As an exhibitor, you prepare and strategize for months prior to attending a trade show.  Unfortunately, even if you do everything right and plan for every scenario, you still may be exposed to the loss or damage of your exhibit materials during transport or while attending an industry event. Worse yet, due to liability limits, you may be left financially responsible. The following information creates awareness about situations that have the potential to impact your bottom line and provides tips to minimize the financial impacts of unforeseen events.

Tips for Protecting Your Assets During Transport and While Exhibiting

  1. Understand who is responsible for your freight and to what extent

Carriers and general service contractors (GSC) are the main entities with possession of your exhibit materials.  Your carrier becomes responsible for your freight once it has been loaded onto the truck headed for the advanced warehouse or show site, and upon its return.  If damage occurs, carrier liability is limited and can range between $.50-$5.00 per pound.

Once freight arrives to show site or the advanced warehouse and a delivery receipt is signed, the show general service contractor becomes responsible.  Liability from these entities is limited to an average of $.50 per pound, with maximum shipment liabilities.

Many times the actual recovery amount, if you can prove responsibility, is a small percentage of the goods being shipped.  Unfortunately, situations might not be your fault, but they are your financial obligation due to the liability limitations of industry service providers.

  1. Understand your existing coverage

Review your current insurance policy and understand your existing coverage. Too often, exhibitors assume that their assets are covered under the company’s corporate policy.  However, many policies limit the amount of insurance for property while it is in transit or temporarily away from the “insured’s premises.” Sometimes assets aren’t protected at all. Depending on your current policy, you may want to consider additional coverage options to protect yourself from unanticipated expenses.

  1. Know your coverage options

Depending on your current policy, you may want to examine additional coverage options.  The most common options include:

  • Corporate Insurance (Inland Marine) – Typically, an “inland marine” policy can be purchased as an additional policy and covers property that is movable in nature and needs broader protection.
  • Carrier Full Valuation Protection – This coverage can be purchased from your carrier. It is the highest level of protection a carrier can provide and is based on declared value.
  • Third Party Exhibit Property Coverage – Third-party providers, specializing in trade show and event insurance coverage, are available to assist exhibitors for single or multiple events.
  • Blanket Insurance – Ask your insurance provider about “blanket policies”. This coverage provides a single blanket limit that applies to all property at all locations. This policy can provide coverage for company-owned exhibit materials and rentals.


  1. NOTATE AND DOCUMENT along the way
  • Prior to shipment, document the value of your exhibit materials in case of disputes, losses or damages.  Have a clear understanding of the depreciated value of what you are shipping.
  • The Bill of Lading, Delivery Receipts and the Material Handling Agreement are contracts of carriage and include limits to liability for the carrier, general service contractor or warehouseman. Notating condition upon receipt is key to all parties and will provide evidence of freight condition.  Do not sign a document without reading the fine print and notating problems.
  • If possible, take pictures of your freight before it departs your corporate location and have your carrier document photos after unloading at the advanced warehouse or show site. Photos will assist in the process of determining the point damages or losses were sustained.  More important than photos; however, notation is key in the claims process.


Final Thoughts

When multiple companies are involved in a shipment, it can be difficult to prove responsibility for losses and damages. Even if you determine the liable party, it is likely you will only be partially compensated.  The best way to ensure your assets are fully protected is to properly package your freight and acquire additional insurance through a provision of your current policy or a third party that covers your exhibit materials.