I WANT IT NOW - 10 Tips for Freight & Drayage at Trade Shows

Gas prices continue to go through the roof and increased transportation costs will increase trade show costs across the board.

Here are 10 Tips for saving time, money and your sanity.

I WANT IT NOW!

There are eight components to a trade show budget and the one most overlooked is FREIGHT & DRAYAGE. Whether you do-it-yourself or it's handled by a contractor, there are ways to anticipate problems and save money.

1. DEFINITION - Freight....

You can transport it yourself or pay a carrier (truck, ship, plane) to pick it up at your location and get it to the show city. If you choose to ship, you can select your own carrier or the official carrier contracted by show management.

NOTE - Using the official carrier gives your freight preference in getting it to the loading dock and show floor.

2. DEFINITION - Drayage....

This is the most expensive word you may not know. Drayage fees pay only to (1) move your goods from the loading dock to your exhibit hall location (2) remove the empty crates before the show, store them during the show, and return them after the show (3) move your repacked goods back to the loading dock after the show.

NOTE #1 - Drayage is more common in the US and parts of Canada than the rest of the world which uses an inclusive contractor system.

NOTE #2 - Cost for drayage is based on a contract between show management and the drayage company (usually a labor union). The critical components are weight in CWT (hundred pounds) and time. If your freight weighs 50 lbs and comes in during overtime hours, it will be charged for 100 lbs and overtime hours. Hint - don't send lots of small packages.

3. PLAN for SHIPPING.....

Often it's not included in the original trade show budget. Shipping prices are based on a number of factors (time, weight, dimensional size, etc.) and may be difficult to define in advance, but you can get accurate estimates and hold your suppliers to a freight cost if it is writing. Expect to pay a 20% add-on for every middleman it passes through.

4. OOPS - MEET THOSE DEADLINES.....

The biggest problem I see are the last minute orders, the change orders, the "gee, we changed our minds and want it in ivory, not white". Maybe you will pay for rush charges but not renting the jet to get it there on time. Make sure you understand the time frame for everything! everything! Always factor in the possibilities of weather delays, strikes, broken shipments and things that just get Lost.

5. TAKE IT WITH YOU....

It used to be you had to take everything. and print everything in advance. Now you can rent the display and take the disk or email to Kinko's or some other graphic entity. Life is much easier.

CAVEAT - Everybody at both ends must be on the same page, know what's coming and your deadline. Don't get caught in the "...but I talked to them and they said they could do it" syndrome. Right, you just didn't tell them you needed 20 full panel display graphics in 5 hours, with the right hardware for your system, and you need it installed. This is not a case of price doesn't matter - it does - but quality and truth matter more. Be certain systems match, the software matches, you understand "camera ready art" and you have a Plan B.

6. TECHNOLOGY IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER.....

E-mail is great. TIF is tops, etc. but a hard copy of whatever you need is still best. Note that if you use PMS colors (Pantone Matching System, for printing only), you need the real number, not an approximation (when you say "it's really red" - it really doesn't work).

7. GET ESTIMATES BEFORE YOU SHIP.....

This means you need to know the approximate weight, dimensional size (cubic), zip code and WHEN you absolutely positively need it plus the correct address. You can't just send it to the hotel and expect it get to your room, the hotel or the convention center. NOTE - most convention centers will not accept freight or packages except through the show contractor. Many hotels will either not accept or charge hefty fees to accept and store your materials.

Double check all shipping information just before you ship - this is the biggest problem since we have new zip codes and area codes every week. Make sure you have the correct phone number. A main toll free number works best and fastest, otherwise you may get lost in voice mail and recordings.

8. SHIP LESS.

It's estimated that 10% of show attendees have a direct interest in your company, so if there are 10,000 expected attendees, don't send 10,000 brochures. Send 1,000. If you don't use them all, you have a small number to bring back. If you run out, it gives you the opportunity to follow-up with a mailing.

Remember - whatever you don't use at the show or meeting has to be shipped back to you or just thrown away (that's a waste). Decide which is cheaper and if there's a recycling or disposal fee. Save the good material for a special mailing after the show and use for other shows, meetings, conferences or as employee rewards.

Consider the cost of renting versus purchasing. You can amortize the cost of an exhibit but freight and drayage are expenses for EVERY show.

9. ARRANGE TO SHIP IT BACK.....

Why does stuff get swept up and thrown away? Because everybody thought you'd give away all the toys, pens, brochures, packets, CDs, etc. If it costs money to go, it costs money to come back.

Fill out all the packing slips and make arrangement for payment before you go to the show. Know the rules - some carriers won't allow you to ship COD. And will the last person out of Seattle (or any place) please make sure the paperwork is in order.

10. REVIEW ALL PAPERWORK AFTER THE SHOW....

This year you may see lots of surchagres, so match your written estimates and agreements against the actual bills. At the end of the show, it's easy to be over-charged, especially as you are rushing to leave the hall. Question everything. Resolve problems first with the carrier and inform show management if it is an over-charge based on their contracts.

Knowing prices are going up is one thing. Knowing you have some ways to anticipate and control those increases is important.

Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - writes about practical aspects of trade shows. As president of Trade Show Training, inc,, now celebrating its 10th year, she works with companies in a variety of industries to improve their bottom line and marketing opportunities at trade shows.

She is an expert in the psychology of the trade show environment.

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