Creating a Successful Budget for Trade Show Exhibiting

September 19, 2015

Timothy Carter

Timothy Carter is the Director of Business Development for the Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency AudienceBloom. When Timothy isn't telling the world about the great work his company does, he's planning his next trip to Hawaii while drinking some Kona coffee.

Successful trade show exhibitions are those earning a quantifiable return on the investment. If you want that successful ROI, it requires lots of careful planning.

Front and center of that planning is the actual budget for the trade show.

Too many first time exhibitors and even seasoned trade show veterans make the critical mistake of improper budgeting, simply because they do not plan out for all the variables that come with a trade show.

There is much more to a comprehensive trade show exhibit budget than you’d expect. In order to stay within budget and avoid the potential cost overruns, let’s take a closer look at some line items that must be considered in a well-planned trade show budget:

Space Rental: Where your booth is on the exhibition floor is important. Not only for visibility, but cost. Space varies in cost, based on both size, and location within the show. Review the trade show’s handbook or kit that is distributed by the show sponsor for these variable costs.

Trade Show Display: Based on the budget limits and the goals you have for the tradeshow and your marketing message, your exhibit designed should be carefully planned to maximize its impact on visitors.

Here are some other issues to consider with a trade show display:

If renting a tradeshow display, what is that expense to rent?
What is the purchase price?
Are there additional design costs?
Graphics design and production?
Shipping cases and other costs to get the display to your show?
Storage of your display?

Shipping: Transporting your trade show display is complex. It’s important to review the exhibitor’s kit to know the dates and deadlines for shipping to and from the show. Deciding on the size and type of trade show display becomes important in this part of the process. Things to think about are:

Ground shipping to the show or advance warehouse?
Ground shipping from the show?
Air or sea transport to and from the show?
Show to show shipping?
Customs costs?

Staffing: It’s easy to forget one or more facets of staffing your trade show booth. These begin well in advance of the show, and extend to during and after the event. Things like:

Salaries (and bonuses) of employees/staffing?
Staff training?
Staff attire/clothing/uniforms?
Food and entertainment?
Miscellaneous staffing?

Promotional Expenses: Another vital aspect of the overall trade show plan is the marketing and promotion of the trade show event. The promotional marketing is a separate plan in itself, within the trade show master plan.

Social Media Marketing?
Mailing list/email list rental?
Direct mail campaigns?
Hospitality/courting customers?
Giveaways during the show?
Marketing collateral?
Video production?
Becoming a speaker at the conference?
Press kit?

Lead gathering and fulfillment: This is usually done during and post-show. This is yet another expense that can be easily overlooked.

Letter printing?
Lead forms?

At the show/on-site services: Depending upon the sponsorship of the event, some of these costs could be covered with your entry fee into the show. Even so, it is a wise choice to budget for on-site services and contingencies.

Audio visual services?
First aid and tool kit?
Carpet rental and removal?
Computer equipment rental?
Custom signage?
Exhibitor badges?
Plant or floral rental?
Furniture rental?
Utilities and telephone?
Setup and dismantle labor?
Supervisor travel expenses?
Miscellaneous or unexpected?

In review, this list of budgetary items is not comprehensive but highlights the fact that there are a lot of expenses to consider. Proper budget preparation for your exhibiting costs will give your company a clear expectation of costs that will be incurred and gauge what it will take for a projected return on your investment in order for it to be considered a successful trade show.

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