Strategies for Planning Trade Show Logistics and Shipping

7 Strategies for Planning Trade Show Logistics, Shipping & Material Handling

Exhibiting at a trade show is a big task as it involves dealing with multiple aspects, starting from defining goals, booth designing, preparing marketing presentations, ways to capture leads, engaging attendees, and building relationships with potential clients.

Among all of these aspects, if there’s one thing that ensures the smoothness and easy execution of your strategies, it is trade show logistics, shipping, and material handling. It works as a foundation of your trade show’s execution, and when you fail to handle them, you stop the exhibition from moving forward (in the literal sense!).

However, trade show shipping is not as easy and simple as it may seem, and thus, we decided to provide you with a comprehensive guide that will walk you through the nitty-gritty of trade show exhibition shipping.

Go through the strategies mentioned below to plan your logistics, shipping, and material handling effectively.

But, before you plan your trade show logistics, it is important to consider a few factors, as listed below.

3 Factors to Consider for Effective Trade Show Logistics

Factors to Consider for Effective Trade Show LogisticsSource

The factors we have listed here will help you effectively build your trade show logistics, shipping, and material handling strategy.

1. Booth specifications and layout

Understanding your booth's specifications, like size and layout, is crucial for accurate trade show logistics planning.

For example, if your booth is 30X30, you need a trade show logistic plan that allows space for such big booth layouts.

2. Technical and electrical needs

The second factor you should consider while planning trade show shipping is your booth's technical and electrical requirements. 

Consider technical equipment like gadgets, electrical machines, Wi-Fi routers, and AR/VR equipment in this category. 

3. Display materials and signage

Lastly, consider the display material and signage you will need at a trade show while planning your exhibition shipping.  

For example, carefully consider the number of eye-catching banners, displays, and standees you need at your booth.

7 Strategies for Planning Trade Show Logistics, Shipping, and Material Handling

Once you have a clear idea about the main three factors that influence your strategies for trade show logistics, it’s time to get into action. Follow these steps to craft a set of effective strategies for trade show logistics, shipping, and material handling.

1. Prepare a Logistic Plan
Prepare a Logistic Plan


Preparing a logistic plan is the foundation of a trade show shipping strategy. Consider the below-listed aspects to set the right foundation for your logistics plan:

  • Set clear timelines and deadlines for key tasks

First, you will need to define milestones and deadlines for tasks such as booth design approval, material procurement, and shipping arrangements to ensure the timely execution of logistics activities.

For example, you can set a deadline for booth design approval eight weeks before the event dates to have enough time for revisions and changes.

  • Determine shipping options and costs

The next step is to research and evaluate various shipping options, including freight, airfreight, and ground transportation. Plus, the cost of all these shipping methods varies depending on the distance, weight, and freight class. 

So, for example, if you are exhibiting in another state, you can opt for air freight to transport time-sensitive items. However, if you are looking for cost-effective options, you can opt for ground transportation.

  • Allocate resources for material handling and labor

Assess material handling needs and allocate resources for logistics tasks such as material gathering, loading it in the truck, and on-site logistics support to ensure smooth execution during the event.

For example, after assessing the requirements, if you feel that there can be delays in de-loading at the trade show, you can add extra resources to improve the speed.  

  • Establish communication protocols with logistic vendors 

Lastly, it is important to define the channels for effective communication with your logistics vendors to reduce miscommunication and gaps. You can provide your vendors with updated contact information so they can contact you regularly to address any issues or concerns promptly.

By addressing issues proactively, you can minimize the risk of shipping delays or errors that may impact the event timeline.

2. Set up a Budget for Effective Cost Management 

Set up a Budget for Effective Cost Management 


The next strategy in planning trade show shipping is to set up a budget for effective cost management. Consider the below points to optimize your budget to its fullest. 

  • Identify and compare shipping providers and quotes

Once you have got quotations from multiple vendors, thoroughly review them to find the most cost-effective and reliable options for transporting your exhibit materials. 

By comparing quotes, you can ensure that you're getting the best value for your budget.

  • Negotiate material handling fees with the show organizer

While comparing vendors' costs, you can also negotiate favorable terms like discounts or bundled packages that can help you optimize your budget and reduce overall expenses associated with handling exhibit materials.

  • Implement strategies to save costs without compromising quality 

Lastly, while negotiating, look for opportunities to cut costs without sacrificing the quality of your trade show presence. 

For this, you can use reusable booth materials, leverage bulk shipping discounts, or find alternative solutions like renting a booth instead of building it yourself.

Pro Tip: You can avail rental booth services from Pure Exhibits where we help our clients build booths in six simple steps and no post-show billings!

3. Freeze the Right Shipping & Transportation Method
Freeze the Right Shipping & Transportation Method


After preparing a trade show logistic plan and setting up the budget, the next strategy in the exhibition shipping plan is freezing the right transportation methods. For that, it’s recommended to consider following the aspects that will help you choose the right trade show exhibition shipping method. 

  • Consider air freight, ground transportation, and ocean freight

First, you will need to evaluate multiple shipping methods like air freight, ground transportation, and ocean freight to determine the best fit for your needs.

So, for example, you can choose to go for air freight when you want your exhibition material to be delivered faster. 

  • Compare options based on cost, speed, reliability, and security

While choosing the trade show exhibit shipping options, assess the advantages and limitations of each shipping method to decide which one fits your bill the best!

You can opt for ground transportation for domestic shipments if the budget is a constraint for you, or you can opt for ocean freight for sensitive and delegate booth materials. 

  • Evaluate containerization and palletization options 

Lastly, check if your material needs containerization or palletization, as they protect goods from damage and theft and offer efficiency in loading and unloading cargo.

For example, you can utilize palletization when you want to have organized and efficient handling of exhibit items during ground transportation.

4. Choose the Right Packing and Labeling Process 

Choose the Right Packing and Labeling Process


Choosing the right packaging and labeling process holds equal importance as other strategies in trade show shipping. Make sure that you are incorporating the below-mentioned aspects for your packaging and labeling process. 

  • Ensure secure and damage-proof packaging for all items

When you check the packaging of goods done by the shipping company, ensure that the packaging has proper cushioning to protect items from damage during transit.

You can ensure security by checking if the logistics vendor has used bubble wrap, foam padding, and sturdy boxes to protect items against shocks and impacts during transportation.
secure and damage-proof packaging for all items.


  • Employ clear and consistent labeling for easy identification

Next, ensure that all the packages have clear labels with essential information like the good’s name, destination, and handling instructions.

For example, you can use adhesive labels or markers to clearly indicate the information for easy identification and streamline the handling processes for both you and carriers.
Employ clear and consistent labeling for easy identification


  • Adhere to showground and carrier labeling requirements 

Lastly, it is important to familiarize yourself with any specific labeling requirements set by the trade show organizers or shipping carrier company.

Many times, trade show organizers have carrier-specific labeling regulations, such as using designated shipping labels or barcodes that help prevent delays and ensure smooth handling throughout the logistics chain.

5. Get Familiar with Customs Shipping 

Get Familiar with Customs Shipping


If you are exhibiting in another country, it’s important to get familiar with customs shipping regulations to avoid the complexity of transporting abroad.

  • Understand import/export regulations and documentation needs

While shipping abroad, it’s recommended that you educate yourself on import and export regulations governing your shipment's destination and origin countries.

For example, you can study the rules regarding international commercial invoices, packing lists, and certificates of origin to ensure compliance with customs regulations and facilitate smooth clearance processes.

  • Familiarize yourself with duty charges and processes

Besides import-export regulations, you need to get insights into the duty charges applicable to your goods based on their classification and value.

Understanding duty calculation methods and potential exemptions enables you to budget for associated costs, leaving no room for surprises.

6. Define Material Handling & On-Site Management Process

Define Material Handling & On-Site Management Process


The next step in the trade show exhibit shipping strategy is to define the material handling and on-site management process. We have defined a few steps below to help you craft this strategy effectively. 

  • Understanding Material Handling Services

Material handling services include activities like transportation, positioning, and management of exhibit materials within a trade show venue.

By understanding material handling services, you can figure out where to unload the shipments,  transport materials, and find handling equipment for setup and dismantling.

  • Define drayage, rigging, and other on-site handling services

Drayage refers to the movement of exhibit materials from the receiving area of the venue to the exhibitor's booth space. 

For instance, understanding drayage directs you in transporting crates and packages from the loading dock to the exhibitor's designated area without any hurdles.

Plus, rigging involves the installation of overhead structures, lighting, and signage within the booth space.

It helps you guide your booth’s decor, like hanging banners or installing decorations from the ceiling of the exhibition hall. 

  • Negotiate service contracts with the show organizer or vendors

Prior to the event, it’s recommended to negotiate service contracts with the show organizer or designated vendors for material handling services, as it helps you optimize the budget.

For example, you can negotiate a drayage contract with the show organizer to understand the costs of transporting your exhibit materials and budget accordingly.

  • Understand the impact of booth location on material handling costs

Your booth location may significantly impact material handling costs. If your booth is located farther from the receiving area, it may incur higher drayage fees due to increased labor and transportation time.

Keeping this in mind, you can either change your booth location or increase the budget for labor and transportation.

7. Have a Plan for Post-Show Logistics

The last piece of trade show exhibit shipping strategy involves planning for post-show logistics. It mainly includes looking after return shipments, managing waste, and conducting post-event reviews. 

  • Coordinate return shipments or storage of exhibitor materials

Once the exhibition is over, you need to return the shipment of exhibit materials to their respective destinations or coordinate storage arrangements post-event. 

You can do this by working closely with shipment companies or scheduling pickups for returning materials to your warehouses. 

  • Manage waste disposal and recycling according to showground regulations

Next, ensure you are complying with the trade show’s regulations regarding waste disposal and recycling procedures.

To do this, you can have designated waste disposal and recycling stations within the exhibition area with clear signs to facilitate proper waste segregation and environmental responsibility. 

  • Conduct a post-event review to identify areas for improvement 

Lastly, evaluate the trade show’s performance and logistics processes by conducting a thorough review. 

You can do it by gathering feedback from staff and trade show organizers regarding logistics efficiency, challenge identification, and scope of improvement for future exhibitions.  

Execute These Trade Show Logistics Strategies With Pure Exhibits 

The above-mentioned strategies of trade show logistics work best when you execute them with detailed attention and careful planning. You will need to invest a good amount of your time and resources to execute them in the full-fledged!

But what if we tell you there’s a better way to outsource this whole process without burning your pocket? With Pure Exhibits, it’s possible!

At Pure Exhibits, we empower exhibitors by helping them look after their whole trade show booth requirements, starting from booth designing, production, shipping, on-site installation and dismantling, booth handover, and return shipping!

If this sounds interesting to you, you can contact our team of experts by emailing us at or calling us at +1 800-379-8451! Plus, you can check our work portfolio to have a look at our recent work!


1. How far in advance should I start planning for trade show logistics?

It is recommended to start planning for your trade show logistics at least six weeks in advance and book a vendor at least a month in advance, as the logistics vendors get booked in advance. 

2. What factors should I consider when choosing between freight shipping and airfreight for transporting materials?

While choosing trade show transportation options, consider factors like the urgency of delivery, budget constraints, and the size/weight of materials. You can opt for freight shipping if you are looking for cost-effective options, or you can go for airfreight if faster delivery is the priority for you. 

3. How can I minimize shipping costs for my exhibit materials?

To minimize your shipping costs, you can either opt for slower transit, negotiate bulk discounts, or utilize lightweight packaging materials to reduce overall shipping expenses.

4. What steps can I take to ensure the safe and timely delivery of my exhibit materials to the trade show venue?

To ensure the safety and timely delivery of your exhibit materials, it’s recommended to plan ahead, have accurate shipment information, track shipments closely, and communicate with shipping carriers to address any potential issues promptly. Additionally, you can purchase insurance for added protection against unforeseen circumstances during transit. 


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