JB’s Space: Tips for Cutting Costs at Your Next Trade Show

Planning for a trade show takes organizational skills, patience, and persistence. It’s kind of like planning a wedding except there’s no cake and rarely is there dancing. And like weddings, exhibiting at a trade show can also be expensive, even more so if you don’t plan ahead.

For your consideration, here are 15 tips for cutting costs at your next trade show.

1)    Whether you already own a display or are planning on building a new one, the sooner you meet with your exhibit house the better. Typically the cost of a new exhibit or refurbishing an existing booth is one of the biggest, if not the biggest portion of your trade show budget. So knowing what it will cost to build or update your exhibit will go a long way in determining your overall budget.

2)    Once you have decided what your booth will consist of, try to make as few changes as possible thereafter. The cost of making changes to an exhibit while it is under construction tends to be more expensive than incorporating what you want during the design process.

3)    Often times artwork for booth graphics is the last thing that companies provide to their vendors. But waiting until the last minute can also result in rush charges and mistakes that require reprinting; so create your graphic files early enough that you don’t have to worry about this.

4)    There are a number of ways to save money on graphic production as well. There are many more printing options today than there used to be. Traditional ink-jet laminated prints or “lambda” prints offer great registration, but if you don’t need graphics that are of “photographic” quality, then direct-to-substrate printing is a lower cost, yet good quality alternative. If you have multiple graphics, having all your artwork ready at the same time may also allow your printer to “group” several images at once thus saving both material and set-up costs.

5)    Ask whoever is arranging transportation for your booth properties to and from the show to get several bids, but make sure that the carrier you select properly classifies the freight, provides air-ride trailers to avoid damaging your booth properties, and has experience with transporting materials to trade shows. If they don’t you could be facing detention or “wait” charges because the carrier didn’t build this into their price. Worse still, trade show freight is extremely time sensitive and not having your freight to the show or the advance warehouse on time will cost you a lot of extra money.

6)    When making freight arrangements work with experts who know the industry. Many exhibitors only worry about getting their properties to the show, but if post-show pick-up arrangements aren’t clearly defined the carrier may not be there when the freight is ready to be picked up, in which case the General Services Contractor may “force” the freight off the floor and move it back to the advanced warehouse until you send in a carrier to pick it up. The cost for this is nothing short of overwhelming and completely avoidable.

7)    Whether you handle the show site services or your exhibit house does, always check the show rules to compare the total cost of going to the advance warehouse versus going direct-to-show. Many times the direct-to-show rate might be lower, but there are other cost considerations. For example the drayage rate might be higher for direct-to-show shipments. Some shows also have “targeted move-in” dates so have your experts look into this as well.

8)    Drayage (material handling fee) is very costly – it’s just a fact of exhibiting. Drayage rates are determined by weight. A typical drayage rate might be $70/CWT (per hundred weight) or $0.70 per pound, so if you have 10,000 pounds of freight going to the show your drayage cost would be $7,000!  So when it comes to weight, consider reducing the amount of printed collateral or product that you bring to the show. Also ask your experts if the show offers drayage discounts on your products versus your exhibit properties. Even shipping a pallet of water for show attendees who visit your booth is going to add to your drayage bill. This is something you should also take into consideration when designing your booth. Add impact – not weight if at all possible. Fabric structures, high impact graphics and feature lighting can give your exhibit the “pop” you’re looking for while saving you thousands of dollars in drayage costs. Another option is showing a video of your products instead of bringing them to the show. With interactive touch screens and today’s software technology, you can give virtual demonstrations which will impress your audience perhaps even more so than having a big piece of equipment in your booth. Finally, keep in mind that most shows charge drayage for both the move-in and the move-out, so anything you bring to the show that isn’t given away during the show, is coming back and you’ll be paying both for drayage and freight to move it off the show floor.

9)    Depending on the size and configuration of your exhibit, the cost to install and dismantle your booth can be one of your bigger budget expenses. Check with your supplier to make sure that any discounts they receive are being passed on to you. Keep in mind cheaper isn’t necessarily better. The quality of labor and their knowledge of the booth are extremely important. If your labor team is able to leverage their knowledge and skills the set up might go faster than if you were to use a lower cost I&D company or show supplied labor. Moreover, some I&D companies and many times, show labor, will charge a supervision fee that might be as much as 30% of the total labor cost; so ask your supplier if they are able to reduce or eliminate supervision fees.

10) Virtually all trade shows offer discounts on many of the services that you order from the show. These could include: furniture rental, carpet, booth cleaning, guard services, internet, electrical, floral, A/V, lead retrieval, water, and even compressed air. Making sure that you or your exhibit house places your orders on time in order to receive the show discounts will save you a lot of money.

11) Where carpet is concerned, if your booth space is larger than a 10’x10’ it’s cheaper to rent or buy carpet from an outside supplier than ordering it from the show general services contractor. There are many companies that specialize in carpet strictly for trade shows, which often times includes professional installation at show site. You can either investigate these suppliers yourself or ask your exhibit house to do it for you.

12)  Frequently trade show organizers make deals with local hotels for blocks of rooms for exhibitors or attendees that are substantially lower than normal rates. In addition, these same hotels often offer shuttle services to and from the convention center that will not only save you the cost of a car rental but parking as well.

13) You can also potentially save travel expenses by booking your flights early and attending any networking or parties offered by the show because they usually include free food!

14) Get a head start on saving money for next year. Many shows offer significant discounts for signing up early for next year’s show immediately following this year’s.

15) And finally, the only thing that will make your boss happier than a perfectly executed trade show is one that also comes in under budget!

That’s JB’s Space for now. Thanks for visiting.