FAQ | Testimonials

FAQ | Testimonials

What are the top 10 shipping tips for exhibitors?

  1. Select a company that specializes in trade show shipping. Experienced trade show logistics specialists understand the requirements of show contractors, venues, labor unions and know which carriers have a successful track record of on-time delivery, low claim rates and pricing value.
  2. Select a company that has dedicated resources available to respond to your needs 7 days a week and outside of standard business hours. Trade shows are not 9am-5pm events. You should never have to call a “1-800” number to speak to the next available, random representative. You should know your representative’s name and have their cell phone so that your needs can be met regardless of the time.
  3. Properly pack your booth materials and never skimp on using robust pallets, cases or crates. Securely shrink-wrap and band loose materials and never over-hang the edge of a pallet. There are many tutorials available on-line that provide examples of proper packaging.
  4. Read the show kit or exhibitor manual to understand show requirements, labor fees, drayage and material handling charges. While drayage and material handling charges are almost always unavoidable, understanding these charges will enable you to properly plan your shipping to minimize costs.
  5. Send your booth shipment as early as possible. Last minute, time-critical shipping is expensive and often avoidable. Give yourself several extra days if shipping direct to show. Better yet, ship to the advanced warehouse so that your shipment is waiting for you at your booth space on the first day of move-in. Advanced warehouse shipments enable you to plan your installation labor efficiently and should problems occur during shipping, you will have adequate time to address issues. Advance warehouse shipping is the best way to eliminate logistics-related stress when shipping into a show.
  6. Know what you are shipping. Keep accurate records of quantity and types of packages being shipped – e.g., skids, crates, cases, boxes, their weights and dimensions. This is important to ensure all items shipped are properly received and because some shipping costs are largely based on this information.
  7. Save cost by having marketing materials and swag printed locally. Small booth items can also be sourced locally. These steps will reduce the weight of your shipment and allow you to better control shipping costs.
  8. Your shipping company should provide you a completed sample Material Handling Agreement, or MHA, to use as a template when completing the blank MHA the show contractor provides you at show site. The MHA is the outbound Bill of Lading (BOL) that is turned in to the show contractor’s service desk that details how your freight will ship out of the show.
  9. Always send a picture of the completed MHA to your dedicated shipping representative before turning it in to the contractor’s service desk. Your representative will review this important document and advise you if any changes are needed or if all is okay so that you can turn the MHA in. Always keep a copy for your records.
  10. When you receive freight from the show and the driver asks you to sign the delivery receipt, never sign the receipt without inspecting the freight. If you see damage, you must note the specific damage on the delivery receipt. If you sign the document without notating damage, you are accepting the freight in good condition and your ability to win any liability claim for damages is severely diminished or negated in whole.

What is the exhibitor’s manual or show kit?

The exhibitor’s manual or show kit is a critical document to understand in order to avoid stress and unexpected costs. It is typically published by the show’s contractor and is usually available online. The show kit provides details about:

  • Move-in dates
  • Move-out dates
  • Advance warehouse and direct-to-show shipping addresses
  • Freight labeling specifications
  • Utility and service requirements and options – e.g., electrical, internet, audio-visual, etc.
  • Material handling, labor and equipment costs
  • Show rules and regulations

Thoroughly reviewing the show’s exhibitor manual will enable you to avoid costly mistakes and allow you to understand various requirements and options for all show-related services.

Reading your exhibitor manual is crucial. Trade shows and conventions have different rules and regulations applied to shipments. 

Pay attention to labels. Trade shows and conventions specify detailed labeling requirements, including the inbound and outbound shipping addresses and various descriptive text to ensure shipments are properly handled.

Is Tradeshow Shipping different than Standard Business Shipping?

Yes, tradeshow shipping requires strict adherence to shipping requirements specified in the exhibitor’s manual or show kit.  Not all carriers are willing to transport show freight.

Specialized tradeshow shippers understand the specific requirements for successful move-in and move-out from tradeshows and understand how to properly schedule, book and track tradeshow shipments.

Tradeshow bills of lading and materials handling agreements require specific, detailed information to ensure that freight picks up and moves as expected.

Is it better to ship to the advanced warehouse or direct to show-site?

Generally, it is preferable to ship to the advance warehouse so that your freight arrives on the show floor prior to your team's arrival. The time, stress and anxiety saved by utilizing the advanced warehouse will more than make up for any incremental material handling costs. Advance warehouse shipping is the best peace of mind “insurance” and is highly recommended.  See advantages and disadvantages.

Advance Warehouse - Advantages

  • Each show typically has a dedicated warehouse for delivery and storage of all shipments. Your materials are properly stored and secure until show time.
  • On the first day of move-in your freight will be waiting for you at your booth.
  • You can confirm your shipment has arrived and that everything is intact. In the event damage does occur, you have time to react and adapt.
  • Advance warehouse shipments provide ample contingency should weather delays occur that impact freight shipments.
  • Your shipment can typically arrive up to 30 days prior to move-in, meaning delivery dates and times are more flexible so you can lower your shipping costs by using a non-time critical service.

Advance Warehouse - Disadvantages

  • Certain oversize loads – typically with dimensions greater than 120” and weight over 5,000 lb. are often prohibited from advance warehouse delivery.
  • The decorator may charge incrementally higher material handling fees compared to direct to show shipments.

Shipping Direct to Show Site - Advantages

  • You can wait until the last minute to get everything ready to ship, such as booth graphics, product prototypes or mock-ups, and marketing collateral.
  • Your material handling charges may be a bit lower.

Shipping Direct to Show Site - Disadvantages

  • Your shipment may be one of hundreds arriving at the same time, so even though it may arrive early in the day, it might not reach your booth until much later.
  • The I & D (Install and Dismantle) team waiting to build your booth may have to wait for your shipment, causing you to incur additional labor charges.
  • If the show requires a targeted move-in, you may have to pay higher shipping charges for guaranteed delivery during your assigned move-in window.
  • If your shipment arrives earlier or later than your targeted move-in time, you will incur additional charges for “off-target” move-in.
  • You may have to pay overtime charges, especially if your shipment must arrive on a weekend or after hours.

What is the difference between shipping and material handling?

Shipping is the transport of your exhibit material (freight) to the advance warehouse or event venue via a carrier of your choice. Material handling, often referred to as drayage, is the movement of your freight from the carrier to your booth and then back to the carrier at the close of the show. Freight handling includes unloading your materials from your carrier, storage at the advanced warehouse for up to approximately 30 days prior to move-in (if advanced warehouse is utilized), delivery of the materials to your booth, and the handling of empty containers to and from storage.

What are some important things to know about Tradeshows?

What to bring to the show...
Always bring master copies of your inbound shipping information, including the shipping carrier tracking number (called a PRO number), in the unlikely event that your shipment is lost or delayed. If the worst happens, at the very least you’ll have the ability to track your shipment.

How to prepare for the opening of the show...
The first thing to do is set up your booth. After you set up, have your empty packing material/containers ready for removal and storage during the show by labeling them with your company name and booth number. The official service contractor will clear the floor of all labeled material to be stored throughout the show and return the items to your booth when the show is over. If possible, try to break down your boxes and store your move-out materials in your booth, this way you won’t have to wait — sometimes for many hours — to receive your empties at the end of the show.

What to do on the closing day...
Once the show is closed, pack up all your materials to be shipped out and leave them in your booth. When your booth is properly packed and labeled, you will need to complete an official show contractor’s Outbound Material Handling Form and turn it in at the service desk.

What is the Outbound Material Handling Form or Material Handling Agreement (MHA)?

In order to ship your freight out of a show, to the next show, or back to your facility, you must provide the official show contractor instructions about how your freight should be handled.  A document provided by the show contractor, the material handling agreement (MHA), must be completed and turned in at the service desk once your booth is properly packed.  The MHA acts as the outbound Bill of Lading (BOL) for your booth shipment. 

Each decorator has their own, unique MHA form.  Your tradeshow shipping company should provide you a completed “Sample MHA” that you can use as a guide when filling out the blank MHA the show decorator provides you.

You should always take a picture of the completed MHA and send it to your shipping company for review prior to turning anything in at the contractor’s service desk.  Small MHA errors can waste hundreds or thousands of dollars, so it is crucial to have your shipping expert review all information.  Failure to turn in an accurate MHA may cause your freight to be “forced” onto the contractor’s carrier of choice, often at exorbitant cost to you.

What are accessorial fees?

Accessorial fees are charged by carriers for freight that requires special handling or services beyond typical business-to-business/dock-to-dock shipping. Accessorial fees can be expensive and unbudgeted, especially when freight carriers invoice for them without the shipper or consignee knowing that these fees would be required to successfully complete a shipment. 

Unfortunately, some shipping companies provide shipping quotes without disclosing accessorial fees so that they can lock in your crucial shipping business with a low rate only to reinvoice at a much higher rate once all accessorial fees are added in. Do not do business with shipping companies that rely on fine print to hide accessorial fees. Your shipping quote should be “all-inclusive” and easy to understand without reliance on reading many pages of circular-referenced fine print.

What are some of the Common Accessorial Fees for Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Shipments?

  • Lift Gate Service
    When the shipping or receiving address does not have a loading dock, manual loading or unloading is necessary. A lift gate is a platform at the back of certain trucks that can raise and lower a shipment from the ground to the truck.
  • Inside Pick Up/Inside Delivery
    If the driver is required to go inside (beyond the front door or loading dock) to pick up or deliver your shipment, instead of remaining at the dock or truck, additional fees will be charged.
  • Residential Service
    Carriers define a business zone as a location that opens and closes to the public at set times every day. If you are a business located in a residential zone (among personal homes or dwellings), or are shipping to or from a residence, the carrier may charge an additional residential fee due to complexity in navigating these non-business areas.
  • Oversized Freight
    Shipments containing articles greater than or equal to eight feet in any dimension.
  • Advance Notification
    This fee is charged when the carrier is required to notify the consignee before making a delivery.
  • Appointment Delivery
  • This fee is charged when the consignee requires the carrier to make an appointment to establish a delivery window or if the delivery time requirements are outside normal 9am-5pm delivery hours.
  • Limited Access Pickup or Delivery
    This fee covers the additional costs required to make pickups or deliveries at locations with limited access such as schools, military bases, prisons, storage facilities, secured/gated facilities, congested inner-city locations or government buildings.
  • Reweigh and Reclassification
    Since weight and freight class determine shipment base rates, carriers want to make sure the information on the BOL is accurate. If the carrier inspects a shipment and it does not match what was listed, they will charge this accessorial fee along with any change to the base freight rate.
  • Tradeshow Pickup or Delivery
    Carriers will charge this accessorial for any freight moving into or out of an advanced warehouse or show site.
  • Detention
    Detention is the fee that a carrier may assess when the truck is held beyond the allotted, free time frame for loading and unloading the truck.
Think STG

Rob C.

Wilmington, DE

“I have enjoyed a long-term relationship with thinkSTG. My company exhibits at three shows a year and thinkSTG is my go-to source for ensuring all my shipping needs are met, from pick up to show site delivery, to return shipping. thinkSTG ensures all provided shipping documentation is accurate and coordinated for a worry-free shipping experience.”

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Ryan F.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

“Trust, reliability and unparalleled service; That’s why we use thinkSTG for our most important logistics. They care as much about our shipments as we do!” 

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Carol J.

Orange, CA

thinkSTG has made my job so much easier! They manage all my out of state shipping which frees up hours in my work week.

Pricing quotes are fast and accurate, crates are picked up and delivered on time with little to no fuss on my end.  Best of all, any out of the ordinary requests are expertly handled by thinkSTG.”