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21 Tips to Reduce Your Trade Show Budget

21 Tips to Reduce Your Trade Show Budget

Are you putting together a trade show on a tight budget? Many companies are facing the pressure of differentiating themselves at trade shows and events, particularly in the face of budget cuts. With increasing competition, companies must find new ways to create engagement and drive sales leads at trade shows.  Here are 21 simple tips you can use to cut costs and do more with less:

1. Bring Your Own W-Fi

If you’re attending a trade show and need wireless Internet access, the cost can easily add up to thousands of dollars. The San Diego Convention Center is known to charge upwards of $1200 for a single Ethernet connection, plus another $150 for each additional IP address! Bringing your own portable MiFi hotspot is not only cheaper, but also much more reliable – and you can bring it back to the hotel to use in the evenings for more savings.

2. Go Paperless

Many companies spend large amounts on printing heavy catalogs and informational pamphlets, and then end up having to pay more to ship it back after the show because people don’t want to carry it.  Today’s consumers are technologically savvy, and prefer to be able to scan signage at every conference session and exhibitor booth so they don’t end up with a jumble of information after the show.  Leave the expensive catalogs at home and just bring a small product brochure or a custom flyer instead, along with a good reason for people to keep it after the show (product discounts and/or custom access to a website tend to work well).

3. Take Advantage of Social Media

There’s no good reason not to use social media to promote your trade show, and it’s completely free! Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media networks to promote your product before, during, and after the show. They can also allow you to find other exhibitors and professionals that are attending the event.

4. Train Your Staff

Educate your sales people on the nuances of trade show interactions before the show begins. Representing your company and the brand in a two-to-three minute interaction requires a different mindset from the usual sales call – all staff members should be briefed on how to effectively interact with trade show attendees.

5. Be Modular

Plan your booth’s design to be flexible so that it can reconfigure to any space during your show’s schedule.  Modular designs are ideal because they are more cost effective than purchasing a different booth for each show, and are typically easier to set up and tear down.  Booth designs should also be lightweight in order to minimize transportation costs.

6. Focus On Objectives

Many trade show exhibitors tend to get caught up in the whirlwind and excitement of trade shows, completely forgetting about their main business objectives while they are there.  Know what your objectives are before you leave for the show, and avoid fine dining, first class reservations, and other perks that make the trade show feel like a vacation. You can still have fun, but ensure that business is the primary feature of your trip, and don’t get caught up in distractions.

7. Cut Back On Giveaways

This one should be obvious – giveaways can eat up your show’s budget in no time, and people often become more focused on the giveaway item than the role it plays in your sales process.  Rather than freely giving out thousands of items to people passing by your booth (most of which end up in the trash), choose to reward only your top prospects and leads that are qualified for your products and services.

8. Consider Alternative Lodging

Official trade show hotels can get expensive, try considering alternatives such as boutique hotels or bed & breakfasts. Air BNB offers lodging for a fraction of the cost hotels charge, and allow you to have a kitchen to cook meals in instead.

9. Avoid Hidden Costs

Planning ahead for services and deadlines can help you avoid many hidden costs in the long run.  Most convention centers offer discounts for early registration, and many of the services they offer also have a premium charge if they aren’t ordered beforehand.  Always book your trade show services as early as you can.

10. Be Smart About Shipping

Last minute shipping can become a nightmare, so make sure all shipments have sufficient time to arrive on schedule without having to expedite it.  Take at least 6 months to plan exactly what you will you need, and it also helps to consolidate your shipments in order to lower shipping costs.

11. Cut Staff During Set-Up & Tear-down

There’s no need to have all of your employees on the trade show floor during set-up and teardown. Instead, bring only your most organized workers and bring in the rest of your staff at the start of the show.  This simple step can help reduce food and lodging costs, along with unnecessary labor expenses.

12. Consider Catered Lunches

During trade shows, it’s not uncommon for employers to offer their employees a per diem amount for each meal, which can add up over time.  Consider catering one meal per day, which is usually much cheaper than offering employees a per diem amount.

13. Buy Used Equipment

Consider purchasing second hand displays and other equipment.  Many exhibitors sell theirs off for a fraction of the cost when they are upgrading to new equipment.

14. Don’t Ship, Donate

Rather than paying to ship your product samples back home after the show, consider donating promotional items to charity instead.  Many shows offer this service and it can be a tax write-off for your company.  Ask your show organizer if this service is available.

15. Share Your Booth

Booth sharing has become a popular concept in recent years because it allows non-competitive companies to split the costs of the rental.

16. Use Public Transportation

If you have the option to use public transportation instead of taxis or renting an automobile, take advantage of it.  You can save quite a bit of money on driving expenses.

17. Avoid Last Minute Shopping

Waiting until the last minute is never a good idea, particularly when you are shopping around for trade show goods.  Last minute shopping doesn’t allow you to do an optimal price comparison, and you could be charged a premium for rush delivery.

18. Buy In Bulk

Buying items in bulk can save hundreds of dollars, particularly for pens, supplies, and trade show giveaways.  It may not seem like much, but the savings add up over time.

19. Create Flexible Content

Create marketing materials that are easily modifiable and can be used for multiple venues.   Avoid printing materials that are venue or trade show specific, as they will quickly become obsolete.  Having the same content everywhere will also help to produce a more consistent brand experience.

20. Use Local Staff

Instead of paying for flights, hotel rooms, baggage fees, and other travel expenses, consider using local staff during the show.  Even if you are only able to replace one staff member with a local person, it can save you hundreds of dollars that you can use for other expenses.

21. Review Invoices

Review your invoices after the show ends.  It’s not uncommon for event organizers to double charge for services, or confuse your service orders with a neighboring booth.  By reviewing your invoices at the end of the show, you may catch errors that can save your company hundreds of dollars.

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