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Stretching Your Trade Show Budget

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Stretching Your Trade Show Budget

In the face of increasingly sophisticated competition, marketers are being asked to develop unique exhibits and impactful experiences that amaze target audiences. Unfortunately, budget increases to accommodate the extra expense of the “wow” factor are often hard to come by.  Regardless, if you’re purchasing a custom trade show exhibit, repurposing an existing one, or using a custom rental design, the challenges of stretching your budget remain.

No matter your preference when it comes to securing an exhibit, there are numerous factors and variables to consider that can affect your trade show budget. At any point in the process, from design to fabrication to shipping and installation, unexpected costs can quickly throw even the most well-planned budget off tracks.

Despite the risks, getting the most value from your budget is not impossible and may be easier than you think. Rather than severing program components or negatively altering the customer experience, let experts help you consider small changes to your exhibit strategy that might address the budget issue.

Design Matters

Your trade show exhibit is the center piece of your event marketing campaign. Your custom trade show booth design not only needs to be pleasing to the eye, but the design also needs to be warm and inviting to any and all show attendees. Your budget needs to accommodate both of these goals.

During the initial phase of the design process, let the designers know exactly what you hope to accomplish inside your exhibit.  Also, prioritize for the design team the components and features that are critical to your exhibit, and which ones would be “nice to have.” An experienced designer can offer options that allow you to pick components that are in line with your budget.  Other ideas for stretching your budget while still meeting your marketing goals include:

  • Consider Renting: Renting a booth is less expensive than purchasing for companies that are only concerned with this year’s budget and/or have only one or two shows in their program. Given the recent advancement of rental exhibitry, many people can’t seem to distinguish between a rental and custom design exhibit. Run the numbers to determine if renting vs. buying an exhibit is the more cost-effective option for your program. With no initial cost outlay, renting a custom exhibit can be more cost-effective as there are no storage or repair fees to consider. Moreover, renting an exhibit allows you to continuously update the look and feel of your design as you can be flexible with different configurations.
  • Involve Designers and Fabricators Early: Involving an experienced exhibit house as early as possible in the strategic planning stage will help cut unnecessary costs from showing up on your final bill. At an early stage, the exhibit house can provide cost estimates, materials and finishes before your exhibit moves to the next phase. Their estimate gives you an idea of how much your exhibit design will cost to build, highlighting the pros and cons of your selection.
  • Shop Material Options: Before you being building your exhibit, always ask your supplier to price out the cost of available materials and to explain the pros and cons of each option selected. For example, a thin high-gloss graphics panel maybe visually appealing, but using an alternative sturdy, matte version could save you replacement and repair costs down the road to reduce your overall cost of ownership.
  • Skip the Rigging: Nearly all overhead banners and identification structures require some type of lighting to help them stand out on a busy trade show floor. Many exhibitors use truss and rigging systems to suspend the light fixtures above the graphics. To help stretch your budget, speak to your exhibit house to see if you can minimize or avoid rigging, without sacrificing the attention you want on the trade show floor. One option might be to integrate light fixtures above graphics to illuminate your overhead elements.

Weigh It Out & Store It Up

Even though attendees couldn’t care less about your shipping and drayage charges, these weight-based fees can really burn a hole in your overall budget. Shipping your exhibit from warehouse to event venue is a cost that can be accounted for early on. Before you purchase your booth, be sure to take its weight and shipping size into careful consideration.

Drayage costs, however, can be difficult to estimate and often exhibitors get blindsided by these unexpected costs. As a general rule of thumb, drayage costs are usually equal or slightly exceed the cost of shipping your exhibit to the venue. Ask your exhibit house about how they determine which freight companies to use, and what kind of rates you can expect based on the design you are considering and where you show is located.

Most exhibitors assume that storage fees are set in stone. While it might be more convenient to store your properties at your exhibit house, it’s not always the most cost-effective option. Take a close look at the location of the majority of your shows and their distance from your exhibit-storage facility. If you have multiple shows in the same location or region, lower your transportation costs and store some of your exhibit properties near that area. Most exhibit houses have multiple storage facilities so exploring options is recommended.

Handling the Assets

Another line item an attendee will never see is the install and dismantle (I&D) part of the process. Labor costs for I&D are location specific, with union labor rates in certain cities being significant and will vary from city to city. Although you have no control over labor rates, you can definitely alter the number of hours accrued based on the design.

  • Maximize Output: Identify a good I&D crew and use the same workers who are familiar with your installation and dismantle strategy. This can shave hours off the clock.
  • Avoid Weekends: Due to many shows opening on Mondays and Tuesdays, exhibitors are often forced to install their exhibits on the weekends when labor costs are higher. Try speaking with show management to have your booth installed on a Thursday or Friday during straight time, prior to the opening day of the event. You’ll be surprised how often show management will honor your request, but you’ll be even more surprised at how much money you’ll save.

Working with your exhibit partner, your trade show budget should be discussed and reassessed from Day One – from the kick-off meeting through to the opening day at the exhibit hall. It’s important that everyone be aware of the budget so the entire team can be responsible for keeping it in check.

Looking for a partner to help you stretch your trade show budget? As an award-winning, full-service exhibit design firm, Exhibitus knows how to navigate the expensive, and often unpredictable,  waters of the Trade Shows and Events Industry.  Contact Exhibitus today for more information and guidance to design your next custom trade show exhibit design.