December 18, 2018 Last updated December 11th, 2018 1,124 Reads share

Budgeting for a Trade Show: Considering the Costs

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Event marketing is all about generating productive leads and ensuring the best possible ROI for a business. A trade show – when planned correctly – can be a great platform from which to grow your business. However, the high cost of exhibiting was recently cited as being the biggest issue with exhibiting at trade shows (63% of exhibitors found the high price of trade shows a barrier to exhibiting).

Don’t underestimate the cost of the event

If it is your first time at a marketing event it’s important to take all of your potential costs into account. Many first-time exhibitors miscalculate the cost of exhibiting at an event into an oversimplified list of expenses, like below:

  • Stand Space
  • Display Stand/s & Assembly
  • Transport Costs
  • Promotional Costs
  • Staff Accommodation

Whilst this list may seem exhaustive, in fact, there are many ‘hidden costs’ involved with exhibiting at an event which can lead to you spending spiraling out of control. Understanding these costs is the key to setting an effective budget.

So what are the major costs for exhibitors?

Floor Space and Exhibition Stand Design:

When budgeting for an event make sure to allocate about 40 percent of your total budget to your exhibition stand’s design and floor space. Furthermore, remember to adjust this depending on the floor space cost of each individual show. These costs can easily be accounted for if you know which event you will be attending and what size of stand you need for each of them.

TOP TIP: Booking the same amount of floor space for different shows means you can re-use your existing exhibition stands.

Once you have agreed to exhibit at an event, book your space as soon as they become available. Most event organizers will offer huge discounts for exhibitors that book floor space early – so get planning ideally around a year in advance and your budgeting will be a lot easier.


Travel, Accommodation, and Entertainment

Just as booking your floor space early can cut costs, you can save a lot of money on hotel rooms and travel simply by booking ahead of time. Try to book as soon as you have committed to attending an event and you’re bound to save money on these costs.

Booking ahead is particularly important if you’re exhibiting in a city that’s popular with trade shows and conferences such as London or Birmingham in the UK (or in the U.S.’s case, Las Vegas). Finding a place to stay in these cities close to an event can be a real hassle, so get in early to beat the crowds.

Whilst staying further away from the event’s location can save costs, it’s a good idea to book hotel rooms as close to the event as possible to maximize vital networking opportunities and prospect meetings in the evening.

Some other simple ways to reduce your travel and accommodation expenses during an event include:

If all the local hotels are full or overpriced, try booking a serviced apartment using Airbnb, which is more affordable than staying in a hotel and can land you in a top location.

Hiring a car to travel to and from an event can save time waiting for expensive taxis and can also provide the space needed for transporting your exhibition stands.

Flight comparison websites like Skyscanner can help to assess a number of airlines for the best cost. Upgrades like business class seats or extra luggage for your stands will probably be a waste of money though as you can ship your exhibition items for far less than checking in extra bags


TOP TIP: If you know you will be attending regular events in the same venue, sign up for hotel membership to receive their discounts and rewards. Many hotel loyalty schemes entitle you to free nights, discounted rooms and dining, all of which can help you to cut costs.


While accommodation and transport can be booked and paid for before an event, entertainment is one expense that you can’t be certain on until the event is over.

Meeting prospects and suppliers is a key part of any marketing event, and spending some time connecting with them after an event can help to establish industry bonds. Be relatively flexible with your budget for food, drinks, and entertainment, but try and have some places in mind where you can invite your contacts to in the evening in order to provide a rough estimate of these costs.


Shipping of Event Materials and Displays:

From exhibition stands to promotional literature, the cost of shipping your promotional materials to the venue should always be a key factor in your budget planning.

As well as paying to have your items shipped to your event, there are many other costs you need to take into account when budgeting:

Drayage services, which will often be provided by the event organizer at a bulk rate.

Unpacking your exhibition stand once it arrives and transporting it into the exhibition hall.

You may also need to account for fees and taxes charged by customs if you are planning on exhibiting in another country.

TOP TIP: Hiring a bespoke exhibition stand for an event can keep your shipping costs low, as the supplier will transport the stand to the event themselves.


Event Services:

From renting carpet to purchasing security badges, there are many costs involved with event services that you need to be aware of.

Many exhibitors spend a large portion of their budget on event services, things like internet connection, on-site construction, electrical work, and even storage space at the convention center, so make sure you’re aware your venue spending might not end once you’ve booked the floor space.


On-stand Giveaways:

Free merchandise at an event is a must – but how can you ensure that your booth stands out from the crowd whilst remaining cost-effective? Think carefully about your target audience and what they’d value on the day.

TOP TIP: Being different doesn’t have to mean more expensive either – simple, practical giveaways can help to show your brand as relevant and helpful and could help increase sales prospects.


Loss of Business:

This is a big hidden cost of exhibiting that many people don’t fully consider when creating a budget. Pulling stuff out of the office means a drop in productivity, which should be factored in before an event.

Generally, the long-term revenue from exhibiting will outweigh any loss in the office. However, it’s still important to consider this loss and if it is going to be substantial, consider hiring freelance event staff.


How can you budget for an event with so many variables?

The best way to create a great budget for an event is to try and forecast all of the hidden costs involved, which will prevent any surprises and allow you to be more flexible with your money around the event.

Once you’ve paid for all the fixed pre-show costs such as floor space, exhibition stand, transport, and accommodation, you can then use the remaining budget flexible to focus your spending on the things that produce a direct ROI for your company.

Whatever your goals are when attending a marketing event, planning a bulletproof budget should ensure the costs never become unmanageable; meaning you will be able to take full advantage of the many opportunities a marketing event can bring.



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