Get Trade Show Ready with this Exhibitor Checklist

As pandemic restrictions continue to lift, many trade shows are committed to returning to in-person operations. This is exciting not just for attendees but also exhibitors.

There is a lot to coordinate before you hit the show floor for your next big event. Given it has been quite some time since large face-to-face gatherings have been allowed, this guide provides a refresher to make the experience seamless and minimize stress. It’s also a great tool for first-time exhibitors.

In the weeks leading up to the show:

  • Determine if you want to rent a booth or have it custom built.
  • Review your contract to confirm that the booth size, show floor location and booth space package are correct.
  • Place your order early and before the discount deadline with the official service provider to ensure you receive the best pricing.
  • Determine whether you’re hiring an exhibitor appointed contractor (EAC). An EAC is any company other than one of the designated official contractors that can be employed inside the exhibit hall before, during and after the show. If hiring an EAC, submit all EAC-related forms, including intent to hire, signed agreement and rules, and insurance certificates.
  • Confirm dates for move-in and move-out, and whether the show moves in on a targeted schedule.
  • Pre-order labour for move-in and move-out. To guarantee labour times, order labour for the start of the workday.
  • Plan installation the day after your freight is scheduled for delivery at the show site. This ensures your freight has arrived and is delivered to your booth before labourers show up.

Shipping and Material Handling

It’s important to prepare your exhibit booth and other trade show materials for shipping to ensure everything transports properly, arrives on time and is in good condition. Be sure to:

  • Plan well in advance and secure the best transportation option for your shipping needs. Using the show’s advance warehouse, if available, can reduce costs and secure enough time for unloading and booth set up. Be sure to also schedule your outbound shipment after the show has closed.
  • Label your shipments. Make sure each crate, carton and box is labelled with the show name and booth number. Replace these labels with the correct return address when shipping items post-show. Pre-print labels before the show to save time at its close.
  • Fill out the bill of lading (BOL) accurately. The BOL is required to move a freight shipment from one point to another. It serves as a receipt of freight services, a contract between the freight carrier and shipper, and a document on title. The BOL is a legally binding document that provides the driver and carrier with all the details needed to process the freight shipment and invoice it correctly.
  • Work with an online freight service provider that can select the right carrier for your exact shipping needs. This will also assure your shipment has the greatest chance for successful delivery.
  • Confirm final arrangements with your inbound/outbound carrier prior to show open and close. Check the exhibitor move-out schedule for suggested carrier post-show pick up times. Be sure to allow time for crates and boxes to be returned, packed and staged for outbound shipping.
  • Keep your PRO (tracking) numbers along with contact phone numbers (daytime and after hours) with you in case any questions arise about your shipment.

During and After the Show

Exhibitor move-in and move-out can be hectic. Be prepared by following these simple steps:

  • As you unpack your booth for day one, prepare empty crates for storage by removing old labels. The show site service desk can provide colour-coded storage stickers for use. Properly labelling empty crates will make identification at show close faster and more accurate.
  • On the last day of the show, note the exhibitor move-out schedule.
  • Your empty crates will be delivered to your booth at show close. This is the time to use those pre-printed return address labels for shipping your booth and materials back to the original location. Be sure to remove the old labels or cover them properly so there is no confusion.
  • Fill out the BOL completely and accurately.
  • Assign someone from your company to be on-site to oversee the outbound shipment of your booth, products and any materials.
  • Perform a post-show review to determine what worked and what didn’t. This will help make your next show even more successful.

As senior manager of marketing operations at GES, Christy Rickett’s passion for live events is only equal to her dedication in educating and assisting exhibitors plan events. As an expert exhibitor herself, Christy loves sharing the countless tips and tricks she has learned to help even experienced exhibitors find their way to consistently successful shows.


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