Tradeshow Marketing

How to Create a Trade Show Budget? [Sample Template Included]

Learn how to create a budget for your first trade show event with our step-by-step guide. Download our free trade show budget template to get started.

Are you planning your first trade show? While it sure can be daunting and bewildering initially, things will get easier as you start putting the pieces together.

And talking about the pieces, one of the most crucial of them is your trade show budget.

While trade shows offer extensive benefits, they are quite expensive too. Thus, a strong financial foundation is necessary to succeed and generate impressive ROI and ROO.

[READ: How to Measure Trade Show ROI and ROO?]

Trade Show Budgets Are a Lot More Than Just the Booth Fee

A common mistake among new managers and exhibitors is believing that a trade show budget is all about booth rental.

I’ve seen event managers looking at the booth rental and saying, “Yes, we can manage that,” and then struggling to explain to the top executives how a $20,000 event ended up costing more than $50,000.

While the booth fee will consume a significant chunk of your budget, there’s more to it- a lot more.

How much more, you ask? Up to 3x the booth rental. So, if the booth rent is $20,000, you could easily end up spending $60,000 or even more.

[DOWNLOAD Trade Show Budget Template]

The Breakdown of a Trade Show Budget

3x the booth fee will provide you with a roadmap towards setting the budget. Once you have the ballpark figure, you can break down the expenses.

I’d recommend you divide the budget into these five categories that are outlined below-

1- Trade Show Booth Rental (30%)

The booth rental can significantly vary depending on the event you’re participating in. For instance, a small 10x10 booth at CES, Las Vegas, costs $15,000-$20,000. But at smaller regional shows, the same booth can cost $3,000 to $5,000.

The location of the booth also impacts the rental. Spaces close to the entrance are generally more expensive. The booth rental should be up to 30% of your budget.

  • What If You Need a Custom Booth?

While a custom booth might not be a practical choice if you’re planning your trade show booth on a budget, it can be an excellent way to attract more traffic for exhibitors who don’t mind the additional investment.

According to the national average in the US, a custom exhibit costs around $150-$200 per square foot.

So, if renting a 10x10 island exhibit, the custom booth will cost an additional $15,000-$20,000.

2- Exhibition Marketing and Engagement (25%)

Marketing will bring more people to your booth, while an engagement strategy will help you keep people involved with your booth during the event.

[ALSO READ- Trade Show Planning Guide]

The marketing budget will include items such as-

  • Offline and online ads
  • Ad designs
  • Product brochures
  • Sponsorships
  • Trade show gifts/giveaways

As for engagement, the cost will depend on what you choose for the booth. For instance, something like a photo booth will cost a few hundred dollars and give the visitors a reason to stay at your booth longer.

But if you’re serious about your engagement strategy, something like custom trivia games can be an excellent choice. The game will attract traffic, boost brand awareness, and collect leads. The cost of custom trivia for trade shows can be up to $4,000.

All the marketing and engagement initiatives should be around 25% of your trade show budget.

3- Trade Show Logistics (20%)

Exhibition logistics involves shipping the booth and other equipment you’ll need to the show site. It also includes setup management, utilities, and getting everything back to the headquarters once the event is over.

So, apart from a reliable shipping company, you’ll also need professional event labor like-

  • Display Labor
  • Electrician
  • Rigger
  • Forklift Operator
  • Plumber

The average hourly rate for event labor services could range between $100-$200.

You’ll mostly have to store the booth and equipment in a warehouse before and after the event. These items will be delivered to the event location by the warehouse operator for an added drayage fee. For most exhibitors, the warehouse and drayage charges are a few hundred dollars. 

You can earmark up to 20% of your trade show budget for event logistics.

4- Trade Show Booth Staff (15%)

Your exhibition staffers will play a vital role in helping you achieve your trade show objectives. But staff travel, food, and accommodation are significant expenses that you should plan for in advance.

The staffing expenses can vary depending on the event location and how far your booth team will have to travel. For instance, hotels are considerably more expensive in New York than in Las Vegas.

According to GSA, the average per-diem rates (accommodation, food, and car rental) in the US for 2022 can range from $155 to $175.

So, if you send four people for a three-day event, you’ll spend around $1,860 to $2,100. But again, these expenses can significantly vary between cities. Also, this does not include the travel expenses. If your staff is flying to another city, it can easily cost a few thousand dollars. You can dedicate up to 15% of your exhibition budget to staffing expenses.

5- Miscellaneous Exhibition Expenses (10%)

Last are your miscellaneous expenses. For instance, if you don’t have your own lead collection and retrieval system, you’ll have to rely on rental badge scanners.

[READ: Trade Show Games vs Badge Scanners]

Some other trade show miscellaneous expenses are-

  • Wi-Fi
  • Housekeeping
  • Snacks and beverage
  • Unexpected repairs
  • Office supplies

The miscellaneous category should also provide that little extra buffer you might need to manage unexpected expenses or emergencies. You can reserve up to 10% of your trade show budget for these miscellaneous expenses.

Overall Trade Show Budget

So, if the overall budget is somewhere around $50,000, here’s what the allocation can look like-

Costs % of Overall Budget Allocation Amount
Booth Rental 30% $15,000
Marketing & Engagement 25% $12,500
Logistics 20% $10,000
Staffing 15% $7,500
Miscellaneous 10% $5,000

Disclaimer- This is only an illustration. Actual figures can vary depending on several factors.

Here are a few additional expenses that can significantly impact your overall budget-

  • Trade Show- The booth rental at top events such as CES is significantly higher.
  • Custom Trade Show Booth- This will include booth design, shipping, storage, installation, and dismantling. Some exhibit designers include the cost of these services in the designing fee.
  • Booth Activity- Activities such as AR/VR are more expensive. You might also need additional technical staff for such activities.
  • Exhibition Staff Training- If this is your first event, you might also have to train your staff. The time your staff spends on training and even attending the event impacts the overall productivity of your workforce. Another option is hiring professional booth staff, which will cost more money.
  • Staff Travel- If the trade show is in a different city, the travel expenses can be higher.

Trade Show Budget Template

The trade show budget template will help you streamline your budgeting process seamlessly. Use this template to create your own budget based on the expenses you plan to incur. 

[DOWNLOAD Trade Show Budget Template] 

Trade Show Budgets Are All About Being Flexible

The key to creating an exhibition budget is flexibility. With so many variables to take care of, it won’t be possible to plan for everything beforehand. So, the best way out is to pay for the most significant fixed expenses, like booth fees, staff travel, and trade show game, and then be flexible with the remaining budget.

This way, you'll be able to adequately spend more money on the most important things for boosting your ROI and ROO. Also, always keep a buffer to account for expenses you may not have planned for or the rising cost. 

You can also contact us to know more about booth trivia games and how they can help you engage booth visitors and achieve trade show objectives.


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