9 Top Budgeting Tips for Attending Trade Shows

9 Top Budgeting Tips for Attending Trade Shows

Figuring out all the expenses to a trade show can make your head spin. You’ve got booth costs, travel costs, food, promotions, extras…when you add it all up, the total can take you by surprise. Today we’ve put together 9 of our best tips  to help you plan  your budget when you make the leap to vending at a trade show.


Booth Costs

There are some unavoidable expenses with having a booth at a show. You might have a single booth, or a double, or a half booth, but no matter what you will have to pay for that square footage. Let’s take a look at the extras and where spending more cash is really worth it.

! Don’t pay the trade show for a floor covering or drapes.

While great in theory, in practice the trade show’s provided  drapes and carpet are very expensive but often unappealing to look at or stand on. Instead, make or buy drapes so you can plan the exact look you want for your booth. You can also buy your own rug or foam floor tiles and have them shipped right to the convention center.

>> Do pay for the Wi-Fi or electricity to your booth.

To encourage vendors to pay for Wi-Fi, sometimes convention centers throttle the Wi-Fi and the show becomes a dead zone. You don’t want to get stuck writing down credit card numbers or be unable to process a card in the middle of a hopping booth. You also want your customers to see your products in the best light, so a little electricity goes a long way towards making a sale.


Travel Expenses

Even if you’re lucky enough to have one trade show close to you, the odds are that another will require travel to get there. Whether that trip is by plane, train, or automobile is up to you, but here are the places you should and shouldn’t use your budget.

! Don’t park in an unattended or unlocked lot.

If you are driving to the trade show, it’s likely that your booth is traveling with you. Panel vans and trailers are prime targets for thieves looking for a quick buck. Store your vehicle in an attendant monitored parking lot to keep all the hard work tucked inside your vehicle safe.

>> Do pay for a place close to the convention center.

Those 12-14 hour days standing on a convention show floor and meeting and greeting all the people you need to see are hard on your body and the last thing you want to do at the end of the day is get in a car for another hour before you can finally rest. And if you left something in the hotel that you need during the day, it’s too far to journey back. Research accommodations early to secure the best rates and a prime location.


Promotional Expenses

! Don’t wait to print handouts or promotional items at the hotel or in the convention center.

We’ve all been there, trying to get every possible project done in the last 24 hours before leaving for the show, but sometimes things fall through the cracks.  However, business centers in hotels or print shops in convention centers are notoriously overpriced. So waiting until you get to the trade show to print off high volume copies like handouts or postcards can really put a dent in your budget. Preparing your handouts well ahead of time and get them produced at your local copy shop or printer to save money.

>> Do have a show special that will attract new and old customers!

You want to reward people for seeing you at the convention and drive traffic—and sales—to your booth with a show special. This could be as simple as free shipping on orders placed during the trade show or it could be something more complex, like some show swag (stickers are always a hit!). At a minimum, don’t let anyone walk away from your booth empty-handed. Postcards with your company’s information, and a call back to that show special, are perfect.


Tips to offset costs

We do have a few more suggestions to make the most of any show budget!

>> Do book extra events before or after the trade show.

Extending your trip by a couple days in either direction can really help spread out the costs. Whether you book some speaking events, trunk shows, or teaching gigs in the area, that cash flow will help alleviate some of the burden of the convention expense. And hey, you’re already packed up and ready to go.

>> Do offer your new products to showcase in distributors’ booths.

You may have a little booth or a bad booth location, but I guarantee your biggest distributors won’t. See if the distributors you work with need samples for their booth. You’ll get the publicity and you’ll both get more sales.

>> Do a booth-share with complementary, but not identical, businesses.

You probably have friends in the industry that want to be at the trade shows, but are also looking at their bottom line. Talk to a few industry friends and work out how to share a booth or a couple of booths three businesses in a double booth, for example). It might take some more planning and negotiation between all of you, but the overall cost will be less for each of you and you’ll have the draw of a larger booth. Plus, more people means more coverage – we all need to get away for a break or to take a short trip around the show floor and network.

Remember that trade shows are not just about the sales you make from the show; they help you make sales for the next six months to a year. Play the long game!

We hope we’ve given you some of our best tips for making a trade show work for you within your budget.


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Anneliese Johnson
1 Comment
  • Kris Howatt
    Posted at 18:08h, 22 February Reply

    Thank you for some things to think about and factor in. My only concern is suggesting people share a booth – many show contracts forbid that and you can forfeit money paid and the possibility of coming first. You need to be very upfront and ask, and not be told to take down the booth you just set up

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