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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