How to Budget for Tradeshows and Events

Monster Budgeting Tips
One of the key aspects of trade show management is making sure your organization takes finances into account when preparing for, attending and following up on each event. You want to keep trade show costs as low as possible to maximize return on investment (ROI), but you don’t want to compromise the ability to deliver your message effectively and make the right impression. There’s a fine line between being cost-efficient and shortchanging a presentation — and prospects will notice the difference.

Is your budget aligned with industry standards for marketing dollars spent compared to expectations? Check out this featured post by Peter Symonds for his insights on how to budget for trade shows and events. As a long-time marketing manager and trade show expert, Peter has plenty of experience with event budgeting, and he’ll walk you through all the factors such as the trade show booth cost, promotional materials and trade show shipping costs.

The true costs of exhibiting at shows, conventions and conferences may surprise you. At first glance, trade shows can seem like an expensive marketing endeavor. From creating your exhibition to managing the logistics of the event, even medium-sized trade shows can mean thousands in expenses.

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

Budget for Tradeshows and Events

Essential Costs of Exhibiting

Many trade show 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 exhibit 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 exhibit a good benchmark for establishing your trade show budget.

On average, 30% 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 range from $20 to $150per square foot on average, depending on the venue, the size of the booth, and the quality of traffic at the specific location within the show floor. You can often rent floor space at a discount by paying months in advance. Call the event organizer to ask about an ‘early bird’ discount.

The cost of outfitting your trade show 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 of your floor space budget to developing your exhibition stand, banners and event furniture. You may want to increase your budget for an exhibition you need to attract a lot of attention.

Travel and Entertainment Costs

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

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

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 trade shows.

The final factor in this segment of trade show expenses is entertainment. Many of the world’s largest trade shows 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 and prospective clients and customers.

If you think a particular trade show 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.

Budget for Tradeshows and Events

Logistical and Practical Costs

Unless your next trade show 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 trade show, the larger your logistical budget needs to be.

Most trade show exhibitors spend around 9% of their budget on transporting their exhibit to and from their latest trade show 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 trade show far from your place of business can be quite high, it’s often best to start with a local trade show. Search Display Wizard’s exhibition calendar (UK) to find easily accessible local trade shows in your region, county or city.

Logistics expenses don’t stop once you reach the trade show venue. Remember to budget for trade show 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 trade show can vary hugely based on your exhibit’s requirements and the event itself. You should always check the cost 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 trade show budget, especially if it’s unique.

Just as with the other expenses associated with trade shows, 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 trade show: 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).

(You can learn more about the opportunity cost in Display Wizard’s How to Budget for a Trade Show guide.)

How Much Should You Budget for Your First Trade Show?

From floor space to exhibit design, logistics to accommodation, the various costs of a trade show can add up. On average, trade shows can cost anywhere from $1,500 for a small event to$40,000 or more for a large exhibit at a popular industry show.

Just like any other form of marketing, trade shows are all about achieving the right return on investment. Though $5,000 might be a lot for a small, growing business to spend on a one-off event, it could produce $100,000 in revenue.

Beyond the great return on investment that trade shows can make possible, there’s also the possibility to optimize your spending over time. As you exhibit at a greater number of shows, you’ll discover ways to reduce certain parts of your trade show budget and increase others to achieve an even better return on investment.

Is your business ready to exhibit at a trade show? If you want to generate valuable sales leads and increase your brand recognition with the right audience, exhibiting at a trade show might be the best decision your business can make.

Budget for Tradeshows and Events
As you can see, many things go into putting together a trade show budget, and the costs can vary from event to event. For more information, download our free eBook “Trade Show Exhibit Budgeting Checklist: Key Points for Trade Show Success.

One way you can make the most of your marketing investment is to get the right trade show display. By knowing what types of shows you are attending and what your exhibit needs are, you can pick a versatile display that will shine in these situations. When you shop at Monster Displays, you get a Price Match Guarantee on all exhibits, keeping the overall trade show booth cost down and leaving you more options for travel, promotion, “wining and dining” and other expenses.

Do you have questions about finding the best trade show display for your budget? Our exhibit experts are always happy to discuss options and recommend the best display for your company’s needs. The Monster Displays team can be reached by emailing [email protected] or by calling (888) 484-3344. We’d love to put our experience to work for you.