How to Budget for a Trade Show

April 4, 2015

Trade shows can be a very positive and lucrative experience for many businesses. There are numerous benefits such as networking, marketing and business development. Before you decide that you’re going to have a booth at the next nearby trade show, however, it’s good to figure out what the process is going to cost.

There are a number of hidden costs that make it difficult to figure out exactly what a show will cost, but here are a few simple guidelines and ideas to help you get a general idea of what various aspects of the trade show experience might cost.

1. Fixed Costs       

There are a number of different fixed costs that any trade show will have. The most obvious is the cost for booth rental space, which varies based on the show and venue. Expect to pay somewhere between $10 to $100 per square foot. One must also include any ancillary venue costs such as electricity or water. Only you can determine how much space and what utilities you need at a given trade show, but it’s likely that this will be one of your largest cost items.

Freight is another significant cost. Although it varies depending on a number of different factors, there will always be freight and transportation costs to move equipment to and from the show venue. Plan ahead and, if possible, try to possibly absorb some of this cost by transporting some items with employees attending the show who drive.

2. Flexible Costs

There are also quite a few flexible cost items at any given trade show. These are items that you need but have a significant amount of control over. For example, trade show booths and graphics vary in cost very significantly. From a very simple homemade booth with graphics done by hand and a simple table that displays sample products to an elaborate professionally designed and fabricated booth with screens and gadgets everywhere there is much variety to be had. Deciding what type of booth to have is really dependent on your goals for the show.

Travel is another significant cost. Moving employees around can be expensive if there are many attending a show that is far away. Depending on costs you may want to wait for a trade show that is closer or reduce the number of employees attending and managing, but this must be balanced with ensuring that there are enough people at all times to manage the booth.

3. Fun Stuff

There are numerous items at any trade show that are not at all necessary but are fun to have and may make your booth much more popular.

Games are a popular staple of just about any trade show booth. If you have a product that is not flashy or easy to demonstrate you may want to have an exciting game with great prizes to draw people in. There are many games that are simple and require little fabrication and others that require the rental of expensive equipment. As with any fun cost it is important to weigh the benefit versus the cost for games.

Tying in tightly with games is merchandise that one gives away at trade shows for free. For some folks who attend trade shows the free merchandise is the best part. Think about what you have available that will keep your product or service offering in mind, and don’t be afraid to be creative. A well-targeted and thought out piece of free merchandise is often much more effective than a more costly piece with no relevance to your business.

These are just a few of the main costs associated with trade shows but hopefully this will help to give you a general idea of what items can be costly at a trade show and how to tailor these costs to any budget.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.