What you need to know about shipping event materials


By John Santini

Like most people shipping to a trade show or conference, once your shipment leaves your premises you likely give little thought to its journey to your booth space in Canada. We’re just happy to see it there when we arrive!

It is important, however, to understand what happens between points A and B to ensure your material makes it there, on time and during the move-in hours.

Move-in day and labelling

You would be surprised how many times your boxes, cases or crates are handled, loaded and unloaded while in transit to your event. People handling your multi-piece shipment in transit should easily be able to group together and identify your packages. Proper and correct labelling is of utmost importance, yet one of the most underrated priorities when shipping.

Labelling clearly can make all the difference between receiving your material on set-up day or showing up to an empty booth. Nothing is more satisfying than setting up your exhibit space with no hiccups and then having a little extra time to hit up a new city’s sites! On the flip side, nothing is worse than watching your neighbours on the exhibit floor chat merrily as they set-up their materials while you are standing in an empty space. It can feel cavernous.

Typically, your multiple journeys to the supplier service area will begin at this point. There is nothing particularly exciting or sexy about labelling your goods but when you are on the receiving end of mislabelled material the hours spent locating the piece feel long.

Tips for sending your material for a stress-free move-in

Our Canadian show managers edit and proofread their exhibitor manuals with painstaking detail to try and avoid on site errors or delays. If by reading this article there is one tip that will help make or break your next event, please do not underestimate the power of labelling. I recommend you use the shipping address provided in your event exhibitor manual; but it is equally important to indicate your company name, booth number and event name! All too often it is the on-site handling crew tasked with finding out which event and what booth a box addressed to the attention of “John Smith” is for. As you can imagine, this is a difficult responsibility since some events have upwards of 5,000 attendees!

If you are shipping to an advance receiving location, keep in mind that these warehouses hold material for several different events simultaneously so it is important to clearly indicate the event name. Similarly, when shipping directly to a convention facility, multiple events may be taking place at the same time, therefore proper labelling is the key to receiving your material in both scenarios.

Narrow down the margin of error. Find out the exact event name, warehouse cut-off dates, direct-to-show site address and label according to your transit time. These three suggestions make all the difference.

Believe it or not, glue on labels is another important factor. Make sure the labels will stick and add plenty of them on your cargo pieces. Imagine you were sending your exhibit material to your own apartment, how would you address it? This is what I recommend:

  • Your company name and booth number
  • Name of event (not just the acronym but the entire name)
  • Advance warehouse address/or direct-to-venue address c/o Official Show Service Contractor
  • City, Country, Postal Code
  • Contact person who will be on-site with their mobile number

Customs — are you sending your material over an international border?

shippingWe have all heard the term “stuck” or “held” in customs but does anyone know what this really means? Most people believe their material physically goes to a location between point A and B called Customs, where it is intensely inspected and scrutinized before it can be allowed entry in Canada.

This is a common misconception. Typically, your courier or trucking company holds on to your material in their bonded facility until it is officially customs cleared. A bonded facility is where shipments await customs clearance and most couriers and freight carriers have such facilities as part of their network. In nine cases out of 10 the reason a shipment is held for customs clearance is due to the shipper/exhibitor not having appointed a customs broker. Consulting a reputable, Licenced Event Customs broker prior to shipping will ensure your material does not get held-up and makes it to your event on time. Your customs broker will guide and walk you through the paperwork required. Certain articles shipped across the border may require specific documentation and your broker will gladly advise you accordingly.

Event move-out (From point B to A!)

You have enjoyed a successful exhibition at the “BEST CANADIAN MEETING” and the last thing on your mind is your return shipment. Stranded freight, forced freight, re-routed freight, whatever the language you may hear, these are synonymous terms used to describe material to which improper or no return shipping arrangements have been made. You should try to avoid falling in the above category to prevent additional costs. Freight carriers or couriers that do not specialize in time-sensitive material are often not in tune with the nuances of exhibition shipments and frequently miss pick-up deadlines at an event move-out. Using the officially appointed shipping supplier makes sense as they are on-site during the event move-out which often tend to be outside business hours and on weekends. For the exhibitor, using the official supplier can be as simple as packing-up, labelling your shipment and leaving it in your booth space. You are then free to leave the exhibition hall and catch that flight!

Customs clearance at the end of an event

Keep in mind that trade show and event customs clearance is a two-way street in that clearance is required back into the country or overseas. Many exhibitors forget that returning material to its country of origin requires customs clearance. Your trade show and events customs broker will be aware of this necessity and will make all the arrangements for you. Customs clearance post event is one aspect that sets a Customs broker specializing in meetings and conventions apart from the rest. We understand that returning your material in a timely manner is as important as getting it to the event!

About the author

John Santini is Director of Operations, ConsultExpo Event Services Inc. John holds his professional customs designation and has serviced the logistical needs (both customs and shipping) of countless events in Canada. For more information visit www.consultexpoinc.com or contact John at [email protected]; telephone: 514-482-8886 ext. 1.

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