When you are thinking about adding trade show exhibiting to your marketing mix, you often wonder how much that investment is going to cost you. A general rule of thumb is to take the cost of your exhibit space and multiply that times three. For example, if a 10’ x 10’ space at the National Association of Widget Manufacturing trade show costs $21 per square foot your cost for exhibit space will be $2100. For budget purposes, multiply that number by three and you are looking at a $6300 total investment for that show.
How do those numbers add up so quickly? Let's take a closer look at four other substantial drivers of cost.
The next costliest line item in your budget after the actual exhibit space is going to be travel expenses. You want to send at least two people to a show, so airfare, hotels, and meals are going to be a significant expenditure.
Ways to Save: Choose a show closer to your office so the people you send can drive instead of fly. Do not try to save a few dollars by booking a budget hotel an hour away from the trade show venue. All that time you spend driving back and forth could be spent networking with potential customers.
Show services are another big expense. They include items such as carpeting and padding for your booth (no, that is not included), furniture rental, trashcans, and vacuuming. These costs can quickly add up to over $1000 for one three-day show considering one plastic trash bin can cost $100/day.
Ways to Save: Skip the chair rentals, trashcan, and vacuum service. You shouldn’t be sitting in your booth, and you can carry your trash to one of the garbage cans in the aisles. If you are worried about your booth getting messy, skip the vacuum service and pick up a sweeper at the local Wal-Mart.
Drayage is the term for how your items get from the loading dock to your booth. If you are shipping your booth and equipment to the show, then pay attention. Drayage is charged by CWT (weight per 100lbs). Rates vary depending on the show and where the freight is coming from, but for budgeting purposes, $75 per CWT is a good place to start. Every separate shipment to the show is considered on its own, and it is going to cost the same amount of money to have a ten-pound box of brochures delivered to your booth as it will a 90-pound monitor.
Ways to Save: Ship everything to the show on one shrink-wrapped pallet. Combining everything into one load will lower your drayage costs significantly. To save on shipping in general, stick with lightweight materials wherever possible in your booth.
If you need electric in your booth, plan on spending between $75 to $275 per outlet or drop (average is roughly $150). If you are doing a demo that requires reliable internet access, you will have to order a hardwired internet connection. That can run anywhere from $750 to $3000 depending on the show.
Ways to Save: Forgo electric drops and use battery powered lighting, which can be every bit as good, if not better, than traditional plug-in lighting. If a reliable internet connection is not crucial, bring your own cellular or MiFi connection.
Attending a trade show can be a very rewarding but expensive endeavor. However, with a bit of smart planning, there are some easy ways to save without compromising your brand image.