Perhaps it’s just the planner in me but, as soon as an event is under way, I’m plotting the exit strategy, thinking about the logistics of breaking down and shipping out. My mission: to tear-down as efficiently as possible so I’m not stuck in a meeting room at midnight packing or wandering the streets in search of a 24-hour FedEx location.
To minimize YOUR end-of-event headaches, here are a few of my tried-and-true techniques for a smoother send-off:
What’s the biggest time saver in the tear-down universe? A cache of shipping materials! My essentials are:
- UPS and/or FedEx labels, completely filled out with the ship-back-to address
- Scotch clear packing tape, tin my book, it’s the strongest and most adhesive
- Thick black magic markers and scissors
- Newspaper to use as packing instead of Styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap
- Full sheet labels, so I can easily add info or instructions to outside of the boxes
- A few shipping boxes, salvaged from the incoming boxes for return shipments
- Word to the wise: Stash return shipping boxes under tables or in your room and clearly mark them so they aren’t thrown away by well-meaning cleaning crews.
Once the event materials and collateral are set up, when you're doing your client pre-event walk-through, ask which items the client will want shipped back to their offices and what can go into trash/recycling. Factor in the return shipping costs vs. replacement costs to determine what the client is willing to pay – and where they draw the line. Remind them that the size of the box, weight and distance will have an enormous impact on the price. For example, recently I sent a small, 1-pound box from NYC to Miami and the bill came to $48 – but when the same box (and contents) went from Miami to LA, the bill was almost double because of the significant distance involved. For hard-to-find or custom items that are reasonably compact, another option is to travel back with the items as checked luggage, which may wind up being most economical option.
In addition to getting the OK from the client about materials returns, the most important number you can have is the client’s UPS/FedEx/DHL number – and their permission to use it. It will save you paperwork and time (no rebilling, yay!) and may save them some money if your client has a preferred client shipping rate.