Budgeting Tips for Your Next Trade Show

The cost of buying an exhibit space at a trade show is just one of many expenses when it comes to attending a convention. There’s also travel and lodging, show services, exhibit design and construction, exhibit shipping, and the price of enough Frappuccinos to keep you on your feet and engaging prospective leads from the time the doors open until they close.

We recently came across a “Budgeting for Dummies” article in EXHIBITOR Magazine that included a lot of great information for figuring out how expensive your next trade show experience will cost you. We encourage you to read the entire article, but for those of you who are time strapped, here’s our tl;dr (“too long; didn’t read”) collection of budgeting tips for trade shows.

Three Main Budgeting Strategies

When you need to make a quick ballpark estimate of how much to budget for a trade show, use one of these three strategies:

  1. Cost-per-Square Foot Calculation – Average your past exhibiting costs to get an idea of future costs. To do this, you add up the costs associated with each of the previous year’s shows and divide each by the booths’ square footage. You then multiply this average by the number of square feet you will have at the upcoming show.
  2. Cost-per-Lead Calculation – Average the cost per lead from past shows to get your future expenses. You do this by dividing the costs of past events by the number of leads they generated. You then multiply this number by how many leads you expect at the upcoming show.
  3. Space-Cost Calculation – One of the fastest and least scientific ways to determine how much you can expect to spend is to multiple the exhibit space cost by three. Why’s that? Industry surveys show that the typical exhibitor spends three times the space cost for the entire event.

Some Rules of Thumb

For every 50 square feet of open exhibit space, you should plan on having one exhibit staffer. If you have specific spots that need nonstop coverage, you need extra staff. This includes presentation areas, a reception counter, hospitality areas, and demo stations. You may also need added coverage for competitor analysis, breaks, client meetings, and conference sessions. To cover the costs of Internet, hotel, air travel, miscellaneous tips, food, and ground transportation for a three day event, budget between $2,000 and $2,500 per employee.

Installation generally takes twice as long as dismantling your booth. That said, estimate two hours of setup for every ten linear feet of a custom or modular exhibit and an hour for every ten feet of a linear booth with a pop-up or banner stands. And, estimate one hour total installation and dismantle time for every eight square feet for a large, complex island or peninsula exhibit.

Of course, when it comes to creating a booth that is simple to assemble, you can rely on the mighty sign makers at SGS. We’ve been known to travel to local trade shows to setup clients’ displays for them. If you’re interested in learning more about how to budget for your trade show displays, contact us today for a free consultation and estimate! We might even be able to tell you how many Frappuccinos to order!