INTRODUCTION

When exhibiting at a trade show, it’s easy to let costs mount up if you’re not careful.

In order to keep on top of these costs, we’ve created a free exhibition budgeting spreadsheet that’s going to help you manage your trade show budget to the best of your ability. This, in turn, will help you achieve the maximum return on investment (ROI).

TRADE SHOW BUDGET TEMPLATE 

This trade show budgeting template will help you break down your total budget and indicate how and where to prioritise your exhibition spending. This leaves you free to focus on important things, such as your trade show stand design, colour schemes, exhibition stand games and the best lead capture apps.

You can download our free trade show budgeting tool here.

trade show budget tool, download template

BREAKING DOWN A TRADE SHOW BUDGET

A trade show budget can be made up of the following main costs:

  • Exhibition stand cost
  • Floor space cost
  • Screen rental costs
  • Furniture costs
  • On-site service costs
  • Promotion costs
  • Staffing costs

You may have no idea about costs when it comes to exhibitions. Exhibition stands can range from £50 – £50,000, and the cost of floor space varies as well, depending on whether you choose a shell scheme space or space only.

The free trade show budget template we’ve included within this guide makes it easy to break down your budget and prioritise your spending. This guide should be your starting point for a detailed breakdown of all the costs involved, with a focus on your business and your show. Our aim is to help you understand exactly how, why and where you need to spend money on your trade show.

trade show budget download template icon

EXHIBITION STAND COSTS

You don’t want to spend thousands of pounds on floor space at a highly attended exhibition, only to have the budget for a few pull-up banners.

If your competitors, important customers and prospects are all in the same room, then you’ll want to make an outstanding first impression. That means investing in an eye-catching trade show stand design.

On average, you should spend twice as much on your exhibition stand as your floor space costs you, and we recommend that your exhibition stand costs should make up 40% – 50% of your overall trade show budget. There are options to reduce this cost, and we offer budget trade show packages of fixed-price exhibition stands for customers who have booked a shell scheme space.

Custom-modular exhibition stands are a great solution for businesses looking to make a big first impression. Every element of the stand can be designed to your requirements, and the modularity aspect means that they can be reused and reconfigured at different shows.

This solution not only gives you the same exposure as a global brand with an expensive custom-built stand design, but is hugely cost-effective when you take into account its reusability.

blue and green exhibition stand design

FLOOR SPACE COSTS

Don’t make the common exhibitor mistake of buying your floor space before you’ve set your trade show budget.

Once you’ve set your exhibition budget within our free trade show budget template, you’ll know exactly how much you should spend on floor space. We recommend that your floor space costs should make up around 25% – 35% of your total trade show budget.

Spending too much on your floor space in an attempt to have the biggest and best space with the most traffic is more likely to crush your ROI. You need enough trade show budget to create an amazing, bespoke exhibition stand if your aim is to attract large crowds.

You are better off choosing a smaller space that is within your budget. By doing this, you’ll have money left to put a fantastic-looking stand there.

The best thing about floor space is that it is sold by the square metre, and is distributed on a first come, first served basis. In the majority of cases, a 4m x 4m space by the door will cost the same as a 4m x 4m space on the back wall. This means that you don’t have to pay extra to get a prime location in an exhibition hall.

SCREEN RENTAL COSTS 

It is common practice to integrate audiovisual (AV) elements into your exhibition stand. We rarely install a bespoke stand that doesn’t feature a TV or touch-screen device.

They are effective ways of communicating a message or demonstrating your product. This can come in handy if your team are busy chatting with delegates. Download this free trade show budgeting tool to estimate how much you should spend on screen rental costs.

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FURNITURE COSTS

You are probably going to want to get some furniture to make your trade show stand design more homely and inviting. Tables, chairs, sofas, showcases and bar stools can help enhance your exhibition stand whilst making the space more interactive.

If you are a frequent exhibitor, you may find it cost-effective to purchase furniture. However, transporting these items may incur further costs as it will be your responsibility to transport your furniture to and from the venue.

To find out how much of your budget you should put aside for furniture rental, use our free trade show budget template for reference.

large white and yellow exhibition stand design

ON-SITE SERVICE COSTS

If you have purchased a shell scheme space, then you won’t have to worry about covering the costs of electricity or flooring, as it is included in the price of the space. That being said, if your exhibition stand design includes a lot of lighting and AV features, then you may need to pay for additional sockets.

If you’ve chosen the space only option, then all the on-site services will need a considerable amount of your trade show budget. Space only offers you an empty square, marked out with tape. Everything else that you need (including the flooring) will be charged.

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PROMOTIONAL COSTS

Promoting your presence at a show is almost as important as the show itself. Pre-show marketing is the critical piece that is going to get visitors to the show and, more importantly, to your stand. This can be anything from distributing a press release, organising a networking event or email marketing.

While it’s not an exact science, the timing of your pre-show marketing is important to get the best value out of your investment. Trade show visitors don’t tend to plan their visit too early, so it’s important to be marketing to them at the right time.

Below is a percentage breakdown of how you should allocate your pre-show marketing spend.

Time Before EventPercentage of Promotional Spend
3 months10%
2 months15%
1 month25%
2 weeks30%
1 week15%
2–3 days5%
  • 3 MONTHS OUT

At this stage, you should start putting the show logo and your stand number on all printed ads, and keep this consistency until the show itself.

At 3 months out, we recommend you should be spending 10% of your promotional budget.

  • 2 MONTHS OUT

Aside from ensuring consistency across all printed ads, you should also begin to introduce your presence at the show through your direct mail campaigns, particularly if you intend to launch a new product or service and want to make visitors aware of what’s to come.

The 2month stage is an ideal time to begin a ticket campaign aimed at any international visitors, as well as a social media push and the inclusion of your stand number on all email signatures across the company. Also, any promotional giveaways should be organised and budgeted at this stage.

At 2 months out, we recommend you should be spending 15% of your promotional budget.

  • 1 MONTH OUT

The one-month campaign should include advertising specific reasons for visitors to attend the event and visit your stand.

By this point, you should have a full potential visitor database and a targeted ticket campaign directed at these people.

This is also a good time to utilize social media and start introducing more specifically what will be showcased at the event.

At 1 month out, we recommend you should be spending 25% of your promotional budget.

  • 2 WEEKS OUT

At 2 weeks out, you should be investing budget in targeted social media ads through the key social media channels.

It’s also important at this point to be making personal phone calls and drop-ins to key clients or potential clients to encourage them to visit your stand at the show. If you have any invitation tickets left at this stage, they should be sent out.

At 2 weeks out, we recommend you should be spending 30% of your promotional budget.

exhibition stand

  • 1 WEEK OUT

With one week to go, you should invest more in social media ads reminding potential visitors of the specifics of the show, including what’s happening on your stand and any deals or offers available to visitors.

Reminder phone calls or visits to your top 20 clients should be done at this stage to back up the advertising campaign to date and to reinforce your stand at the show.

At 1 week out, we recommend you should be spending 15% of your promotional budget.

  • 2-3 DAYS OUT

Keep a small part of your marketing budget (5%) for a last-minute marketing push in the few days before the event. Special offers from social media, print or radio ads provide great last-minute value.

2–3 days before the exhibition, we recommend you should be spending 5% of your promotional budget.

STAFFING COSTS

You need to get strong staff to work on your exhibition stand throughout the event. The majority of businesses use people from their team. This makes sense, as you want your booth staff to know your business and your product inside out. It also makes sense if you are trying to exhibit on a budget.

The other option is to hire agency staff. Although agency workers won’t know your business as well as your team, they do have the interpersonal skills necessary to entice people onto your stand and start forming relationships.

If you have a large stand space, you may consider using your staff to manage product demos and lead capture and agency staff to increase footfall and entertain delegates.

The other cost that you must consider is accommodation and travel. This will depend on your venue, the number of staff you are taking and the length of your show. If you are trying to exhibit on a budget, book these early to get the best deals.

Download our free trade budget template to see how much of your budget you should allocate to spend on staff, travel and accommodation.

blue exhibition stand adapted to your trade show budget

CONCLUSION 

After reading this article, we hope that we’ve helped you break down your trade show budget, being able to identify most of the costs you will incur along the way. It’s worth noting that every event is different, and every exhibition stand is different. You might find yourself adding to or taking away from this list – but it’s a great starting point.

To save yourself the hassle, download our free trade show budgeting template. All you have to do is enter the information about your upcoming event and let the formulas do the rest!

We’re always here to help. If you’ve got an event coming up, and you’d like to get a head start on your trade show stand design, then give us a call on 01202 723 500. Alternatively, you can email us at design@quadrant2design.com.

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