Trade show logistics includes shipping, booth utilities, booth setup and breakdown, and other important details and called trade show execution.

Once you’ve developed and produced your trade show booth, and all the other associated materials needed for the trade show, your job is only half-finished.

It’s likely you’ll also be handling all the important event logistics-related details involved with your company’s trade show project.

This includes shipping, utilities, booth setup and breakdown, and other tasks involved with the trade show program.

Trade Show Logistics

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Getting your booth and materials to the show

Trade show producers usually work with private shipping companies to provide you with the additional service of shipping your trade show booth, associated signage, and printed materials to the show.

Once these materials arrived, they end up in the staging area somewhere in the loading dock of the exhibition hall and rolled over to your booth space on the show setup day.

These services work for most exhibitors, most of the time. However, when compared to using a first-rate commercial logistics services like FedEx or UPS.

There’s a greater chance your booth and other marketing materials might become lost in the show shippers distribution system, may not arrive on time, or they may not get to the show at all.

Either situation could be a marketing disaster and a far greater cost than if you’d exercise greater control over shipping your company show materials on your own and spent the extra money to send your materials by FedEx or UPS.

Take personal responsibility for shipping your booth materials

If your company will be exhibiting in a standard 10 x10 booth space ad is using a collapsible, modular pop-up booth backdrop, you can avoid using the standard show shipping service.

Instead, either ship the unit yourself by FedEx, UPS, or another courier service that has real-time airbill tracking, or carry the unit aboard with you when you fly to the show.

It’s worth the few hundred dollars extra in shipping, for trade show transportation. You also keep control of your booth and to avoid the possibility of your booth and marketing materials being lost somewhere in the show shippers distribution pipeline the day before the show.

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Ship your booth and marketing materials to the hotel

Since a hotel manager has a greater incentive to guard your property than some Teamster at an exhibition hall, the best and easiest route is to ship your booth and printed marketing materials to the front desk of the hotel where you’ll be staying.

You can use a 3-day shipping option with either FedEx or UPS, in time the delivery of these materials so they arrived two days before you arrived at the show. This way, you’ll have some extra time to track the shipment or send replacement materials, in case any part of your shipment gets lost.

A modular booth exhibit, plus enough brochures and sales materials for a show, can be shipped anywhere in the US at a cost of a few hundred dollars.

Once it arrives at your hotel, the whole shipment fits compactly in the corner of the hotel shipping room, or behind the front desk, awaiting your arrival.

Bring a small, folding hand truck with you to the show, so you and your co-workers can have these materials to the show exhibit hall.

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If your booth requires computers, large product samples, or other large or heavy items, you might have no choice but to utilize the shows shipping service or commercial freight service.

However, even if there is a mix-up and getting your computers or equipment to the show on time, if you take control of getting your booth backdrop and marketing materials to the show, at least your sales reps will have a booth to work from, and brochures to give to your prospects.

No one should care more about your company’s trade show marketing than you. Make trade show logistics your responsibility by taking personal control of your company’s critical show-related marketing materials, and you’ll avoid a show disaster.

Trade show booth setup day

The booth setup usually occurs the day before the opening day of the show. Here is where all the hard work, planning and coordination for your show pays off if your booth and all other marketing materials arrived when and where they’re supposed to.

Set up day usually gives you ample time to get your booth set up and ready for business by the show opening day.

Your trade show kit

You’ll need to assemble a marketing manager trade show kit, to help with your trade show logistics, containing all the items you’ll need for setting up your booth and handling the minor emergencies that always crop up during the show.

A trade show kit helps you deal with the little things that can go wrong at the show. For example, booth panels that need to be patched, protruding electrical wires that need to be tied down, or any other item that must be taped, cut, shortened, join, or otherwise forced into compliance.

Your kit should also contain a small handheld vacuum cleaner, so you and your co-workers can avoid the $150 per day fee show exhibition services charge to quickly run a vacuum across the carpet in your booth each night, by having you or your coworker do the job.

Your trade show kit should contain the following:

  • Instructions and diagram for setting up and arranging booth elements
  • Small, folding hand truck
  • Clear shipping tape
  • Duct tape
  • Box cutter
  • Steel wire
  • Fishing line
  • Nylon tie-down straps
  • Inline electrical power strips
  • Extension cords
  • Magic markers
  • Paper towels and glass cleaner
  • Small handheld vacuum cleaner
  • Rubber bands
  • Multi-tool with needle-nose pliers and pocket knife
  • Small first aid kit
  • A digital camera with SD cards

Your kit can be shipped ahead with your trade show display, brochures, and the rest of your trade show exhibit marketing materials, or you can take it with you when you fly or drive to the show.

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Trade show logistics: Major trade show emergencies

Despite your best planning and execution, major trade show emergencies happen, usually without warning, and at the worst possible times.

Your trade show booth can be lost by the airline, shipper, or hotel during the first day of the show, the box of your importance sales brochures is lost, or arrives damaged beyond use, or all of the booth signs arrived with 2 inches of daylight punch through the panel.

Any of these glitches, if they can be solved with minimal disruption, and up as a funny story when you return to your office. But they are not very funny at the time when they happen, and they will always force you to go to plan B. You just have to know what your own plan B is.

Here are some useful resources to keep in the back of your mind to address any major emergency threatening a trade show:

  • Same-day emergency shipping. Most show emergencies involve loss marketing materials, such as brochures, sales flyers, or signage, for which replacements are available. If they can get to your show on time. Airline counter to counter services such as those provided by any major airline can get your parcel on a scheduled passenger flight to the airport of your show city.
  • Local printing services. Kinko’s has over 1,000 locations across the US and is an excellent resource for emergency color copying and color digital printing brochures, flyers, and small signs. Your digital marketing agency or marketing consultant can transmit electronic files for your company’s sales and marketing deliverables by email to any Kinko’s near your trade show location, where they can be printed and picked up. Also, it’s a good idea to bring Adobe PDF files of all your company’s marketing materials with you on your laptop computer, in case you need to have these printed at a Kinko’s in your trade show city.
  • Local sign production. If you need additional signage right away, your digital marketing agency or marketing consultant can transmit electronic files to a local sign producer, such as Fastsigns, a nationwide sign printing chain, that specializes in printing and mounting new or replacement show signs.

Trade show logistics cost must be watched. The end shipping and production cost of trade show emergencies are expensive, but they are always a fraction of the downside cost of lost sales and marketing opportunities your company would otherwise experience.

Your digital marketing agency or marketing consultant can be a great help to you during these emergency situations, so let them know they should be on call to assist you in case of a trade show emergency.

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Tradeshow logistics is where the rubber meets the road. You must coordinate the shipping of all of your trade show materials, be able to set up the booth and tear the booth down.

As with most projects that have a lot of tasks and dependencies on other people, things may potentially go wrong. So follow these trade show logistics ideas with your next trade show or event. Let us know if it helped.

You’ve spent a lot of time planning your tradeshow. Think about pre and post-website activities. You should have individual landing pages by-product and buyer personas. Your conversion rates will go up and sales acquisition cost will go down.

If you need a website redesign grab this handy template.

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General FAQ’s

What is trade show marketing?

Trade show marketing refers to an exhibition where companies in a specific industry showcase and demonstrate their new products and services.

What is a trade display?

A trade show is an event held to bring together members of a particular industry to display, demonstrate, and discuss their latest products and services.

What is trade show logistics?

Trade show logistics include shipping, booth utilities, booth setup and breakdown, and other essential details called trade show execution.

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