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Deconstructing Common Trade Show Expenses

October 11, 2016

We need to clear the air: Accurately anticipating expenses before, during, and after exhibiting at a trade show is tough work. It’s a challenge that both seasoned exhibitors face and newcomers miscalculate.

However, equipped with the proper knowledge and trade show planning, you can turn this burden into a boon. Trade shows can generate huge ROI for your business. So, are you allocating your budget appropriately to maximize your returns?

Let’s break it down. Below, we’ve deconstructed the expenses you can expect when exhibiting at a trade show (and included some insider tips to help you plan for them, too).

First things first – Know your budget.

If you’re a marketer that exhibits at trade shows, you’re probably working within a set budget. How you allocate it will vary depending on a number of factors, including:

• Your individual goals

• The price of exhibiting at a show

• Any unexpected challenges or mishaps

Granted you are working with firm budget, asking the right questions will help you scope and scale your trade show management efforts. For example, if your goal is product sales at a trade show booth, you may need to invest more in the infrastructure needed to complete a sale, and scale back on unnecessary frills.

Preparation is key, and it will help answer the ultimate question… 

How do you allocate your budget, anyway?

There are some expenses across the board that will stay relatively consistent across projects. Things like floor space rental and exhibit cost, lodging and travel, and exhibit design are expenses you can count on paying for, even if the amount for each varies from show to show.

A 2016 survey by EXHIBITOR Magazine unearthed these telling averages across the industry. In 2016, trade show exhibitors allocated the following proportions for their trade show expenses:

• Exhibit Space ­– 35%

• Travel/Lodging – 14%

• Show Services – 13%

• Exhibit Design/Construction – 11%

• Shipping – 10%

• Graphic Design/Production – 6%

• Exhibit Promotions – 6%

• Other – 5%

These categories speak to trade show expenses at a high level. Most of these include subcategories that need to be accounted for, too. If you’re not working with a trade show coordinator that handles the logistics, you will need to personally ensure each piece is covered.

Take show services, for example. Under this category, you may need to hire an electrician to install lights, refrigerators, and other technology, as well as someone to install and clean the floors, and potentially even security personnel to oversee valuable items at your booth.

Here’s how it translates into real money.

Estimating your actual spend can get tricky.

There are several variables that can push and pull your real trade show expenses. Some you can anticipate, and others are a bit more difficult.

On average, you can anticipate spending between $135-$155 per square foot on a custom trade show booth (but you may be able to reduce this cost be opting for a rental exhibit instead).

The booth itself will likely account for the largest single portion of your budget. However, it’s still crucial to work out the numbers for every other element, too. The average daily cost of food, car rental, and lodging for a single person is $292 a day. Multiply this amount by the number of relevant employees you have, and you could quickly have another considerable expense that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Naturally, there are a lot of contingencies and uncertainties when you try to anticipate your trade show expenses. But marketers continue to increase their face-to-face marketing budgets for a reason: Trade shows are effective.

A trade show coordinator can serve as an essential part of your trade show efforts and keep your team on budget. Let’s talk. We have the experience and the know-how to help: Contact us.