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How to sensibly transport your products to a trade show

When thousands of people attend a trade show exhibition hall with their colleagues, customers and client prospects, the good news is that there is a lot of sales prospecting and high-powered networking going on. The bad news is that you might have a bulky product to transport.

If you can take your products to a show in your own van, then this article might not be for you. But if you have a large item to exhibit, or if you are exhibiting overseas, you may want to take the following ten tips and pointers into consideration.

Always plan

First things first, the more time you have to plan, the better you can organise the best transportation options for your specific needs.

When taking your product to a show, your main choices are common carrier, sea or air freight, or a courier service such as DHL or FedEx. It’s important to not leave this decision to the last minute, as your options may be reduced and your costs might rise.

Choose what’s right for you

It’s vitally important to determine your right transportation option. You should consider the packaging needs of the shipment, the origin and destination of the shipment and the amount of time set aside for transportation. Don’t forget pick-up and delivery requirements. Let’s have a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Common carriers are less expensive and it is easy to check with them on your shipment’s location. Specialist exhibition freight companies offer more specialised and personalised point-to-point service. They are equipped to handle crated or specialist pieces, the same driver loads and unloads shipments. Sea or air freight usually offers the quickest means of transportation to show venues as they are specialised freight forwarders, and courier service can be the quickest means of transportation to show site for last-minute details.


The disadvantages of common carriers are that they often make several transfers, which can increase the possibility of loss and damage. Little direct contact is made with the exhibitor because they usually work directly with the show contractor. The load may not be able to tolerate normal road shock which isn’t good for sensitive equipment, and common carriers only accept boxed consignments. The disadvantages of air and sea freight are that brokers don’t have allegiance to any one freight or commercial airline, resulting in high costs. Furthermore, airline baggage handlers often use harsh handling techniques, and freight is limited to certain sized pieces.

Do your homework

It’s important to research all your options. You should select a carrier that has a dedicated exhibition service, 24-hour tracking capability and drivers who have experience delivering to show sites. Check references, find out what procedures they take for support before, during and after the move. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Entertain going down the official route

Find out from show management if they have an official carrier for the event. A recommended or official carrier is likely to offer special prices as an incentive to use its services.

Make sure to leverage volume discounts

To get the best pricing from your carrier, consider an annual option, or consolidating all your corporate shipping needs. It is also worth asking if you have more than one bulky product to ship.

Insure shipments

This goes without saying, but there are several insurance options available for your exhibit: corporate insurance policies, common carrier or van line insurance, and extended liability coverage. Ask your carrier what insurance coverage they can offer for individual shipments, whether they offer insurance that covers the exhibit for the entire show, and what their procedure is for taking care of any damage claims. Every carrier is insured against loss or delay. Check for specifics. Ask about reimbursements for loss and specific guarantees concerning inclement weather or natural disasters.

Label correctly

Again, a simple one, but you should label every box, carton or crate with the show name and booth number you are shipping. Make sure all shipping labels are securely attached on top of old labels. We’d advise taking preprinted labels with the return address to replace in-bound ones.

Exhibiting abroad

So, you’ve committed to exhibiting abroad, well you should consider using a shipper that has a worldwide fleet or established subsidiary connections. Check what help they will give you with customs, what documents to have, temporary import bonds, warehousing and consolidation. You should ask for guarantees for quick customs clearance and the shortest, least expensive delivery route. Once again, you don’t ask, you don’t get. They will be expecting to hear these questions.

So, that’s it, you’ve made it to the show following these top tips, but one final security pointer to consider once there, is never count one hundred percent on your trade show booth having a lock. It is OK to lock up large pieces of equipment that can’t be easily moved and store them overnight at your booth or stand. But whenever possible, you really should remove all valuables from the trade show booth counter lock box at night.

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