6 Ways to Save Money Exhibiting

In a world where virtual has come to mean ‘everywhere’ – and online means ‘everyone’ – trade shows and exhibitions remain a contact sport that requires more art and science than ever before.

So if you’re interested in the art of exhibiting better, this blog is for you as we’ll explore 6 ways to become thriftier with your trade show budget.

1. Size Matters

A forensic view across trade show budget line items indicates that approximately 38% of your trade show budget is allocated to floor space; the concrete your company calls ‘home’ during a trade show.

This budget category continues to rise and has increased 300% over the past decade while most corporate trade show budgets remain flat.

2. Exhibits are capital equipment

Exhibits are capital equipment: expensive to own, operate and represent (on average, 33.1% of your total budget – the 2nd largest expense category including exhibit design/graphics, transport, show services).

Before you invest in capital equipment, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Why am I exhibiting and what is the outcome I’m after?
  • Is there a more cost-effective marketing strategy to achieve the business objective?
  • What is the minimum amount of floorspace I need to exhibit my products/services? 
  • Based upon my trade show program schedule, what exhibit alternatives should I evaluate (custom build, rent etc)?
  • If I design/build a custom exhibit, do I have the ongoing budget to cover the cost of ongoing ownership: storage, refurbish, updates, show services. 
  • How can the exhibit be designed to reduce weight, maintenance and cost of ownership?
  • How much internal time, effort and resources are required to develop the exhibit and do I have the buy-in/engagement with all internal stakeholders?
  • Once I invest in an exhibit, what other marketing activation activities are needed and do I have the budget to deploy them effectively?

Thrifty Tip 2: If you exhibit at 4 or more tradeshows, the economics suggest that exhibit ownership makes sense. The general rule of thumb is that rental exhibits cost approximately one-third to one-quarter the expense of designing/building a custom exhibit and doesn’t come with the cost of ownership. 


3. Show services are sunk costs

Floorspace and exhibit related services together represent approximately 70% of your trade show budget. What options exists to reduce show service expense?

Create annual trade show budget by expense category for all show service categories. Question whether it makes sense to manage any of these categories internally.

 Collaborate with internal stakeholders and external agencies on project timelines and cost reduction strategies. 

 Take advantage of early-bird service discounts offered in the show kits. 

 Consolidate your buying power with fewer external services (I&D, Transportation) and negotiate more favorable cost structures. 

 Delegate vacuum and cleaning service to a staff member and/or your exhibit services firm. 


Thrifty Tip 3:  Show services make or break the exhibiting experience and it’s essential that everyone on your team, inside and out, buy-into the show timelines, deliverables and expectations. When budgets go astray, it’s because timelines aren’t met.

4. Tradeshow travel & entertainment

 Travel and entertainment expense represent approximately 11% of trade show expense and continue to increase.

Decisions around trade show staffing is complicated, often political, and not always budget driven.

The obvious questions are: who goes, why and what value do they bring?  Now think about these question from the attendees’ point of view who researches 10 or more sources in advance of attending a show.

They attend well-prepared and are looking for exhibitors that can:

  • Answer questions on the spot
  • Introduce new ideas/thinking
  • Bring solutions for existing problem
  • Contribute information for upcoming purchases
Thrifty Tip 4:  Effectively addressing these areas suggests that your exhibit staff should be a composite of different disciplines from sales, tech/engineering, corporate marketing, senior management, media relations. Be sure to book travel early and set-up alerts on Google Flights or Kayaks for best deals.


5. Qualified leads are money in the bank

 The adage: garbage in…garbage out. applies to trade show leads. 

They can be the most expensive leads you gather when they’re not vetted thoroughly, or the most potent sales accelerator when they capture the essence of the opportunity. 

Thrifty Tip 6: Whether you opt for a manual lead gathering process or electronic one, this is the information you need to collect for the lead to be a sales accelerator:  

  • BUYER INTEREST: hot to tire kicker

  • BUYER AUTHORITY: primary to specifier to influencer

  • BUYER TIMEFRAME: short (3 months), medium (6 months), long (1 year); depends upon product buying cycle

  • BUDGET ALLOCATION: established or not

  • BUYER PROCESS: who else is involved in the evaluation and decision process

  • COMPETITION: if known

  • NEXT STEP: confirmation

  • NOTES: 

  • OVERALL LEAD RATING: 1 (lowest) – 5 (highest)


6. Staff training makes the difference

Less than 1% of trade show budgets are invested in helping trade show staff optimize their on-floor qualification and selling skills. This mean that staff training, arguably the most important aspect of trade show performance, is the smallest budget line item. Staff training is an absolute necessity if you’re to optimize the other 99% of your trade show budget. 

Therefore, it’s essential that you develop (or hire someone to develop) an exhibit staff training workshop or online tutorial that all staff complete before working your exhibit. Done right, the workshop can be templated, but customized with content based upon the specific show and objectives. 

Thrifty Tip 6:  Show attendees evaluate your staff based upon knowledge of products/services, willingness to share information, credibility, knowledge about cost, willingness and ability to solve their challenges

Exhibitshub is all about helping you Exhibit Better in every aspect of your trade show program.

Given the percentage of budget currently allocated to exhibits and related services, we believe our exhibit sharing and exhibit regeneration model is a way for you to save money and re-appropriate funds to other areas of your program, like exhibit staff training, to accelerate your sales process.

Your exhibit is a showroom and Exhibitshub curates an online inventory of exhibits that top exhibit marketing firms customize to help you sell better.