How to Reduce Costs at Trade Shows

Trade shows can increase sales, visibility, brand-name recognition, and your industry presence, even in a struggling economy. They also provide prime networking opportunities. Here are some ways to cut costs that will not interfere with your goals for attending these events.

Tip: Don’t Get Lost in the Crowd

Prime space, which gets the most traffic, often gets snatched up by the Fortune 1000 companies that can afford the higher price. However, associations or magazines sometimes purchase clusters of booths, often called “pavilions,” that aggregate members or advertisers under one roof. It may cost more for you to buy in, but it will provide the added benefit of being in a well-trafficked section. It’s worth finding out before you buy in to a group pavilion how much marketing the sponsor plans to do, both onsite and prior to the event.


Review the cost of the space/stand, taking into consideration that a less expensive location will be less prominent. Consider the location of the event and the expected attendance before making a commitment. Investigate the number of attendees at the previous year’s event and talk to others who were presenters to determine whether the show will be worthwhile for your business.

Stand Rental

Once you have determined that a show is right for you, get the rates on stand rental. Unless you are doing several shows a year, renting a stand is usually less expensive than buying one. By renting you save on the cost of construction, transport, and storage. If you do decide to buy, consider a previously owned trade show display stand. A painted and redesigned stand can save you a significant amount of money. Also, look for displays that are lightweight and easy to break down and set up. Portable and modular displays can be significant cost-savers.

Travel Expenses

Bring enough people to man the stand and make your trade show experience worthwhile. Not everyone in the office needs to attend. Look for the least expensive mode of transportation and remember that you can get better rates on airfares and hotels by planning well in advance and shopping for packages and discounts.


Rather than use expensive glossy four-colour brochures, opt for fliers and information sheets. Most people don’t read them anyway. Instead of ordering hundreds or thousands of pieces of printed materials, bring along a lightweight printer and run off what you need. Far too much money is wasted on excessive printed matter that ends up littering trade show floors.


Visibility is important but spending a lot of money on excessive signage is a common money waster. Think about using pop-up display ads and simple banners; that way, you can get away with spending a couple thousand dollars rather than $10,000 to $15,000 on very large, typically unnecessary signs.


Opt for small giveaway items with your company’s logo instead of brochures and elaborate signage to get your name out there. You’ll spend much less money and potential customers will see your company’s name each time they use the item. Pens, mugs, and mouse pads are perennial favourites, but you can get more creative with stress balls, magnets, and binder clips. The more useful the item, the more your name gets in front of clients. Giving away something that relates to your business is another idea. For example, a commercial printer might give away business-card carrying cases, while a sporting goods company could opt for sweatbands or golf towels. Travel clocks or toiletry bags work well for those in the travel industry.


Based on the number of people manning your stand at any given time, determine how many tables and chairs you will need and rent accordingly. If the event is nearby, you might consider loading a van and bringing your own (if permitted).


Bring along incidental items to save on shipping or purchasing items once you are there. See what you have in the office or what you can borrow. This includes power cords, staple guns, scissors, masking tape, and basic tools such as screwdrivers.

Checklist: Cost Breakdown for Trade Show Exhibits

Typically, you should probably budget a total of $20,000 per trade show exhibit. This should cover all expenses of an average booth, with the following cost breakdown:

— Space: 24% — Stand expenses: 33% — Show services: 22% — Transportation: 13% — Advertising, promotional and special activities: 4% — Personnel (including travel, hotel and expenses): 4%


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