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Setting Your Trade Show Budget

Amy Chan

Posted on November 19 2014

When your business is at a place where it is ready for maximizing the benefits of attending a trade show, you would be remiss not to go to one.  However, especially if you’re new at it, properly executing a trade show for your company is incredibly complex.  Instead of reinventing the wheel, you are right to seek outside counsel.  One oft-overlooked aspect of trade show planning is budgeting for your show.  It’s easy to imagine certain costs, but others will arise that perhaps you didn’t think of.  So it’s important to be very meticulous about the pre-show costs.

But what are the costs both easy to predict and maybe less so?

There are seven major categories of trade show costs: space rental, the exhibit, shipping and storing, show services, personnel, advertising and promotion, and travel and entertainment.  It is in your best interest to be extremely accurate and detailed about this, particularly if it’s your first show.  Go through all the steps of the process and estimate what you think the costs for each will be, and then take extreme measures to keep track of the actual costs.  As you go to more shows, you’ll see your accuracy increase and that will of course help your bottom line and to determine where you should allocate more resources, and which categories require less attention.

So let’s get to setting an actual budget.  Space rental can be ignored because you don’t worry too much about the number of bodies that will be in the space.  But focus on what your objectives are.  The total number of sales or contacts you want to make will determine the amount of space to rent.  Remember that not everyone who comes in will be a sale, and that many people will mill about the booth and are never going to be serious candidates.  Also remember that a booth full of people may deter others from going in, so make sure you have enough space to attract the numbers you need to meet the goals.  Some say each salesperson needs about 50 square feet to work in.  Realistically estimate the umber of salespeople you want to employ and how much space will be used for the actual exhibit and materials.

When it comes to the expense of the exhibit itself, remember that the first time will be the most expensive, but in subsequent shows, the materials and exhibit may need updating and redoing.  It’s not a one time expense like some people think.  If you need a custom booth to fit your needs, that will increase expenses.  Remember, you’re budgeting here not determining outside constraints.  If you need a more elaborate set up, now is the time to budget for it, not determine that you don’t in fact need something like that.

Shipping and storing your trade show materials can become expensive, since you won’t be able to bring the materials with you on the plane.  Make sure you have budgeted necessary accommodations for the transportation and housing of your show materials.

On that note, will the exhibit be easily set up by the personnel you have manning the booth?  It’s possible you’ll need to hire additional one-time personnel at the location of the show. 

As you plan for the show and for the other expenses, leave yourself some wiggle room, but again, be meticulous in keeping track of your budget for advertising and for entertainment.  That way when you’re setting the budget for your next show, you’ll be able to do so in a more educated manner.