Trade Show Expenses

Know These 5 Difficult Costs to Control

To help manage trade show expenses, frequent exhibitors need to forecast exhibiting costs and establish trade show budgets every year. To minimize the escalation of costs, or at least keep them from spiraling out of control, each expense area needs to be itemized and tracked. In addition, it is essential to plan for unexpected costs.

Therefore, a trade show budget typically includes the following expense categories, as well as a contingency fund.

  • Registration fees
  • Purchase or repair/update of trade show displays
  • Venue services
  • Marketing, sponsorship and promotional costs
  • Equipment rental
  • Booth storage
  • Shipping and related expenses
  • Travel costs
  • Staffing and training
  • Customer entertainment costs at the show

In addition to these categories of trade show expenses, there are always unexpected costs for which you need to plan. That's why including a contingency fund in your budget, ranging from 8 to 15 percent of overall trade show expenses, is so important.

"The unpredictable costs we are taking aim at here are the ones that always get the best of us no matter how hard we try to avoid them," says trade show expert Lowell Nickens, president of Following are five areas of trade show expenses that are difficult to control and manage, according to Mr. Nickens.

  1. Freight that is Temporarily Missing - Example: You shipped your trade show exhibit to the advance warehouse and somehow the container with the graphics got separated from the other pieces and is lost. You don’t find out about it until move in and in a panic, you have them reprinted and shipped overnight to you.While you did the right thing, after the show opens somebody from the freight department will stop by to inform you that your graphics just arrived.

  2. That Lone Small Package - Example: You shipped four small boxes to the show but they all didn’t arrive at the same time. Now the one that arrived the next day will be counted as a separate shipment, and for a five-pound box, you’ll be paying the 200 pound minimum for a total of $260. Ouch!

  3. Empties Never Show Up - Example: You’re exhibiting in your favorite union hall and your flight back to the West coast leaves three hours after the show closes. But, because you have a 10 foot modular trade show exhibit, you have to use union labor to tear down.Then, the crate doesn’t get delivered back to the booth for three hours, and now you’re into overtime and you had to leave. The company handling installation and dismantling services has to supervise the tear down, which makes the outbound labor at least double estimated cost. 

  4. The Lost Carpet Pad - Example: You’ve arrived for the 8a.m. set up ready to meet your crew and perform a quick inspection to see if all your crates with your trade show display arrived, along with your carpet and padding.Just as you noticed that one of the carpet bags is missing, the two men from the carpenters union show up, plus the two union guys that will be laying the carpet. However, until somebody finds the missing padding, they all sit down and wait at your expense as the clock ticks on.

  5. Extension Cords Aren’t Permitted - Example: You go to plug in the new product that you’re featuring in your booth and realize that the pedestal in front where the product sits is 10 feet from the electrical outlet on the back wall and your cord is only eight feet long.Then, you find out that extension cords are not allowed. You have to purchase another 500 watts of power and run it to the front of the booth, which costs an additional $75 to install, plus the cost of the power itself.

"Don’t feel bad if one or more of these happen to you over time because when it does happen, you realize that it was just meant to be that way," Mr. Nickens advises. And that's why you have your contingency fund - to cover those unexpected trade show expenses that will inevitably occur.

Related Information - Trade Show Expenses

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