The less you spend on your trade show booth, the better – for most small businesses, a conference or show is already an expensive venture. These tips will help you maximize your ROI without sacrificing booth quality or the trade show experience.
Your Exhibit Booth
The place where you’ll do business needs to show off your brand, but it does not have to break your bank; these tips can cut your booth costs considerably:
Save by Buying Used: A pre-owned exhibit will save you a ton of money upfront, even if you need to make some changes and add your branding.
Renting your First Booth: When you are still learning how to make the most of a trade show, consider renting a booth. You’ll be able to determine what you like and what you don’t before taking the plunge and investing in your own setup.
Negotiate and Save: Most trade show booth providers have some wiggle room when it comes to design and creation of your space. Make sure you treat this purchase like any other and negotiate your way to a deal you can live with.
Consider lighter, less expensive materials: Some materials simply cost more than others, make sure you review all your available options. You should also consider the cost of shipping when you buy your new booth – that wood and glass case may look beautiful, but how much will it cost you to get it to the trade show site?
Go High Tech: A trade show lead capture app vs expensive badge scanner rentals can help you track your leads without overspending on a scanner.
Big Savings on Graphics
Make a big impact without a big price tag when you keep these graphics savings tips in mind:
Design Matters: Avoid making graphics that mention a year, specific show name or booth number; you’ll be able to use them again and again.
Buy Local: While you’ll want some graphics to be done by your exhibit designer, other items, from posters to signage may be less expensively done with a local printer.
Use Digital Graphics: Opting for digital graphics can help you save and even allow you to put some of your booth tech to work advertising your brand when it is not in use. That iPad lead capture app can double as a graphic for your brand when not in use.
Set Up and Tear Down Savings
You can’t do much about the cost of labor at your venue, but you can cut back on the total number of hours you use:
Avoid the Rush: See if you can install your booth ahead of time; the last-minute rush is usually on the weekends (for shows that open Monday) and installs done during this time take longer to do.
Use a Crew You Like: If you visit the venue frequently, try to snag the same I & D team; they’ll become familiar with your set up and be able to set it up and break it down more swiftly.
Add Lights to your Booth: Instead of using lights that suspend from the ceiling with rigging, consider mounting your lighting on your booth. Rigging lights adds time to your setup, resulting in higher costs.
Save on Show Services
From set-up to catering and even cleaning, the services used on site come at a premium. These tips can help you cut your costs:
Wrapped Treats: If you want to give out food in your trade show booth, you may be stuck using a costly official caterer. Bypass this expense by only using individually prepackaged foods you purchase yourself; these are treated as giveaways, not consumable items by most venues.
Pack your Own Supplies: From tape to cleaning supplies and even trash bags, you’ll save yourself a lot of money by bringing your own – or even making a dash to the local big box store.
Purchase a vacuum: An inexpensive vacuum bought online and shipped to your booth will save you a lot in booth cleaning costs; you’ll pay less for the machine than for a day of cleaning services in many venues.
Cut Power Costs: Most exhibitors end up for paying far more electric than they use. Use a power meter to properly estimate your needs, instead of relying on the site’s “average” amount suggested.
Booth Staff and Travel
Your booth needs to be equipped with knowledgeable team members, but you can still find ways to save, even if you are bringing a big team:
Negotiate your Costs: Work to bundle your trip by buying your airfare and hotel together; in most cases, you’ll save. You should also ask the hotel to cover other common costs, from Wi-Fi access to breakfast and business center use. A surprising number of hotels will comp these and other premium services when asked.
Be Flexible on the Hotel: The conference may have a suggested block of rooms, but looking beyond the few sites partnered with the trade show could help you save. Most city centers and conference sites have an abundance of hotels within an easy walk or drive and you may be able to save money without sacrificing quality, just by shopping around.
Don’t Invest in Uniforms: Your team does not have to be dressed the same from head to toe; overly branding your employees can even look outdated. Instead, have them dress in business or business casual with a name tag or other subtle identification.
Incentivize Saving: Offer cash back for those employees who can spend less than them per diem or who find other cost saving methods. Offering 50% of any money saved incentivizes your team to be frugal and can yield extra savings for you, too.
Slash Transport Costs
You have to pay to have your booth delivered, but reducing weight and streamlining your pieces can help:
Use lightweight shipping where possible: Some cases are heavier and more expensive than the items they hold. If a lighter shipping crate or box is available and can safely move your materials, use it.
Use Storage Wisely: If you visit a geographic area several times a year, it may pay to keep your booth in storage close to the site rather than ship it from your business location every time you need to set up.
Use Lightweight Mockups: Choose virtual, lightweight and 3D printed models instead of the real thing if you have a lot of heavy samples or components. Your visitors can still get a real feel for what you are offering without all that heavy weight. This is particularly impactful if you have several items on display – use one “real” one to show to customers and make lightweight replicas of the rest.
Storage Costs and Fees
Items stored on site could cost you a hefty fee; consider these options instead and save:
Store Offsite: You’ll find self-storage and other options within a few miles of most exhibit spaces; opting for one of these can cut your costs considerably.
Use All Available Space: Ever played Tetris? Put your old-school gaming skills to work and use up every square inch of space when you store to get the most stuff into the least amount of storage space and save.
Cut the Dead Weight: Examine every item to make sure you truly need it and have some real use for it on site before storing it.
Buy Online: Purchase what you need online for a show from a big box retailer using free shipping, then donate when the show is over. You’ll get a nice tax deduction and save on storage fees, too.
Also published on Medium.