10 Money-Saving Tips for Trade Show Exhibitors

For most businesses, exhibiting at trade shows is an essential tool for boosting brand exposure and capturing sales leads. Where else can you meet face-to-face with dozens of prospective clients in a single day? But despite their effectiveness, trade shows can be expensive. Follow these tips to reduce costs and trim the fat off your trade show marketing budget.

1. Reserve your booths early.

Nearly every trade show offers early bird pricing for exhibitors, ranging anywhere from 10-20% off the standard booth reservation rate. That might not sound like much, but even if you only exhibit at, say, six shows per year, that early bird cost savings can add up quickly. By the same token, you’ll want to avoid reserving a booth within 30 days of the show date, as you’re more likely to pay a late registration fee.

2. Book airfare at the optimal time.

According to a 2019 U.S. News report, it’s easy to save on airfare costs when you book your flight on the right day and time. Specifically, booking your flight seven days in advance, purchasing tickets on a Tuesday at precisely 3PM Eastern time, and selecting the earliest flight out in the morning are three easy ways businesses can save on the cost of flying sales staff to the next show.

3. Take advantage of advance warehouse shipping and storage.

Shipping your display components to an off-site warehouse several weeks ahead of time not only ensures that your exhibit will be WHERE it needs to be WHEN it needs to be there, but it can also save you a bundle. Advance warehousing is generally less expensive than direct-to-show shipping, plus it can reduce union labor costs because advance warehouse exhibits are usually transported to the venue ahead of direct-to-show freight, where they can presumably be assembled earlier in the day — on straight time, rather than on overtime.

4. Go digital.

Brochures, flyers, coupons, signup sheets, order forms … printed marketing materials serve a valuable purpose, but in many cases, you could avoid the cost of shipping those items to the show by using a digital alternative.  Work with your tech team to get marketing collateral posted to your website and social media channels for download, and be sure to take advantage of popular event apps to help boost attendee engagement and lead generation at the show.

5. Switch to a fabric display.

Our fabric displays aren’t just beautiful, they’re super lightweight, too. Translation? Fabric displays are much cheaper to ship than other types of exhibits. In fact, depending on the size of the display, many can be shipped via UPS or FedEx and delivered straight to your hotel, or even brought on board as checked baggage — no need for heavy-freight transport or logistical headaches.

6. Be mindful of advance order deadlines.

If your booth requires the services of the show’s general contractor for such things as truss display setup and tear-down, hanging sign installation, carpeting, furniture rental, special lighting, etc., you can save a great deal of money simply by ordering those services before the discount deadline date. (That deadline is usually published in the show manual.)

7. Reduce the cost of union labor.

Every venue has its own rules, of course, but there are lots of setup activities that exhibitors can do themselves without having to pay for union labor. For example, in many cases, you may use your own personnel as supervisors of contracted union labor, you can install lightbulbs and hanging lights as long as no tools or ladders are used, and you can run your own cable between machines (e.g., connecting computers, keyboards, credit card readers, etc.) above the carpet.

8. Buy portable booth furniture.

Giving show attendees a comfy place to sit also means giving your sales staff more time to chat with them. But renting booth furniture from the show venue is often obscenely expensive. If you exhibit more than three times per year, consider purchasing your own lightweight, custom-branded portable booth furniture. Frequent exhibitors can save big by buying versus renting, as most pieces can be shipped via common carriers like UPS or FedEx.

9. Place insertion orders early.

If you’re considering advertising in the official event program or on the event producer’s website, sign on the dotted line early enough and you could save up to 20% in early bird advertiser discounts.

10. Invest wisely in your display.

How often you exhibit will likely determine how much you should invest in your trade show display. We recommend the following guidelines:

  • Newbie exhibitors: Buy a used or refurbished display.
    If you’re just starting out as an exhibitor and don’t want to break the bank, consider buying one of our used displays. You’ll spend 20-50% less on the exhibit frame and components, which can help offset the cost of graphic design, printing and production. An added benefit? By buying a used trade show display, you’re helping to reduce landfill waste.
  • Occasional exhibitors: Rent your display.
    For occasional exhibitors who only attend shows once or twice a year, renting a display often makes more sense than buying one outright. Based on your vision and needs, we can work with you to determine the best type of display for your brand, and make sure it’s available when you need it.
  • Frequent exhibitors: Upgrade to a modular display.
    If you’re a frequent exhibitor, the flexibility and multi-purpose use of a modular display will more than offset the initial purchase expense and save you money over the long haul. Modular displays allow exhibitors to easily transition between large and small booth sizes, change up or refresh the booth layout as needed, and display different marketing messages at different shows. (Be sure to get the best deal by asking these key questions before you buy.)

As you can see, there are lots of ways to cut costs in your trade show marketing. At EXHIB-IT!, we’re experts not only at saving you money, but also at producing the highest quality product while delivering superior customer service. Contact us today to see how we can help you get more out of your trade show marketing dollars.


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