WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU SHOW UP AT YOUR BOOTH SPACE AT ONE OF
YOUR MOST IMPORTANT SHOWS OF THE YEAR, BUT SOME OR ALL OF YOUR
FREIGHT HAS NOT?
One of the worst disasters that any trade show manager or coordinator could imagine is
having a booth space at a show with no exhibit in it when the show starts! If you find
yourself in that predicament, not only is it embarrassing, but very costly. What steps
should you take if you show up at your booth space on the first day of install and your
freight is not there? First off, don’t panic… yet.
There are a number of pertinent things that you need to always do or make sure your
exhibit vendor does every time your exhibit is getting ready to go to a show. By following
these steps, you will significantly reduce the risk of missing freight.
1. Select a freight company that specializes in trade show shipping. Trade show
shipping is very different than standard shipping with many special rules.
2. Make sure that you have an accurate bill of lading that properly reflects the sizes
and weights of all pieces that are shipping.
3. Label your crates with your company logo prominently displayed and consider
using bright colors to mark your crates.
4. Take a photograph of all pieces that are shipping just prior to loading.
5. If there are multiple crates, cases, or pallets that are being shipped, make sure
that all of your pieces are labeled as 1 of the total. For example, if you are
shipping 4 pieces, each one should be labeled as 1 or 4, 2 of 4 and so on.
6. Consider shipping your exhibit on a dedicated truck as opposed to LTL if you
have a fairly large shipment. Shipping on a dedicated truck means that no other
freight will be on your truck and that truck will pick up your freight and make the
long haul trip to your show venue or warehouse. With LTL (less than a full load),
the carrier will pick up your freight along with other freight, take it to a staging
warehouse, and then unload. Then, they will marry it up with other freight that is
heading to your final destination to make the trip. There may be multiple stops
and loading and unloading of your freight before it gets to the final destination. A
dedicated truck is typically more costly, but requires much less handling and,
therefore, fewer places for something to get misplaced or even damaged.
7. Make sure that you have tracking information and contact numbers, a copy of the
bill of lading, hard copies of all of your receipts and documents, and the photos
with you at the show. Keep them on your iPad or your go-to device for quick and
8. If you ship to the show decorator’s pre-show warehouse, you will typically receive
notice from them when your shipment arrives at their facility. Confirm that their
piece count matches your bill of lading.
However, even if you do all of the things above, you may still arrive at your booth with
one or more pieces missing. So, here is what to do in that event:
MAKE SURE TO GET TO YOUR BOOTH SPACE BEFORE THE INSTALLATION OF
YOUR EXHIBIT IS SCHEDULED TO BEGIN. One the most important things that this
allows you to do is count your crates to make sure everything is there. If for any reason,
some or all of your fright isn’t there, start this protocol:
1. If you have shipped directly to the show site and none of your freight is there,
contact the carrier to make sure that they checked in at the proper time and
where they are “in line” in the Marshalling Yard (where trucks go to wait for their
chance to unload). Also go to the freight desk to verify that your carrier has
indeed checked in. Sometimes they can even give you an idea of when they
think they will be getting to your freight.
2. If you have shipped to the pre-show warehouse, follow these steps:
a. Verify that the piece you’re missing actually shipped – check the Bill of Lading
that you have and freight photos.
b. Verify with the decorator that they signed for the same number of pieces
shown on your bill of lading.
c. Look all around your booth space to make sure the pieces missing are not
hiding behind someone else’s stuff.
d. Search booth spaces with transposed numbers of your own booth number. For
example, if my booth is 215, I will check 512, 521, 125, 152 and so forth.
e. If the show is small enough, expand to a full show floor search.
f. Around this time, you should contact your freight carrier to have them verify
details from their side. The sooner you alert them the better, because they may
need time to search though all of the freight being loaded and unloaded at
various warehouses along the way if you shipped LTL.
g. If that yields no result, check with the freight desk to see if they can help and
even check the back docks and any hidden aisles and hallways in and around
the show floor and docks.
8 out of 10 times, if you follow the steps above you will locate your freight.
If none of the above locates your exhibit or missing pieces, you may still have one
option: If you start this process soon enough, you may still have time to send an
alternate exhibit to the show if you have other properties available in your exhibit fleet.
Plan ahead, be organized, document everything, keep a hard copy of all of your
documents with you, communicate with all parties involved, and keep your eyes peeled.
99 times out of 100 you will avert freight disaster.