When you schedule your company's participation in a trade
show, you have to plan carefully for all hidden costs, which
can sometimes account for half or more of the total. Avoid the trap of budgeting only for the cost of renting
the exhibit space and the booth from the trade show organizers.
Here are some other costs of a trade show:
- Booth setup. Depending on the complexity of your booth,
you might be able to set it up on your own, or you might have
to hire local workers to do it for you. It's not only a factor
of whether you know how to use a screwdriver, but of local
labor laws and unions. In some cities, you are NOT allowed
to build your booth yourself if it requires more than 1/2
hour for 2 people. Don't try to circumvent this regulation—the last thing you want in a trade show is to get in trouble
with the local union!
- Equipment rental. In addition to the counters, chairs,
tables, brochure displays, etc. that you will need to furnish
your booth, don't forget the badge reader. No trade show visitor
is ready to spend 10 minutes filling out a form without any
kind of incentive when other booths simply scan their
badge. If you want to come back from the trade show with leads,
rent the badge reader with both paper print capability along with an integrated
disk unit to backup the database on a daily basis. You may
also need to rent a projector and a large-screen monitor to
show demonstrations of your products. This is the best way
to bring home qualified leads.
- Literature, demo CDs, and giveaways. You need to be ready
to give a brochure and/or demo CD to all visitors who come to your
booth. You should also plan on having a giveaway as an incentive for visitors to let you scan their badges. Depending on how
qualified the audience is, you may want to opt for a nice
(but always inexpensive) giveaway that will drag traffic to
your booth and motivate vistors to fill out qualification sheets.
- Travel costs. If the show is not in your local area, you
will need to fly a certain number of people to the show's location
(3 or 4 for a 10'x10' booth, at least 5 or 6 for a 20'x10'
booth, etc.), pay for hotel nights and meals, etc. Book flights
at least 3 weeks in advance to get the best fares, and don't
forget to look at alternate airports (for example when going
to San Francisco from the East Coast consider flying to Oakland;
when flying to Boston from the West Coast, consider flying
to Providence, RI or Manchester, NH). Book your hotels through
the show organization company to take advantage of their negotiated
rates. But keep in mind that some cities, like New York or
San Francisco, will always cost you a fortune in hotel rooms—negotiated rates or not. Don't let everyone rent a car—if cars are required, get one for every 3 or 4 people attending
No matter how careful you are, trade shows are expensive.
But they are also a very good source of leads when the shows are
well targeted—so make sure they are budgeted carefully.