A resource on event & shipping from NorthStar

The Dos and Don'ts of Packing your Tradeshow Items

Posted by Julia Kauffman on Jan 31, 2017 11:04:00 AM
Julia Kauffman
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When packing your materials for an event, the last thing you want is to open your boxes on site to see damaged goods. If you've ever had items broken in the process of getting your shipment from A to B, then you know the sheer frustration and hassle it causes.

So what causes items to break in a shipment? Poor handling; maybe. Poor packing; definitely. If you don't pack your items correctly you could be mixing a recipe for disaster! Read about some of our clients' past shipping horror stories for examples. However, if you follow these dos and don'ts when packing your materials, displays, technology, and other important items, you'll be all set!



  • Label each individual box with your name, company name, contact info, show name, booth number, and what box it is. For example “2 of 15” means that box is the second out of the fifteen total.
    • Labels for inbound shipping should be replaced at the end of the show with outbound labels you brought.
    • Make sure outbound labels have your return address on them, not the show site's address.
  • Palletize your boxes. Use a slip-sheet or plywood in between the pallet and boxes for added support. The empty space between wooden slats causes your shipment to not be fully supported. Adding the sheet will minimize the faults of the empty spaces.
  • Use straps or wrap to secure the boxes on your pallet when you’re done stacking them on.
  • Create a document that explains where each box is placed on the pallet to make unpacking clear and more organized.
    • To be even more efficient, include what each box contains. For example, Box 2 of 15 contains all of the sign up sheets and is located on the left corner of the bottom tier. 
    • Want to be really fancy? Include a diagram. The pallett is a square so unloaders need to know which "left" is the correct one. 
  • Use filler such as bubble wrap or newspaper to fill voids inside your boxes. This will prevent items from shifting around in your box and breaking.
  • Use proper packaging tape. This will ensure your box will stay secured and nothing can get through the cracks. Here's a guide from U.S. Packaging that will teach you about all the different types of packaging tape and how to use them!
  • When shipping fragile items or electronics, use an outer box. Yes, put your box inside another box. For example, when you order a brand new laptop, you typically receive a package and in that package is another box (with the company's design) that contains the laptop.

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  • Use duct tape, masking tape, or other non-packaging tapes to secure your boxes. Other tapes are weaker and will not hold up your package. If a box is damaged, the tape is typically the first to come off.
  • Have overhang on your pallets. The boxes should properly fit on to your pallet. This could cause damage to your shipments because they are not being fully supported and will easily hit other objects.
  • Misalign your boxes. Keep them in columns with evenly distributed weight. This will keep your shipment sturdy and safe.
  • Interlock your boxes. Interlocking decreases their ability to withstand compression up to 50%!

bad packaging.jpg

Following these guidelines will save your shipments (and you) in many ways. First and foremost, no broken items means you don't have to spend MORE money to get them replaced. Second, you can get straight to work on setting up instead of having to worry about a (possibly major) set back. Third, efficiently packing will save you time because your items will be organized and labeled. Spending a little extra time preparing and packing will save you tons of time on site. Keep your items safe, unpack easily, setup, and go grab yourself some coffee while everyone else is scrambling to find and fix items. 

Download the Shipping 101 Guide

Topics: Tradeshow Shipping, packing, be prepared, Events, What Not To Do