I recently had a lunch date with a fav client and she shared her recent challenging experiences organising transport for her promo items at trade shows. She’d had a bumpy time arranging weekend deliveries and getting the actual gear from the loading dock to her stand. I think she was almost willing to look at giving up participating at trade shows all through the semi-trailer blues (there is a county & western song in that) and I’m sure she is not the only one scratching their head over trade show logistics.

So here are 5 tips to help smooth the logistics path:

1. Use the show service provider

That show manual is not just something to rest your coffee cup on. It also provides useful information about show providers or preferred suppliers. The really thorough manuals also include an address label for you to whack on your goods to be delivered. You do not have to use the show provider, say someone like Agility, you can use your own provider and there are pros and cons both ways.  The show service provider will have someone typically on site so you can eyeball and find out where you freight is. Hanging out by their on site desk is certainly preferable to hanging on the phone line listening to the umpteenth version of Greensleeves! On the other hand, being a preferred supplier could mean they are guaranteed the bulk of show logistics so cost might not be as competitive if there were a number of providers on the source list. A recent supplier to a show was trying to charge three times the going rate for 15 minutes of forklift glory. At that rate, a bullock team is looking pretty cost effective! A couple of bonus tips when dealing with logistics firms and your show freight:

  • Be honest about what you’re sending. Don’t tell them you are sending a couple of A4 boxes in the hope of getting a cheaper rate when you really have 800kgs of machinery requiring a chain block to lift. It’s not cool trying to gyp the transport firm and you’ll end up having to pay a premium anyway.
  • Not an A4 box!

    Not an A4 box!

  • Be a dog with a bone. If your gear has gone MIA, you are well within your rights to seek updates and ensure that someone is working on getting your wayward good to you ASAP.  Just be friendly about it and smile always – killer tip for always getting what you want!
  • Truck with your missing gear on it that is no where near your stand!

    Truck with your missing gear on it that is no where near your stand!

2. Ship less

Well, dur. I know so obvious, but so overlooked.  In these times where you have access to downloads, dropboxes, QR codes, digital files, splash pages, USB sticks loaded up with catalogues and manuals, it makes total sense to ship less gear to the show. Less gear = less transport costs and less time strutting the show in heels looking for your gear that is “somewhere” in the hall.  If you need further convincing, think of it as a transaction.  I meet you on the stand and you give me your brochure.  Or I meet you on the stand and you ask if you can send your  complete library of product info via a digital download.  You get my email address and contact details and now have the chance to extend our relationship beyond the show floor.  Hey presto!  No need for even a Stanley knife and a roll of shrink-wrap!

3. Ask your shows organiser for help

Ok, so if you do need to send a shedload of gear to the event and there is no way it will all fit on the stand as you are planning a give away of biblical proportions (the giving out of show bags at home and consumer shows springs to mind as a good example here), have a chat with your show organizer.  Those crafty little buggars tend to have a room or two available somewhere at a show or know of a nook you can stash excess goodies.  So ask them (nicely and all the time smiling) if they can help you with your tricky problem.

4. Keep notes like you worked for a spy agency

Booking a transport firm for your show logistics?  Take a note from the Bourne Identity movies and take notes like your life depended on it.  What is the driver’s name?  What number can they be contacted on?  What other number can they be contacted on? What are their know aliases i.e. Johnno, Maverick of Chook?  What is the consignment note number?  What is the after hours number?  You need copious and detailed notes including what you are shipping, how many boxes, the size and weights and the pick up / drop off points.  I’d even suggest going so far as taking a digital photo of your packaged gear before it left the depot for the show as it is much easier flashing up on your smart phone screen the photo of the goods you are looking for on site to a logistics provider rather than giving them the vague details of “Well I am looking for something big and wrapped in plastic” (that sort of vagueness could land you with Laura Palmer). You will rely heavily on these notes if something goes wrong so prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

Something big and also wrapped in plastic!

Something big and also wrapped in plastic!

5. Tap your exhibit builder for some assistance

It is likely that your items for the show will arrive to site before you will and it will usually happen when your stand builder is underway with the construction of your stand.  Why not ask your exhibition house to keep an eye out for the gear and to let you know when it has arrived.  Help your builder out (they will have a lengthy to-do list on site) with sending through the digital photos of the packages so they know what they are looking for.  I offer this service for my clients and it certainly helps knowing that either your gear has safely arrived or that it is time to hit the phones and start chasing up errant couriers well before show start.

Hey!  Look, I found my client's gear!

Hey! Look, I found my client’s gear!

If you have a query bout trade show logistics, leave in the comment section below or email me here.

Tune time! This week I’m really digging on some Queens of the Stone Age and their crunchy beats. Hit it!

See you next week!