Ten Terms to Know for Trade Show Shipping

Are you exhibiting at a conference or trade show? Get to know these 10 key terms to ensure the best shipping experience for your trade show booth and exhibit materials.


Pre-Show Preparation


1. Bill of Lading (BOL)

The BOL serves as a legal agreement between shipper and carrier as well as a shipment receipt. When shipping your materials using a less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier, like XPO, you’ll provide a BOL that comprises a detailed list of goods that includes freight type, quantity and delivery destination, along with critically important shipper and recipient (consignee) contact details.  


2. National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC)

An NMFC code is used to group commodities and is a requirement for your BOL. Work with your LTL carrier to see that your freight is classified correctly to ensure accurate pricing.


3. Advance Warehouse

When you have time on your side, shipping to an advance warehouse is an option for you. This allows exhibitors to deliver trade show booths and materials to a location near the show during the weeks leading up to an event. The materials are then stored at a warehouse for up to 30 days before the show starts.


4. Direct to Show

When you’re crunched for time, you’ll want to ship direct to show. With this option, you’ll deliver your freight to the show venue during the move-in dates and times listed in the show kit, which is usually a short window right before the official show dates. Whether you ship to an advance warehouse or direct to show, you’ll need to consider fees, timing and whether you have single or multiple shipments. Some shipping companies, like XPO, will offer a certain number of days of free storage.

Show Time


5. Targeted Move-In

You’ll want to check the trade show prospectus for the targeted move-in period, which is the date or dates specified by show management for beginning exhibit installation. Some shows may have an open window for all exhibitors and require your setup to be complete by a specific date/time. Other shows may have a target move-in process and you’ll receive move-in dates and times for your specific booth, which is based on its location on the show floor.


6. Marshalling Yard

This is a designated area chosen by the trade show decorator where drivers are required to check in while waiting to be called to the dock for unloading. You’ll want to choose an experienced LTL carrier, like XPO, that has local knowledge of the event space so they can arrive on time to meet your check-in schedule. You’ll also want to ensure drivers have the proper paperwork to avoid delivery delays.


7. Show Decorator

Wouldn’t we all love to have a decorator? You’re in luck when you exhibit at a trade show. The show decorator is the company or individual responsible for providing draping, carpeting and signage services for the trade show and its exhibitors. They execute all the details for the trade show display in-house and can provide various services to exhibitors, including assisting with developing a theme for your booth.



8. Material Handling Agreement (MHA)

When your shipment is ready to be picked up after the show, the MHA advises the show decorator how to route your freight and also allows the expo hall to release the shipment to the chosen carrier. Be sure to choose a reliable LTL carrier, like XPO, that specializes in handling trade show and exhibit materials.


9. Forced Freight

Once the show concludes and you’ve packed up your booth and materials, forced freight could occur if your carrier doesn’t come to pick -up your freight. At this point, the trade show decorator may use their own carrier to send your materials back. This could cause delays in your booth arriving at its next destination. Always book your trade show return in advance with your preferred LTL carrier and be sure to list them on your Material Handling Agreement (MHA).


10. Return Shipments

You’ll need to arrange with an LTL carrier so that after the show, your booth and exhibit materials can be returned to your company office or storage location or forwarded to the next show. As was mentioned earlier, be sure to note on the MHA the name of the LTL carrier that will pick up your shipment.


Knowing these 10 terms will help you manage all trade show and exhibition materials for your next event. Be sure to connect with an experienced LTL carrier, like XPO, for on-time and damage-free delivery. You have enough on your to-do list already, so get the confidence and peace of mind that comes with a reliable LTL carrier – and be show-ready.


To learn more about exhibit and trade show booth shipping and to request a quote, contact XPO.


If you are looking for a quote, submit your info and our trade show team will contact you.

Trade show shipping just got a whole lot better. Experience stress-free transportation for your booth and exhibit materials with XPO's enhanced premium service. 

Coast-to-coast coverage: Our network reaches 99% of postal codes across North America and guarantees your trade show shipments arrive damage-free and on time, every time.

Trade Show concierge desk: Our trade show concierge desk is available 24/7, 365 days a year to provide personalized service and real-time shipment updates.

Storage: Enjoy peace of mind with your trade show shipments, which include five days of storage at no extra cost. Ship early to your show with confidence!

Flexibility: Choose from multiple service offerings based on your trade show requirements.

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