If you're shipping meeting materials overseas, you need help.

“A customs broker specializes in the importation of good across international borders. Some specialize in meetings and conventions,” explains Paul Griggs, president, Events on the Move, a customs broker and freight forwarder. “A freight forwarder specializes in shipping goods. Some freight forwarders specialize in local pickup and delivery and others specialize in shipping to or from certain countries. Some specialize in shipping for meetings and conventions.” Some customs brokers are also freight forwarders, Griggs points out, meaning that you don't need to hire two companies. But be certain you understand the specialties of the companies you are considering and ensure that they understand the needs of meeting planners. “With trade shows, for example,” Griggs says, “carriers must be able to pick up boxes during a precise time frame, so you need a carrier that is available seven days a week.”

As for finding customs brokers and freight forwarders, Griggs suggests asking the local CVB for recommendations in your host city. The Professional Convention Management Association, Meeting Professionals International, and the American Society of Association Executives & The Center for Association Leadership are also good resources. Questions to ask include:

  • Are you accustomed to the needs of meeting and convention clients?

  • What experience do you have in the country where my meeting is being held?

  • Do you use agents in my meeting city and, if so, how do I contact them when I am there?

  • May I see a rate schedule? Then ask for a quote based on your estimated shipment. Be sure that this is “door-to-door” service with all duties and taxes.