When creating your trade show budget you'll want to always keep two aspects in mind - what something should cost, and ways you can cut that expense.

Don’t Mismanage Your Trade Show Budget

A trade show budget is an exhibitor's double-edged sword. If it's managed well, the organization will reap a larger return on investment from cutting costs. However, if the project spirals out of control, an exhibitor could struggle to put together a booth in the first place.

When creating your trade show budget you'll want to always keep two aspects in mind – what something should cost, and ways you can cut that expense. Here are a few tips to guide you through it:

Booth space and design
Securing room to showcase your product and gather leads at a trade show isn't cheap. Exhibitor Online reported that while venue space once represented one-quarter of a budget in 1988, it now accounts for more than one-third. This isn't a cost that can be ignored though, so it's an excellent starting point for creating your budget.

According to EO, setting aside roughly 35 percent of your budget to cover exhibitor space should keep you in the clear when tackling other concerns. This figure will change depending on the notoriety, size and industry of the event.

"Allocate 40-45% of your budget to booth space and design."

On the other hand, figures for creating the actual booth vary. Business.com reported that booth space and design should never account for more than 40 percent, but EO reported the latter usually runs an exhibitor about 11 percent of their total budget.

The good news is the cost to fabricate a booth has been dwindling, as more companies are opting for fewer barriers between their salespeople and attendees. If you find your organization is tight on funds, it may be best to go with a more modern, open-space design that will alleviate some of the heavy expenses associated with building a booth, like wood and metal. Ultimately, though, the goal is to avoid spending more than 40 to 45 percent of the budget on space and design.

Often one of the latest topics on an exhibitors mind, travel and lodging is actual the second largest expense in the average budget, according to EO. In fact, it has gone up 700 percent since 1988, mostly due to the rise in cost of hotels, airfare and other key factors associated with it.

EO recommended allocating around 14 percent of your budget to this category, but in all honesty there are multiple ways to cut this cost down. The most important of which is to book flights and lodging accommodations far ahead of time to get the best deal possible.

To help you figure out how much this category will cost your organization throughout the entire event, EO put together the Miami averages for the three most common expenses per day:

  • Hotel: $198 per day
  • Food: $99
  • Car rental: $47

Extrapolate these numbers to account for everyone participating in the trade show and you should have a solid understanding of how much this category will cost. Anything saved here is just icing on the cake, and can be redistributed back into other areas of the budget.

Promotion of an event has always been a very small line in the budget. EO reported it stands at about 6 percent on the average budget. Organizers will really want to stay in the black here, as this should be a minor operating cost in respect to the entire picture.

Utilizing social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can help you market your trade show at a fraction of the average cost. All these methods take some wit, great pictures and excellent content to generate discussions. It's all about going viral, so make sure you take some time creating a catchy hashtag.

Social media marketing can be an organizer's best friend.Social media marketing can be an organizer's best friend.

Show services
This mixed-bag category can take up on average 16 percent of a budget, according to multiple sources. While exhibitors can't really avoid certain costs associated with exhibiting, like drayage, labor, booth clean-up or event internet access, actions can be taken to lessen the impact of these expenses on the budget.

MGDesign reported that exhibitors should avoid paying overtime if possible by planning shipments and services accordingly. In the same respect, planning ahead and understanding which items you'll need before, during and after the event to make it all possible is key in reducing how much you'll have to pay the trade show contractors for the very same services.

If hiring labor from an I&D provider, be sure to hire a contractor who is highly skilled in the particular booth design setup you're trying to achieve. Virtual and augmented reality are popular items right now, but should only be installed by an event technologist. Similar to the rest of the budget, spending more for something to get done right the first time will save unexpected expenses and headaches down the line.

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