Loss Prevention At Your Trade Show

Why do so many of us focus on eating right, finding time to visit the gym, and listening to our bodies?

I think that, in part, it’s because intuitively we all know that prevention is better than whatever remedy we would need to implement should we neglect to care for ourselves; the aftermath is always more stress, more emotion, more toll. 

The same goes for how we ought to conduct our business.  Prevention must be at the forefront of our consciousness.

The loading dock is a very busy place at any trade show venue and to prevent losses from happening, it’s important to practice preventative measures to avoid the headache that comes with tracking down lost packages.

It’s not just myself that I need to look out for, but for my exhibitors as well, which is why I think it’s important to look at loss prevention through the lens of a Show Manager as well as an exhibitor.

Let’s get started…

From the Perspective of the Show Manager

Sometimes stuff goes missing.

It happens to the best of us.

I don’t typically see large pieces go missing, like displays or exhibits. Rather it’s the smaller things that tend to get misplaced by a carrier or General Service Contractor (GSC) freight team, like brochures and exhibit materials.

Oftentimes I see people trying to skirt the rules when it comes to who delivers what, when, and to where.  This only adds to the probability of something getting lost.

I once had a venue that had its own UPS store on site. Exhibitors would conveniently have items shipped to that particular UPS store, which in their estimation sounded like a solid plan.

One of the problems I had with that method of delivery is that the UPS employees would take it upon themselves to enter the exhibit hall and drop off the packages directly to the booth, bypassing the GSC, and as a result, skipping the necessary documentation paperwork.

It sounds like no big deal, but it actually creates a lack of security and many items may end up getting misplaced.

In that case, security should have stopped him, sent them to the loading dock and had the delivery person fill out the correct Materials Handling Authorization form (MHA), and go through the process that everyone else does.

This can also happen when exhibitors and other clients have items shipped directly to their hotel and the bellman or other personnel bring it over to the exhibit hall.  The convenience is understandable but it creates a mess for the Show Manager who is working hard to ensure that everyone who has access to the show floor is properly vetted and badged.

The process should go as follows:  Designated carrier (UPS, FedEx, etc) delivers the freight to the back loading dock, the GSC brings it inside after doing a thorough check and documenting the shipment properly and gives it directly to the exhibitor.

If you need some extra guidance on how to make sure your entrances and exits are secure you can read about here.

Don’t Miss the Following…

Proper paperwork is a must.

The MHA (Material Handling Authorization Form) is essential for knowing the specifics of the items that have been shipped to your site and need to be distributed.

Your GSC will provide these forms onsite as they receive freight at the back dock. The following information should be included to ensure you don’t have missing items/materials…

  1. Exhibitor name
  2. Company or booth name
  3. Booth number, if known
  4. Number of boxes and description of items
  5. Tracking number from carrier

The MHA also helps your GSC know what equipment is needed to move the freight and how many staff will be required to do so.

Everything is documented and transparent.

Signatures are also a must so that you know who signed for what.  That being said, your GSC should have a signature on every shipment received. It helps keep track of materials and holds people accountable.

From the Perspective of the Exhibitor

Staying organized really helps minimize the risk of things getting lost or misplaced and to help keep things simple I always tell my exhibitors to consolidate all of their boxes into one large box or shipment.


The problem with LOTS of small boxes getting shipped separately is a greater chance of a few of your boxes going missing.

I’ve seen hundreds of small boxes being dropped off all at once and the unsung heroes of UPS and FedEx don’t account for every single small box they deliver.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Save yourself and your GSC the hassle of tracking down lost materials by keeping it simple.

Lastly, always carry multiple copies of your shipping information with your carrier’s tracking number should a package or two go missing.  This way it can be easily tracked down so you can make further arrangements.

Prevention is Key

Prevention is always less costly and more effective in the long run.  Some people would argue that  it’s making the assumption that something will go wrong.

I don’t look at prevention as an act of pessimism.  I love this quote from Albert Einstein, ”a clever person solves a problem.  A wise person avoids it.”

Now go enjoy your new-found wisdom and revel in the effectiveness of not being pessimistic.