How to Budget for Tradeshows and Events

At first glance, tradeshow marketing can seem like an expensive endeavor. From creating your exhibition to managing the logistics of the event, even medium-sized tradeshows can mean thousands in expenses.

Like any form of marketing, however, tradeshow expenses shouldn’t be thought of as costs but as an investment: With the right exhibit and the right team, the ROI of a tradeshow can beat the ROI of any other form of marketing.

In this brief guide, we’ll look at the costs associated with exhibiting at a tradeshow, from basic expenses such as banner stands and exhibition stands to the cost of travel, on-the-day expenses, and entertainment of prospective clients and customers.

Essential Costs of Tradeshow Marketing and Exhibiting

Many tradeshow expenses are unavoidable. Whether you’re exhibiting at a small industry event or a massive convention, you’ll need to pay for the floor space your exhibit uses, the show itself, and your marketing materials.

The cost of renting floor space and creating your exhibit will take up approximately 40% of your budget, according to the Tradeshow Institute. That figure makes the cost of your production a good benchmark for establishing your tradeshow budget.

On average, 28% of the total budget is spent on renting floor space, and 12% is spent on designing an exhibit. The cost of floor space varies based on the event and the space’s location within the event.

Floor space costs $22.32 (PS13.28) per square foot, on average, although that number will vary based on the event. You can often rent floor space at a discount by paying months in advance. Call the event organizer to ask about an ‘early bird’ value.

A small tradeshow exhibit takes up approximately 100 square feet–normally the minimum booth size offered by organizers. Therefore, the cost of a 10 x 10 tradeshow exhibit is roughly $2,232 or PS1,328 (100 square feet x PS13.28 per square foot).

The cost of outfitting your tradeshow exhibit can also vary massively based on your needs and whether you’re building a booth to be used at multiple shows or renting a stand for just one exhibition.

As a general rule, you should allocate about half as much of your floor space budget to developing your exhibition stand, banners, and event furniture. For a show that really attracts attention, you may want to increase your budget.

Travel and Entertainment Costs

The second largest set of costs for tradeshow exhibitors is travel, accommodation, and on-location entertainment. From hotel rooms to dinners with prospects and customers, the prices of fully taking part in a tradeshow can quickly add up.

On average, about 21% of a tradeshow marketing budget is spent on accommodation, according to the Tradeshow Institute. Of course, that amount varies based on the tradeshow’s location: Shows located close to your business will cost far less to travel to.

Using our sample costs above, in which floor space costs PS1,328 and outfitting your tradeshow exhibit costs PS600, you should expect to budget anywhere from PS500 to PS1,500 or more on accommodation, travel, and entertainment for your tradeshow.

Is your business a growing startup on a tight budget? Save money on travel and accommodation by booking as early as possible, staying in apartments booked on instead of hotel rooms, and carpooling to local tradeshows.

The final factor in this segment of tradeshow expenses is entertainment. Many of the world’s largest tradeshows have a culture of post-event dinners, parties, and other networking events; aside from being great fun, they provide great opportunities to network with influencers pro, prospective clients, and customers.

If you think a particular tradeshow has the potential to help your business meet industry influencers, media insiders, or sources of funding, don’t be afraid to give your sales team an event budget for dinners and drinks with business prospects.

Are you using your next tradeshow as an opportunity to meet people who could help your business grow? YFS Magazine has a great tradeshow networking guide for young professionals and sales reps to help close deals after the show ends.

Logistical and Practical Costs

Unless your next tradeshow is located close to your place of business, you’ll need more than a moving trailer to get your exhibit to the right location. The greater the distance to your tradeshow, the larger your logistical budget needs to be.

Most tradeshow exhibitors spend around 9% of their budget on transporting their exhibit to and from their latest tradeshow, according to the Tradeshow Institute. Like all expenses, of course, transport costs can vary to a huge extent.

Is your exhibit complicated, delicate, and valuable? If so, the cost of insuring your banners, promotional signage, and other items can increase your transportation-related costs. Events in faraway cities also obviously incur greater transport costs than those nearby.

Because the costs of exhibiting at a tradeshow far from your place of business can be quite high, it’s often best to start with a local tradeshow. Search Display Wizard’s exhibition calendar (UK) to find easily accessible regional tradeshows in your region, county, or city.

Logistics expenses don’t stop once you reach the tradeshow venue. Remember to budget for tradeshow services such as lighting, carpet rental, security badges, high-speed Internet connectivity, and electrical wiring if your exhibition requires them.

The cost of services on the day of the tradeshow can vary hugely based on your exhibit’s requirements and the event itself. You should always check the price of those services with the event organizer, but it’s best to set aside a minimum of 10% of your budget for on-the-day logistical and infrastructure expenses.

Promotional and Sales Costs

Do you have thousands of brochures to give away? Interactive displays for prospects to use? Branded gifts, accessories, and business cards? Promotional material can add a significant amount to your total tradeshow budget, especially if it’s unique.

Just as with the other expenses associated with tradeshows, it’s best not to think of the promotional items you give away as costs but as investments. An effective brochure or discount coupon can deliver a large return on investment for your business.

In addition to the cost of promotional materials, you need to keep in mind two sales costs when exhibiting at a tradeshow: the commission paid to your sales reps and the opportunity cost of the show itself (the cost of possible business that you miss out on by spending time away from the office).

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