how to set your trade show budget

When exhibiting at a trade show it’s easy to let costs run away with you if you’re not careful.  So that you can allocate your trade show budget well and achieve the maximum ROI we’ve created this free exhibition budgeting spreadsheet.


This budgeting spreadsheet will help you break down your total budget and tell you where to prioritise your exhibition spending. This means you are free to worry about important things, such as your exhibition stand design, colour schemes, exhibition stand games and the best lead capture apps.

You can download the exhibition budgeting tool here.

trade show budget tool, download template

trade show budget download template icon

The Ultimate Guide to Budgeting for your next Exhibition

Allocating marketing budgets can be a challenge. According to the U.S Small Business Administration, you should spend 7 to 8 percent of your sales revenue on marketing – but that’s not very helpful when you’re trying to diversify your strategies.

TV advertising, for example, is far more expensive than radio advertising. And you can implement a content and social media marketing strategy in-house, using resources that you already have, for free.

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

The free trade show budgeting spreadsheet we’ve included within this guide makes breaking down your budget and prioritising your spending easy. This guide should be your starting point to 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.

Your Exhibition Stand: 40% – 50% of your Event Budget

You don’t want to spend thousands of pounds on floor space at a highly attended exhibition then to only have the budget for a few pull-up banners. This is something that we see a lot.

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 stand.

On average, you should spend twice as much on your exhibition stand as your floor space costs you. We suggest spending about half of your trade show budget. There are options to reduce this cost. We offer budget trade show packages of fixed price exhibition stands for customers who have booked a shell scheme space.

Of course, you are free to spend more. Global brands often spend hundreds of thousands on a custom-built stand that will get destroyed immediately after the exhibition. This isn’t necessary and is extremely bad for the environment.

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 requirement, 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-build but is hugely cost-effective when you take into account its reusability.


blue and green exhibition stand design

Your Floor Space: 25% – 35% of your Event Budget

Don’t make the common exhibitor mistake of buying your floor space before you’ve set your budget. That’s how mistakes happen and people end up with shoddy displays.

Once you’ve set your exhibition budget in the free trade show budgeting tool we’ve provided, you’ll know exactly how much you should spend on floor space. We recommend around 25% – 35% of your total 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 you’re aim is to attract large crowds.

You are better off choosing a smaller space that is within your budget. You’ll have money left to put a fantastic-looking stand there. Blowing all your exhibition budget on a bigger space and putting a poster on it is ineffective and a waste of your entire budget.

The best thing about floor space is that it is sold by the square metre. It’s distributed on a first come first serve basis. In the majority of cases, a 4mX4m space by the door will cost the same at a 4mX4m space on the back wall. This means you don’t have to pay extra to get a prime location in an exhibition hall.

But what is the best location to nab in the hall? We’ve written a guide on that as well.

download budget

Exhibition Budget: Things to Consider when Booking your Floor Space

Now that you know that you’ll be spending a quarter of your trade show budget on your floor space, you should register your interest via your events website. Remember, floor space is distributed on a first-come-first-served basis, so you want to get organised as quickly as possible.

You’ll be given two choices – shell scheme or space only? The difference between these two spaces will have different effects on your budget.

Shell scheme spaces offer a ‘package deal’ alternative to exhibiting. You’re given space within a block. These blocks form aisles of shell scheme spaces, and they are a popular option for exhibitors who want trade booth designs on a budget.

Shell schemes come with electricity, furniture, flooring, walls and lighting. The grid system that they are built with allows you to display your brand name and branded graphics. With all this included in the price, exhibitors can save a large proportion of their trade show budget.

Space only is exactly what it says on the tin. You pay for the space. That’s it. Everything listed above that is included in a shell scheme package comes at an additional cost to exhibitors who choose space only.

If shell schemes are so great, why do people choose space only?

Event organisers have full control over the floor plan. They know where the high traffic areas are and where the biggest businesses want to put their stands. Shell schemes are crowded into the centre and edges of the halls. If you choose space only you will get a prime location, plus more opportunity to design a creative exhibition stand.

large white and yellow exhibition stand design

The Last Quarter of your Exhibition Budget

Just like that, you’ve got through 75% of your total exhibition budget. That leaves you with 25% to cover all of the extra’s that you are going to need.

These costs are variable and depend on your exhibition needs. Luckily, over twenty years’ experience in the industry has helped us formulate a free trade show budgeting spreadsheet for you to download that will tell you exactly how much of your budget you should have dedicated to these expenses.


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 TV rental.

Screen Rental

It is common practice to integrate audiovisual (AV) elements into your exhibition stand. We rarely install a 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 budgeting tool to estimate how much you should spend on TV rental.

download exhibition budget


You are probably going to want to get some furniture to make your exhibition stand 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, click here to download this free trade show budgeting tool.

download trade show budget exhibition stand

On-site Services

If you have purchased a shell scheme space then you won’t have to worry about covering the costs of electricity or flooring. 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 of 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.

It may be a bit daunting if you’re not used to the exhibition industry. Don’t worry. We’ve got this free trade show budgeting tool for you to download and use that will make all of this information easier to digest.


Promoting your presence at a show is almost as important as going to the show itself. Remember that statistic from the U.S Small Business Administration – you should spend 7 to 8 percent of your capital on marketing. The same applies to your pre-show marketing.

This can be anything from distributing a press release, organising a networking event or email marketing. But remember to keep some of this budget aside to pay for the promotional goods that you are planning to give away on your stand.

Games and competitions are a great way to increase traffic and generate leads. Unfortunately, unless your freebies or prizes are worth it – your efforts will go unnoticed. Put a bit of thought (and budget) into your giveaways.


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 this free trade show budgeting tool 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

Free Resource to keep track of your Trade Show Budget!

Now you know how to break down your trade show budget. You can identify most of the costs you will incur along the way. Every event is different. Every exhibition stand is different. You might find yourself adding to or taking away from this list – but it’s a good starting point.

To save yourself the hassle, download our free trade show budgeting spreadsheet that we’ve created. 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 planning your exhibition stand then give us a call on 01202 723 500. Alternatively, you can email us at