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A Guide to Trade Show Shipping, Freight & Material Handling

Understanding Trade Show Shipping, Freight, and Material Handling.

Once you have prepared your booth, products, literature, and samples for shipping. It's time to get the show on the road - literally. 

There are three major parts of the Trade Show Shipping process

  • Inbound Shipping is the act of shipping your freight to the trade show location. Depending on the size of your shipment this could be costly and you should strategically ship your items in order to meet delivery deadlines and get the best rates.

Remember: The longer the shipping window from point A to point B, the better the shipping rate for you, since the load can be consolidated with others to fill the mode of transportation and efficiently utilize fuel/driver costs.

  • Material Handling: This is the unload and delivery of exhibitor and show organizer displays and goods from the GES warehouse or show site dock to their booth. It also can include storage of empty boxes and crates, redelivery of boxes and crates at show close, and transport back to dock for loading on the way out of the show. 

  • Outbound Shipping is the act of shipping your freight from the trade show location.

Common Questions about Trade Show Shipping

Is the show a targeted freight show?

A targeted show is where each booth space has an assigned delivery date and time based on the location on the show floor. In most cases, this applies to the move-in of a trade show but in some cases, the show has a targeted move out also. If you want to make sure you meet these by the deadline, make sure to check with the official service provider.

What is a marshaling yard is and why it is used?

Some facilities use an offsite marshaling yard to stage all the incoming trucks and put them in line by arrival time and delivery location. . This is done to control the congestion at the loading docks of the facility, without hindering productivity during move-in/out. If you are hiring an outside carrier that does not specialize in trade show shipping, please be aware that you may be charged wait time/detention during larger events that require a marshaling yard during move-in/out.

Remember: Most official service providers or general contractors have preferred/partnered carriers that can assist you with your shipping needs

How can I ship from one trade show directly to another?

Ask the official service provider if they are offering a caravan of expedited shipping from one show to the next. Even if the next show is not the same official service provider, they still may be able to help you.

How should I ship small packages to the trade show?

Small Package carriers like UPS, FedEx and DHL, may split your shipment when delivering separate pieces, regardless of how it was originally shipped. If a package arrives separate from your initial shipment to the warehouse or show venue on multiple days, each shipment is considered a new package and additional small package fees may apply. Please note when small package is delivered at the warehouse or show venue, the official provider or general contractor will sign for the entire truck as a whole prior to scanning each individual package. Your package is considered received once it is physically scanned into the system. This process does take time to sort, scan and deliver to the booth.   

Medium and Large boxes

What is Material Handling or Drayage?

Material Handling service is provided by the official service provider who is appointed by the show organizer when participating in a show in the U.S.  The official service provider is the only company authorized to move materials on the show floor.  Material handling (also known as drayage) refers to the movement of your display freight and/or goods from your carrier’s delivery vehicle to your booth space. The services include: unloading your freight once it arrives at the receiving dock, transporting the freight to the trade show booth space, removing the empty shipping container during install, temporarily storing your empty shipping items during the show, returning empty shipping items for dismantle once the show is closed, transferring the freight back to the loading dock and loading your items to your carrier’s vehicle. 


How Can I Save Money on Material handling or drayage?

In the U.S., we have material handling or drayage fees. This service falls under the official service provider who is hired through the show organizer and is the only partly authorized to oversee and control the safety of the movement of material on the show floor. This is a chargeable service that is billed on a per 100lb. basis, usually with a 300lb. minimum or per lb if the show offers GES Material Handling+.  To save yourself money, avoid surcharges for material handling/drayage by staying alert of shipping deadlines, locations and types of freight accepted without additional fees. It is best to check with the official service provider before planning your shipment(s) and be aware of late-to-warehouse fees, mixed shipment fees, uncrated fees and off-target fees.

Exhibit Storage Services and Empty Labels

To adhere to fire marshal regulations prior to show open, the official service provider must collect all empty storage containers. The official service provider will provide exhibitors with color-coded EMPTY STORAGE labels during the installation/ move-in of the trade show.  Once the exhibitor has completed unpacking their materials, the exhibitor must affix the EMPTY STORAGE label onto the empty package(s), so that it is visible to the service provider staff.  They will then move the empty package(s) to the designated empty storage area and return it to the exhibitor at the conclusion of the trade show.  The color-coding enables the service provider to segregate the empties by area for easy return to the exhibitor after the show.


Additional Tips for Exhibition Shipping

Shipping and material handling fees can account for a large portion of your trade show expenses.  In order to minimize this expense, estimate the overall weight of booth properties and supplies needed for the show in advance.  Compare material handling costs associated with delivering to advance warehouse versus direct to show. Be sure to factor in all related shipping costs (i.e. waiting/detention time, etc.).

If your company is attending multiple shows that have a tight turnaround between shows, reach out to the official service provider on services that can be offered (i.e. booth rental). 

Plan your shipment well in advance of arrival deadlines – the more time to ship, the more cost-effective it can be!  Need help? GES Logistics can provide hassle-free shipping to any destination.