A Guide to Budgeting for Trade Shows

Image of a custom exhibit for La Croix.

One of the most asked questions in the live event space is how much will it cost to attend shows. While this can vary from show to show and location to location, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when planning your budget.

Booth Space Fees (30%)

This is the cost for actual real estate at a show. These fluctuate depending on the show and are typically the single highest cost investment when a company decides to exhibit.  Generally, the cost is factored by a dollar amount per square foot and typically comprises around 30% of an exhibit budget.  A good rule of thumb for planning is that your overall budget is in the neighborhood of three times this cost.

Travel Expense (20%)

Airfare, hotels and per diem expenses make up the biggest sectors of trade show travel expenses. This can also vary geographically, as the government sets per diem rates based on location, and lodging rates fluctuate by market and time of year.  There is a large variation between cities such as New York or San Francisco which tend to have the highest per diem rates compared to other cities such as Grand Rapids or Akron, which have much lower rates. Additional costs to consider would be taxi or rideshare costs, parking and entertainment if allowed by your company.

Booth Design (10%)

Catching attendees’ attention on the show floor is the name of the game and the best way to do that is what is an eye-catching exhibit.  The costs for booth design involve hiring a company that specializes in designing exhibits to bring your brand to life. Most often the specialized company is an independent firm not associated with the organization that is hosting the event. A booth design can be stock design from a catalog or can be custom created. Typically, a design kickoff meeting is held between the exhibiting company and the exhibit design company to discuss the needs, functionality and aesthetic of the desired exhibit. The exhibit company will then come back with creative concepts of what a booth can potentially look like. 

“Your exhibit’s design is the face of your company and often the first impression your prospects, new clients, and competition will get. Its aesthetic should represent your company in a way that is functional, engaging, and in absolute harmony with its personality and brand-messaging.”

Joe Christiana, Creative Director

Booth Production (10%)

Once your design is complete, it’s time to make it a physical structure and show-ready. In many cases, the booth design company can also build the booth as well. Components that drive cost include the booth components themselves, flooring, graphic production, hanging signs or logos and any other physical structure within the booth space.

Show Services (25%)

This portion of the budget consists of services required by the facility and show organizer for your booth to be fully assembled and operational. Services include shipping to and from the booth’s storage location, installation and dismantle of the booth, electrical and internet needs for demos, drayage and cleaning. The more involved the booth is, the more services that are required for it to be operational. Some booths can even have running water and plumbing, compressed air and cooking stations. Having a trusted exhibit partner to help guide you through the planning and ordering process will save time and money.

Promotions/Samples (5%)

If you plan on hosting a promotional event or activity within your booth space or at the show or want to give out samples, the costs for these need to be included in your financial budget as well.  Make sure to consider any pre-event promotion as well as any post-show promotion. This could include pre-show mailers to your top prospects or clients and thank you packages to those important leads you met at the show.

The costs of participating in shows are as unique as the shows and exhibits themselves.  Having a trusted partner to guide you through the strategy and budgeting process can save you thousands of dollars.  The team at Nationwide 360 takes pride in helping exhibitors find the best solution for their budget and business needs.

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