“How can we save money?”
That is one of the most common questions we get asked. Because, like most things, the cost of exhibiting at trade shows increases every year and for the budget-minded executive or trade show manager, it’s becoming more difficult to hold costs to within budget parameters. Budgets are sometimes set a year in advance, and unfortunately show cost increases don’t get realized until it’s too late. If you find yourself in that situation, you’re not alone. It seems that every client meeting I’m involved in, the topic of increased show costs comes up and we spend a lot of effort in coming up with ways to help minimize costs and increase return wherever possible. In this post, I’m going to lay out strategies that will save considerable amounts of money and while not all of them will apply to every exhibitor, there are enough that will definitely have an impact.
Helping our clients maintain budgets and find ways to hold down costs is where we spend a lot of our time.
1. Take advantage of show organizer and contractor discounts.
More often than not, show organizers offer early bird discounts on services and will give discounted pricing on electrical, rigging, flooring, and even drayage. Make sure your show timeline includes these deadlines so you can take advantage of the favorable pricing. Alone, they may not seem like much, but added up they can equate to huge savings. No matter how many shows you exhibit in every year, these discounts can really add up.
2. Hire the right labor.
Labor is the cost that catches people off guard the most and can get out of control if not monitored correctly and this is where experience comes in to play. Our onsite supervision service will pay for itself over and over and then some. Not only will we be able to hire the right labor crew, we will also be there to reduce set-up time, minimize overtime and cost overruns, minimize mistakes and eliminate or minimize the amount of damage that happens to your booth. Our clients tell us time and time again that having someone at the show that knows their booth inside and out, has saved them considerable amounts of money especially when any unexpected issues arise.
3. Consider renting your booth.
Not only will your upfront costs be lower, but renting your trade show booth will also eliminate a lot of the ancillary costs like storage and preparation. Different scenarios come up where renting becomes a big money saver. Show dates change from year to year and shows get added to the schedule from one year to the next which often results in overlapping shows. If you only have one booth, renting becomes a very cost effective way of handling these situations when they occur. Several of our clients also like to change their booth frequently from show to show and renting is highly recommended in these type of situations where you will only be using the booth once or twice. Renting is also a very good way to get the most impact per dollar spent, so if you’re looking to impress on a limited budget, renting is often the way to go.
4. Reconciling show invoices.
The good thing about post-show reconciliation is that, if done right, it can result in several hundred if not thousands of dollars in reimbursements from show organizers and vendors. Trade shows are notorious for making overbilling or double-billing mistakes and the only way to catch them is to reconcile the invoices and bills to make sure those errors didn’t occur. The bad part about post-show reconciliation is that those savings can’t be accounted for when budgeting because they aren’t realized until after the show. Catch billing errors and get your money back!
5. Keep track of shipping deadlines.
Another important show date to watch for is the advanced warehouse deadline. You can not only save money by shipping the booth to the off-site facility, but your booth will get delivered to your booth space first which can result in huge labor savings as well. Missing the inbound and outbound deadlines can result in very substantial fees and forced-freight expenses, so pay special attention to those deadlines and use a freight carrier that is experienced in trade show logistics. Shipping smart will save you a lot of money.
Shipping smart will save you a lot of money.
6. Don’t pay for internet.
If you bring your own Wi-Fi you can save thousands of dollars. Mobile hotspots provide fast reliable coverage and are more secure than the “free” internet at most convention centers and exhibit halls. With 5G becoming more prevalent, you can even expect to get faster speeds than the wired connections provided by the venue. Mobile hotspots are faster, more secure and most importantly – less expensive.
7. If possible, do-it-yourself.
I get it, the last thing you want to do after a long day of working the show is to stay and clean your booth, and sometimes it’s not an option. But if you can, you will be able to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars by packing your own vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies and doing it yourself. The cost for these services at some shows has even resulted in the larger exhibitors bringing dedicated staff to save money.
Fun? No. Money saving? YES
This is by no means a complete list of money saving tips, but hopefully these are some actionable strategies that you can put in place to realize substantial savings. A lot of the cost increases from show organizers, shipping companies, airlines and hotels are out of our control, but if you can implement some of these strategies, you can minimize the budget damage and in some cases even come out on top.