Tradeshow Marketing

How to Save Cost at Trade Shows? 10 Tips for 2024

Worried about the rising costs in the events industry? Discover 10 practical strategies to optimize your trade show budget and maximize savings.

While trade shows are back in demand after the pandemic-induced slump, the rising costs are a cause of concern for the majority of the exhibitors. Even though physical events can offer valuable business benefits, the hefty price tag necessitates a strategic and budget-conscious approach.

Here are 10 practical trade show cost-saving strategies to help you elevate your event presence without breaking the bank-

1. Establish Specific and Measurable Goals

I know a mid-sized software company whose lack of clear objectives resulted in an expensive setback at a recent trade show. With vague goals like “increasing visibility,” they misallocated resources to an elaborate booth and promotional materials, leading to an event with no measurable returns.

This highlights the need for specific and measurable objectives according to your budget to avoid costly pitfalls and ensure meaningful outcomes. Here are some tips that should help-

  • Clearly articulate the purpose of your participation, whether it’s lead generation, product launches, brand awareness, or networking.
  • Set specific numerical targets for key objectives, such as the number of leads generated, sales meetings scheduled, or product demonstrations conducted.
  • Understand the difference between trade show ROI (Return on Investment) and ROO (Return on Objective) and know how to calculate them.

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

2. Know Your Trade Show Budget

Maintaining a fixed trade show budget is paramount for achieving maximum cost savings and ensuring the resources are allocated judiciously. A fixed budget provides financial discipline which prevents impulsive spending and promotes strategic decision-making.

It is generally said that the overall trade show expense is 3X of the exhibit booth rental. So, if you’re spending $10,000 on the booth, the total expense of exhibiting would be around $30,000. However, this is only a ballpark figure and real numbers can vary significantly. Here are some tips to help you create a trade show budget-

  • Thoroughly research all the potential expenses, including booth rental, designing, travel, accommodation, staffing, technology requirements, and trade show marketing materials.
  • Rank expenses based on importance and impact. Allocate a larger portion of the budget to critical elements, like booth design, while being mindful of non-essential costs.
  • Set aside a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses, providing flexibility without derailing the entire financial plan.

3. Cost-Effective Custom Booth Design

One of the most significant costs of exhibiting is your booth. Custom booths can easily cost $250-$350 per square foot, including the design and show services like shipping, installing, dismantling, rigging, electrical, material handling, etc.  

While you might be tempted to go for a bigger booth for maximum impact, smaller 10’x10’ booths can also deliver the expected results if you know how to plan them right. Here are some tips that should help-

  • Carefully plan the booth layout and prioritize key elements such as product displays, engagement zones, and interactive features.
  • Use reusable materials, strategic lighting, and modular structures to enhance the visual appeal of your booth.
  • Incorporate multifunctional furniture and flexible design elements that serve dual purpose.

[READ: 10x10 Booth Ideas for Trade Shows- 6 Tips]

4. Go Digital with Marketing

Digital channels are generally more cost-effective as compared to traditional channels like billboard advertisements, newspaper and magazine ads, etc. Moreover, they have advanced capabilities to help you reach your target audience. For instance, if your target audience is startup founders, you can precisely target them with paid online ads.

You can also use other digital channels like your website, social media, and email campaigns to build anticipation before the event. Even when the event is underway, exhibitors can use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to share content from their booths to attract more visitors.

You can read our post on “5 Digital Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Booth” to devise a digital-first trade show marketing strategy.

5. Creative Promotional Materials on a Budget

Along with marketing, you’ll also need a variety of inventive promotional materials to create a distinct and lasting impact on the attendees. This can include business cards, brochures, flyers, banners and signage, booth displays and backdrops, and giveaways.

While promotional materials are crucial for trade show success, you don’t need to spend a bomb on these items. Use these tips to keep the costs low-

  • Engage team members with graphic designing skills to create visually appealing content and promotional materials.
  • Explore freelancing platforms to find affordable designers who can help you create eye-catching visuals.
  • There are several free online DIY designing tools and platforms that enable even those without extensive designing experience to create compelling visuals.

6. Save Costs with Advanced Bookings

It is generally recommended to start working on your trade show plan at least a few months before the event. This not only gives you enough time to plan every aspect of your exhibit but also saves a considerable amount of money.

As the event date approaches, everything, including the booth space, airfare, accommodation, logistics, etc., will get more expensive. Use these advance booking tips for a fiscally responsible and successful trade show presence-

  • Many event organizers offer early bird discounts on booth space. Apart from cost savings, early booking also ensures you get a prime location for your booth.
  • Negotiate group rates for hotel accommodations and flights by making advance bookings.
  • Plan and book transportation services early, securing discounts on shipping, freight, and rental services.

7. Explore Bundled Services

If you’re planning to exhibit at multiple events throughout 2024, you should also explore bundled service options as they generally come with hefty discounts. You can find such options for booth materials, installation, shipping, and other related services.

Booth activities like trade show games also help exhibitors with their event objectives. Game providers like Audiencegage offer heavy discounts for multiple events. Here are some other tips you can consider-

  • Negotiate multi-event deals with suppliers that offer a wide range of services, including booth designing, construction, graphics printing, and logistics.
  • For tech-heavy booths like ones with interactive displays and digital presentations, look for vendors that offer integrated technology solutions.
  • Purchase trade show giveaways in bulk as opposed to ordering them for individual events as it proves cheaper.

[READ: The Art of Engaging Visitors at a Trade Show]

8. Consider In-House Booth Staff

Nobody knows your products or services better than your in-house team. Thus, they’re your best brand advocates on the trade show floor. By having your internal resources manning the booth, you can avoid external staffing costs, which can be as high as $50 per hour, and reduce training expenses.

However, there are some aspects you should take into consideration before deciding whether you should use an in-house team or hire professional staffers. Take a look-

  • Consider the opportunity cost as the employees in your trade show team won’t be able to perform their duties at work.
  • If the internal team would require extensive training with regard to sales, people skills, and engagement strategies, it might be a better option to hire professionals.
  • Use a hybrid approach where you hire greeters and crowd gatherers but let your internal resources handle product demos and lead collection.

[READ: Trade Show Booth Staff Training Guide]

9. Consider Booth Sharing

If trade show budget is a primary concern for you, booth sharing is also an excellent choice. At many events, you’re allowed to share your booth with another exhibitor. The booth rent is divided between both parties.

Such arrangements can be ideal for exhibitors who are mostly participating in the event to conduct meetings with new/existing clients and network with industry professionals. Here are some tips you should keep in mind before you opt for booth sharing-

  • Seek booth-sharing partners with complementary services, products, or goals. For instance, a company that sells fitness accessories can partner with a nutrition-focused company that offers supplements and dietary products.
  • Define how the booth space will be divided among both the exhibitors to avoid any issues during the event.
  • Clearly outline the financial aspects of the booth-sharing arrangement.

10. Double-Check All Trade Show Arrangements and Documentation

With something like a trade show that requires extensive planning and coordination, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. At times, such mistakes could prove very expensive. By double-checking all the arrangements and paperwork, such mistakes can be kept to a minimum.

Here are some tips to enhance accuracy and avoid such mistakes-

  • Thoroughly review all the contracts and agreements before the event, especially documentation related to booth space, costs, services offered, cancellation policies, etc.
  • Reconcile your budget against the finalized agreements and ensure all the expenses are accounted for, and there are no discrepancies.
  • Confirm shipping details, drayage services, and delivery timelines align with your requirements.

11. Opt for Digital Trade Show Games and Activity

To engage your visitors, you’ll need some kind of activity or games at the booth. While physical games are the traditional option, they are not as cost-effective, especially if you plan to exhibit at multiple events in a year. 

Physical games are expensive and don’t last long. Digital games and activities, on the other hand, can last you much longer, and they look absolutely new no matter how many events you use them for. 

Digital games offer many advantages over their physical counterparts, such as

  • Digital trade show games come with almost no maintenance cost, whereas physical games can go through wear and tear.
  • Digital games take less booth space to install and set up.
  • These games help in digitizing lead collection and minimal lead loss.
  • Exhibitors have much more control over the gameplay, graphics, and other elements.
  • Digital games are eco-friendly.

[READ: Digital Spin the Wheel Vs Physical Prize Wheel - Which is Better for Trade Shows]

Cost-Effective Trade Show Success

Trade shows are expensive, and the costs are only rising with time, making it essential for exhibitors to make the most of every dollar they spend. Use the tips discussed in this post to better manage your trade show budget and ensure success that is cost-effective and strategically aligned with your business objectives.

Fun and engaging trade show games can give your booth an edge and attract more visitors. Audiencegage offers a wide range of digital trade show games, including Trivia Challenges, Raffle Games, Prize Wheels, Scavenger Hunts, and more, to help you engage attendees, boost booth traffic, and create memorable experiences that elevate your brand presence. Register for a free demo to learn more.

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