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Trade Show Information from IGE Group —

Guidelines to Determining a Trade Show Budget

trade show activity

Exhibiting is a pretty intensive endeavor. Just determining a trade show budget is a monumental task, let alone executing all the moving parts. According to CEIR, the industry standard is that a company’s overall trade show budget is 3x the cost to reserve a booth space. 

For clients who are not very experienced in participating in a trade show event, it is easy to miss certain specifics that should be considered. Every show is different, so associated costs will always vary. However, Exhibitor has done a good job of researching the breakdown of costs over time, which provides a good working guideline. Regardless of what those costs actually are, there remains a definite list of anticipated expenses. We’ve put a list of these together with general explanations and hope it helps when developing a budget for your next event.

Definitive Costs

Registration Fees 2 to 5%

This is the cost to attend the event. Any employee planning to visit the showroom floor or booth staff will require a registration pass. There are generally a variety of options, such as association members versus non-members, or 1-day passes versus the entire show. The cost of entry also usually fluctuates depending on when it is purchased; those who buy early are likely to get a better price.

Exhibiting Space – 30 to 35%

This is the price of the space your booth occupies during an event. Nowadays the average cost is about a third of an exhibitor’s total event budget and is the largest expense in your budget. Where space is located on the showroom floor and its size determines its cost. Events often offer early registration, which can save on the rate per square foot. The industry average for booth space is $21/square foot. Therefore a standard 10’x10’ booth space would cost $2,100.

Exhibit Design (Build/Rental/Refurbishment) – 10 to 20%*

Expect this cost to vary depending on the type of structure you intend to use and its size. A custom exhibit will be more expensive, but they will also only be a 1-time purchase (give or take general upkeep and updates over the years). Custom rentals will be less than a permanent booth, but a little more than a generic rental. Other factors to consider when deciding between buying or renting are how often it will be used and the expense of subsequent storage. A rental won’t require it, while a purchase will.

The industry average to purchase a custom trade show display is $100-$150 per square foot for larger displays. This means a 20×20 display would cost between $40,000 and $60,000.*  Rentals are about 35% of the hardware purchase cost.

*This is the display cost per show, not the total investment. When you purchase a booth, you obviously plan to use it multiple times to get the most out of your expenditure. To determine the display cost per show, you’ll need to estimate how many shows you will go to each year and for how many years. The average lifetime of a display is five years; for graphics, the average lifetime is one year.

Show Services – 15%

In the simplest nutshell, Show Services encompass anything your booth requires aside from the actual structure itself. Rates fluctuate depending on the labor costs in the event state and what sort of pricing the company you work with can get. If a services company is listed for the event, take the time to try to find their labor rates in advance to avoid surprises. Services include:

  • drayage (transport of exhibit materials from the dock or warehouse to the space, unloading, packing everything up after the show and returning it to the dock for shipping)
  • I&D (installation and dismantle)
  • advance storage
  • material handling
  • props and/or equipment rentals (such as A/V, plants or furniture)
  • anything electrical
  • internet service
  • cleaning

Shipping/Transportation– 10%

This is the cost to transport your exhibit materials from its origin to the event location warehouse. The price will be affected by the distance between the two, the size of the truck and/or the rate you or your contracted partner can secure.

Graphic Design/Production (Promotions/Marketing) – 5 to 10%

This expense is for the time it takes to design and develop promotional items, informational literature and any other supporting materials, such as social media or digital marketing imagery.

Personnel Travel/Expenses – 14 to 20%

Sending employees to manage the booth, network and represent the business is a pretty pricey venture. Between the expense of gas and oil to travel, lodging and food allowance, this cost is likely to be one of the most significant. Keep this in mind when deciding what shows to attend.

Post-Event Booth Storage (if needed) – 4 to 6%

If you own an exhibit, don’t forget to account for its housing when not being used. When you partner with IGE, we have storage facilities you can use. We’ll let you know up-front what the fees will be so you can include it in your planning.

Miscellaneous Costs – 2 to 7%

This should be allotted for unforeseen expenses, overages and other hidden costs (see below).

Hidden Costs

Even after the most careful planning, unexpected costs can happen. Some examples include:

  • When exhibiting in an unfamiliar venue there may be unexpected costs for labor. A partner like IGE has long-standing relationships with major convention centers across the country, which can save time and money, as well as the stress of trying to manage participation from a distance.
  • Be aware that if your event is on the weekend or if there are associated wait times during pick up or drop off, there may be additional shipping costs involved. Planning ahead or using a third party to manage the logistics and can also offer off-seasonal warehouse storage is another cost savings solution.

As already mentioned, determining the budget is only a piece of planning to exhibit at a trade show. Vispro offers a robust Trade Show Checklist you might also find useful.  And, of course, enlisting a partner like IGE can help along the way. Contact us to discover if we are a good fit when planning your next trade show experience!