One of the things that is often left out of planning for a trade show is the importance of ensuring your product and display booth actually show up.
Often times trade shows are out of your local areas so this means you need to find a suitable carrier. This is critical, if your booth does not show up you have nothing to sell or market, you have likely already paid the Event organizer for your booth and all of your travel expenses (not to mention the significant time investment in planning for this).
It is important you align yourself with the correct carrier to ensure this never happens to you! Here are some key questions to ask your freight broker, or transportation company when considering putting a huge part of your success at the show in someone else's hands:
1. Do they understand you are requesting a show/exhibit type of service and do they offer this service? A show/exhibit service is different from other types of delivery guarantee services and generally this service will include the carrier working directly with the show co-ordinator to ensure the correct delivery time. Early deliveries will often result in hefty fines to the booths vendor ( small print of Trade Show agreements)
2. What types of checks and balances do they have internally for their show/exhibit services? In the event a shipment is mis-loaded at a warehouse while en route how quickly will they be able to catch it? I don't want to alarm you and be doom and gloom, but think about this: Many carriers will have impressive stats posted on their sites 99.7% on time and damage free, wooooo hoooo!!!! What they won't tell you that some of their larger warehouses do over 1000 outbound shipments per night, lets just hope you are not one of those 3 nightly customers whose shipment is now missing.
3. If you agree to their show/exhibit services, will they allow you to ship several days early and warehouse it (store it) at destination for free? This allows an additional safe guard should there be highway closures, tornados, or Godzilla attacks.
4. Do they have living breathing customers with names and phone numbers who have used their show/exhibit services in the past? Would they provide you with any? Successful trade show shipping companies are very proud of the service they are able to offer!
5. Whether you are using your favourite trucking company or a 3rd party logistics company (3PL) like www.dirtcheapfreight.com
ensure you are getting what you pay for. 3PLs are great for helping small businesses obtain major corporation pricing, however; like in any industry there are some tactics to be aware of. Some of our show/exhibit clients come with stories of transportation companies selling them a show/exhibit service and moving the shipment regular service and pocketing the additional markup. One of the best ways to weed this out is do your research, if working with a 3PL, ensure the bill of lading they are providing you with is clearly marked for the services you require, example "exhibit/show service, must deliver before or on, or during these hours" and so on. The more information provided the better.
Planning for trade shows is stressful, time consuming, but worth it! Don't forget during it all to take some time and hopefully enjoy some of the sights of the city you are in and most importantly have fun!