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Boosting Your Trade Show and Event Budget

Few event planners are given the luxury of setting their own budget for a trade show. Working with a predetermined budget is common, but can be tricky to work around. When planning for a large exhibition, you may be surprised at how quickly your budget can dwindle down into pocket change. Certainly, there are always cheaper options to everything – from promotional materials to staff members. But the goal isn’t to be cheap, the goal is to cut unnecessary costs and invest in your non-negotiables.

In order to cut out unnecessary expenses, ask yourself, and your team, these questions:

  • What are our goals?
    • To sell a product?
    • To expand our brand recognition?
    • To perform multiple product demos?
  • How much space will we need to meet those goals?
    • The average space for an exhibitor is a 10 x 10 cube. Will you need more space or less?
  • How many people do we need to help us meet those goals?
    • Do we need to bring along our entire team?
    • Will volunteers be able to represent our company well?
    • Remember, your budget must include feeding, housing, and transporting everyone you bring along.
  • What are our non-negotiables?
    • Create a list of absolute non-negotiables. What are the things you absolutely cannot go without at this specific trade show?

Having a clear idea of your specific trade show needs is a vital part of the planning process. Once you’ve determined those answers, organize your needs by category:


  • Employee salaries
    • Are you outsourcing staff? What are their rates?
    • Using volunteers at a trade show would certainly cut your costs, but will a volunteer represent your company to its fullest potential?
  • Travel
    • Hotel costs
    • Food costs
    • Transportation costs
    • Shipping of materials
      • Shipping of booth and marketing materials can be one of the most unexpected costs along the planning process. If you are traveling for a trade show, consider your shipping costs, to and from, on the front end in order save yourself surprise expenses.
    • Marketing Materials
      • Printing costs of banners, posters, flyers, pamphlets, business cards
      • New technology to display
      • Video / Audio / Design
    • Miscellaneous Costs
      • Outside of all of the necessary items you’ll be planning for, don’t forget all the random must haves along the way. We wrote an entire blog about these do-not-forgets here.

Once you’ve determined the answers to these questions, the budget planning process can begin. Your list of non-negotiables may be long, but don’t let yourself be overwhelmed! Tackle one item at a time with your team. And remember to take note of what you learn at each show you attend. You may learn that you forgot something crucial, or that one of your largest expenses could have been avoided.


We’re in it with you! Here are a few of our free resources to help you get started.

ROI Calculator & Trade Show Comparison Tool

Do you need help justifying your company’s trade show investments? Then these are the tools for you. Our free Trade Show ROI Calculator and Comparison Tool can help track costs, identify new sales opportunities, and more! Two Excel spreadsheets.


About the Author

Robert Scott is the President of Skyline Exhibits Alberta. Robert has over 15 years of experience in the trade show industry. He attended Mount Royal University in Calgary, AB and has a background in Sales & Marketing. Robert has worked in all areas of the company. His unique blend of talents complements Skylines commitment to all their customers.

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