Cheat Sheet :: Savings for smaller shows

Even if your small or mid-sized show doesn’t carry the clout of the big guys, there are still ways to save money without making it appear you’re cutting corners.

Where you meet

• Do your homework on site selection. Meeting in a smaller city may not always result in cost savings, as one would assume. What you save in space or room rates you may lose in attendance and other expenses.
• Look for facilities with recent expansions that are eager to fill their new space.
• Investigate private facilities. They may have fewer restrictions and more room to negotiate than public facilities.
• Consider conference centres, resorts or smaller facilities where you can be the big fish in the small pond at better, and perhaps inclusive, rates.
• Weigh the options of a suburban setting rather than a downtown hotel or convention centre.
• Book in off-peak seasons for the city.
• Be flexible with your dates and be willing to fit between other shows if it means a better deal.
• Using a hotel’s ballroom can give you more leverage. Space can be negotiated with room nights and food and beverage. Carpet is already there, and tables, chairs and décor also may be provided, saving on decorating fees.
• Negotiate multi-year contracts for venues you like, but keep close tabs on them and be sure they’re saving you money before renewing.
• Ask about local hospitality coalitions that may enable you to obtain a variety of services at better rates.
• Meet in “right-to-work” states where labour costs are usually not as high. Ask your service contractor or do some Internet research about state labour regulations.
• Get better deals by using the same hotel chain wherever your company organizes meetings and shows.

Contractor issues

• Meet all deadlines to avoid extra fees.
• Piggyback anything you can from a preceding show. For example, could you use the same show colours as the show before yours? If so, you can save money by using the same carpet etc.
• Insist on move-in times that avoid holiday or overtime hours.
• Look at freight logistics. You can save drayage time if freight is not negotiated through several levels or through kitchens. If using a hotel, do they have freight elevators, or move-in/move-out doors connected to a loading dock?
• Give your contractor a freight history for your show so you get better cost estimates.
• Cut back on signage where it really isn’t needed. Order fewer directional signs or even no signs for booths if your exhibitors cover them up with their own signs anyway.
• Know what services your exhibitors use. It’s easier for the contractor to hook up electricity for every booth rather than handle individual requests, but if the majority of your exhibitors don’t need it, a package deal including electricity could be a mistake.
• Consider a multi-year exclusive contract with an official service contractor, but stay abreast of competitor’s rates.

Use your group history

• Provide a profile of your attendees, including their use of hotel services such as in-room movies, business centre, mini-bars and room service, as well as off-hours spending projections (restaurants, entertainment, etc.).
• Provide an exhibitor history with information such as the typical freight loads of past shows, labour needs, food and beverage ordered by exhibitors, hospitality suites used by exhibitors, and any extras exhibitors order, from temp help to flowers.
• Use your food-and-beverage orders and room pick-up histories to promote the value of your trade show to the venues you’re considering.

During the show

• Be sure the official services contractor is supplying only what you need and have ordered.
• Know what something costs before you order it. A 4 x 8 poster may have a far different price, depending on the city and venue you’re in. Also, carefully limit who may order items on the master account. Check billings closely and bring discrepancies to the attention of the property immediately.
• Do everything in one place. Put breakfast, breaks, lunch and receptions on the trade show floor. You can even plan a general session in an area behind the trade show so attendees must walk through. Such scheduling will not only save money through negotiations with the venue but will bring added value to the exhibitors, allowing you to increase their ROI and raise rates over time.


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