event planner software program is that you can store all of this information online, and electronically generate property and pull lists that can save you a lot of time.

Pros and Cons for Shipping to Advance Warehouse

Some things to consider when determining if you will ship to Advance or Direct:

Advanced Warehouse Pros

Advanced Warehouse Cons

Check the Dates

Check your exhibitor manual for a targeted move-in floor plan.  You will be assigned a date and time your freight needs to arrive at the convention center/exhibit hall, based upon on your booth location and size.  Do not miss this date!  You will be financially penalized if you do, and may have to wait until everyone else’s crates are delivered before you get yours.

You may be given an option to change this to a later date, but keep in mind the surrounding aisles may be filled with your neighbor’s crates, causing a delay in delivery and setup.

The Carrier

Selecting the right carrier is paramount in getting your shipment to the show on time and undamaged – all while meeting your budget.  Shipping exhibit materials is different than shipping any other goods.  Make sure your carrier has experience in trade show transportation, not simply moving crates from point A to point B.

Instruct your carrier to build wait time (typically 3 hours on the in and out) into their quote.  This is key because when the truck reaches the marshaling yard, the driver will be waiting in line until it’s time to move your crates to the convention center freight dock.

On average, shipping accounts for about 10% of your trade show budget, but other factors can impact this number, such as material handling and labor installation.  If your carrier is late or misses a target move in time, your material handling costs will increase about 25%.  At the same time, your scheduled labor may have to put in overtime hours to install your exhibit, which could cost you 50-60% more per hour.  Ouch!

Trade Show Properties

Staged exhibit properties waiting for pickup in our warehouse.


There are many factors to consider when planning your trade show transportation.  If you start early enough, make those lists, research your options and communicate deadlines, you’ll be on time and on budget. And on budget is always sexy!

Mary Kemmer, CTSM, TPG Operations Manager

Related Article: 8 Key Elements of Successful Trade Show Planning