Creating a Realistic Budget for your Tradeshows
Creating a Realistic Budget for your Tradeshows


When creating a tradeshow display, you are often caught between the desire to present the best display possible and the need to follow a specific (sometimes constricting) budget. With some upfront planning, you can make sure you produce a quality display without runaway spending.

How to Begin

The first step is to determine a rough estimate of what your costs will be for the event. You may be able to pull a number based on past events or have one set by a boss or manager. In this scenario, you have far less flexibility but you also have a clear goal. In the event that you are setting your own display budget, you will want to be realistic about costs when estimating a ballpark figure. One of the easiest ways to determine a basic figure is to budget based on the exhibit space.

Calculate a Ballpark Budget Estimate Based on Space

For a rough estimate of cost, tradeshow experts suggest budgeting for three times the cost of the exhibit space. You may also need to estimate based on square footage. For example, the recent Medical World America’s Conference held at the George R. Brown Conference Center in Houston, TX charged $34 a square foot. For an average 10 x 10 booth (100 square feet), the cost for space would be $3400. To estimate your costs, multiply by 3, which gives you a rough budget of $10,200 to plan your tradeshow display.

Many companies use the same exhibit display for multiple shows. For companies that attend multiple shows per year, plan on breaking out a portion of the budget for each show to compensate for the cost of your display and reusable materials. For example, a display may cost $30,000 and be reusable for five shows. This display would be paid for and then allocated across the budget of all five shows for a total of $6,000 per show. This concept applies to promotional items ordered in bulk, banners and pop ups, and other material that can be reused multiple times.

Consider Additional Expenses for Increased Accuracy

While estimating based on space is an excellent way to get a ballpark figure, you will want to consider a host of other factors to tailor your budget more precisely to the individual event. Use a spreadsheet to organize the details of each booth (this will also make it easier to cut or reallocate costs in specific areas later if your budget needs adjusting). First, consider the costs to design and build your booth. What will it cost to pack and store your materials, what will you need to ship to the location, what is the drayage fee to move your materials from the dock to your exhibit space?

Once you’ve considered the cost to build and move your exhibit, you will want to budget any setup costs. Consider any labor services you may need such as an electrician, rigger, or machine operator. You will also want to budget for necessary services that you will need during the event. What will the cost be for phone and internet? Will you need to pay a fee for security or cleaning? Consider also any additional decoration costs (such as a florist) that you may need to hire.

Finally, consider the specific costs of the event and budget for the staff. What sorts of promotional materials are you planning to give away? Make sure to budget for advertisement, literature, and giveaways. Consider the costs to your staff of attending the event. These include travel costs, hotel costs, dinners, entertainment, and badges/event costs. It can be very easy to budget for a perfect display and accidentally forget the human cost to staff the tradeshow!

Compare Your Final Budget to Your Estimated Budget for Future Planning

After the event, you still need to return to your budget. Make sure to fill in your spreadsheet to compare the actual costs to your estimated costs. While this can seem tedious, this data is invaluable to your future planning. By comparing your predicted expenses to your actual expenses, you will be able to produce even more accurate budgets for future tradeshows. This data can also help you demonstrate how an expanded budget might produce greater rewards in the future or help allocate funds in your budget to more productive uses in your next display.

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