Tradeshow exhibits can be packaged in a variety of ways including:
- Skids or pallets
- Molded plastic cases
- Or no packaging at all, (pad wrapped)
The vast majority of custom or modular trade show exhibits are packed in crates. Properly constructed crates reduce the likelihood of damage and can greatly enhance the useful life of the display. The downside of crates is the cost (usually around $1,500 each for average sizes) and the weight of the crates (around 300 pounds each). While properly designed crates will take full advantage of the space in a truck, their weight will add cost to shipping (if based on weight) and material handling. Crated displays can usually avoid the “special handling” fees charged for material handling.
Skids or Pallets
Skids are essentially crates without sides or a top. They are easily moved with a forklift and are commonly used when the items are too big or bulky to fit in a crate, e.g., structural beams, truss, furniture and rolls of carpet and padding. The disadvantages to skids are that they are difficult or impossible to stack, increasing storage and shipping costs, and they do not afford the protection that crates do. Skids do reduce shipping weight when compared to crates.
Manufactured exhibit systems and portable displays often pack in molded plastic cases. In some instances the cases are compartmentalized to secure the individual parts of the display. Manufactured displays break down into smaller pieces that lend themselves to being packed into these pre-engineered containers. They are much lighter than crates and are very durable. Some displays that are packed in multiple molded cases are then stacked on skids for ease of handling on the show floor.
Some exhibits are shipped as individual pieces without crates or skids. The items are wrapped with packing pads and loaded into moving vans just like household goods are handled. This process adds considerable time to the packing, loading and unloading process and increases the likelihood of damage, but might be worth considering in some cases.
Trade show display packaging is not as simple as it might seem, as there are many variables involved in deciding which method will be most cost-effective. Your exhibit supplier should be able to describe how your exhibit is going to be packaged and why. A detailed cost comparison of each option, accounting for all potential areas of impact on cost, might be of value before you make a decision.
When shipping tradeshow displays, you generally have two types of carriers to choose from:
- Van lines like Atlas, Bekins, United, Allied, etc. who also do moving of high value products and household goods.
- Motor freight companies who move commodities, manufactured goods, etc.
If your exhibit is palletized or crated, you have the option of shipping via van lines or motor freight. If your materials are not crated (also known as “loose” or “pad wrapped”) you must go with a van line.
Motor freight companies operate on a hub system very much like the airlines, so displays that are loaded on a truck at your facility may be transferred one, two or even more times before reaching their final destination. This extra handling exposes your materials to more wear and tear and greatly increases the possibility of damage. Motor freight shipping costs are usually calculated by weight, although larger, lightweight items may be subject to a different cost calculation called “dimensional weight”.
The advantage to van line shipments are that the trucks are usually going direct from your warehouse to the convention center, so materials are less likely to be transferred from one truck to another. Moving vans use air ride trailers that cushion bumps along the way. Van lines almost always charge by the amount of floor space in the trailer that your materials require.
Total shipping cost can vary a great deal. It is generally assumed that motor freight is less expensive but that is not always the case. Check with your traffic department to see what kind of discounts your company gets from various carriers, make sure that your carrier has tradeshow specific experience and request quotes.
Make sure that your chosen carrier provides you with a way to track your shipment and verify delivery. Last, but certainly not least, be sure to ask your carrier about insurance coverage. The standard coverage that they provide is usually less than $1.00 per pound which won’t even cover the replacement of the crates, let alone the contents.
Do your homework and you can minimize cost. Or, leave the homework to us - we'll take care of knowing where your tradeshow display is, where it needs to go, and getting everything shipped on time. With our national network of facilities and climate-controlled environments, we are always close by, so shipping your tradeshow exhibits is never a problem. Let's get started!
A Positive Attitude Makes a Difference to the Exhibitors
A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to supervise set up of an exhibit for one of my clients at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Now this is not a large show, and the exhibits aren't massive, but the show was pretty cool.
The products that were being shown were very interesting in their own right, and the fact that the show was held at the Broadmoor Hotel (a world famous 5-star facility) also contributed to the experience. I don’t think the Broadmoor hosts very many trade shows, but in any case, this one has got to be the largest one they do host. The attendees are predominately military or government employees. The exhibit space is spread across two halls, but naturally, all of the exhibitors all want to crowd into the main exhibit hall.
While the hotel and the view of Pike's Peak is beautiful, in my opinion the most impressive thing about this show was the attitudes of the people working on the showfloor. As set up began, we were all crushed into the main hall. Moving a crate to get to the lid meant moving several crates. The general services contractor (Freeman) struggled to get crates delivered and empties removed. Even in the face of all these difficulties, there was very little stress. I had a problem with the rental carpet that caused a minor delay, which was corrected immediately. The spirit of cooperation and productivity was amazing. Everyone worked hard, was courteous and friendly, and offered to help without being asked no matter which company they were working for.
No one was walking the aisles telling us what we were and weren’t allowed to do. The entire workforce seemed to be thankful for the opportunity to have the work and helped out whenever possible.
I am not sure why attitudes seemed so upbeat, but I can tell you that it makes a big difference to the exhibitors. As cities like Chicago try to find ways to retain trade shows, perhaps they should consider what they can do to change the attitudes of all workers on the show floor.
Theatrical lighting in a trade show booth can add dramatic effect to almost any display property on the show floor. Different lights and lighting effects can be used to enhance color, create a mood among attendees, focus an attendee's view to a feature area, and create visual texture, all enhancing the attendee's experience.
However, the budget for theatrical or moving lights can quickly escalate. That’s why, when a company sets out to build a new booth or rent a property, lighting is often the last thing considered, and even more often, the first thing cut back. So how and why should you keep lighting in your trade show budget?
Consider the basics when creating a trade show exhibit lighting package:
- What is the effect you wish to achieve?
- What is the benefit of that effect on the attendee?
- How does that relate to the attendee's impression of your exhibit?
- What is your budget, and how much of it do you wish to allocate to the lighting package?
"HEY, LOOK AT US!"
Amid the wide expanse of the show floor, a static booth with little or no lighting easily gets lost. However, an exhibit with good lights screams, "Hey, there is something exciting over here!" The result? Attendees come to see what it’s all about. Once the attendee is near or in the booth, colored and moving lights add life to an otherwise static display. The colors and moving "textures" can create a mood of peace, elegance, or an over-all feeling of warmth that can make attendees more at ease, and more likely to stay around.
The additional benefits of trade show booth lighting are simple:
Use lighting to draw attention to areas within the booth you wish to feature. Well-positioned lighting can help your graphics and equipment "pop" amidst the yellowish-hazy hall lighting that tends to be rather drab. Full-color graphics show more color, equipment can appear even more shiny and polished, and the everyday background canvas of the booth fades even further into the background, highlighting the items you really want attendees to focus on.
What will you need to include, and what effect will lighting have on cost? First, the overall cost of your electrical order will increase. To create the lumens required just takes more juice. You will also typically need a distribution panel to distribute the electrical. In most cases, this will go on the floor, somewhere in a dedicated space; a safe estimate of space required would be around 100 square feet. In addition to the panel, moving lights may need a lighting board (a sort of "brains," if you will), to control the intelligent lighting. You will need a technician to program the lights and get the board up and running prior to the show. A good technician, with availability during the show, is likely to be more expensive, but is a good investment. The price may be a little higher, but peace of mind can be priceless, as any mid-show hiccups can be quickly dispelled.
With a well-planned lighting package, your tradeshow ROI can increase traffic and improve attendee perception.