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How to Stretch Your Trade Show Budget Without Cutting Key Expenses


With a pandemic changing the course of the world, naturally, it also re-routed many businesses. Changes in goals, budgets, priorities, and changes in plans are just touching the surface of what some businesses are having to adjust.

Trade shows may be at the top of the list for many dealing with rerouted business plans. Whether it is deciding if trade shows even fit in the budget this year, cutting costs, or modifying marketing, changes are happening. Here are a few big aspects that go into planning a trade show that might seem like a no-brainer to cut out but hear us out on how to stretch your budget and make it work before jumping to any conclusions!

If you are thinking about cutting trade shows altogether…
We get it. It may be tempting to think that the best way to conserve money this year for your business is by finding ways other than attending trade shows to hopefully provide a sufficient ROI and still reach your marketing goals. Maybe you have thought about moving all your marketing efforts online, leaving the trade show exhibit in storage this year and trying out virtual-only trade shows.

Here’s why you shouldn’t cut this extremely effective in-person marketing tool from your list just yet.
Aside from losing out on the opportunity to gain leads and build relationships with high-level prospects, you will also be taking a backseat when it comes to competing in your industry. With many trade show attendees planning to attend one (or perhaps just a couple) of shows a year with the main intent of finding new products, your business’s absence will leave your potential buyers finding other solutions.

If you think that investing in a year of trade shows may make things a little tight for your business, there are ways to cut back on costs without cutting back on your trade show marketing ROI altogether.
For example, if your business exhibits frequently throughout the year at smaller shows, try finding one big show that is your best match.

Exhibiting at one event with an extremely qualified audience vs. exhibiting at many smaller trade shows will cut down on your travel expenses. Since some of the larger expenses that come with trade shows include travel expenses for your staff and shipping your exhibit, just consider how much you could save when you cut your trade show calendar down to one yearly show – or a few depending on your normal trade show schedule. Now is a great time to take a good look at your show schedule, and your typical return on each show. Which shows need to remain a priority? Which haven’t historically helped you reach your marketing goals as much? Perhaps a few of your shows in the first half of the year cancelled, making your decisions clear for you to be able to focus on the shows that are taking place and making your presence known!

If you are thinking about cutting some of your trade show staff…
A successful trade show staff is always going to set you apart. Attendees may not remember every single aspect of your booth set-up after the event, but they will remember how they were treated when they were interacting with your booth staffers. A team that is motivated, has experience with your business offerings, and comes with an upbeat attitude are all attributes you want in your team. It is also very important to make sure you’re not understaffed. Being short-staffed will leave you with unattended guests and missed opportunities.

With relationships being at the core of trade shows, you are not going to want to skimp on your trade show staff. You might be thinking that sending fewer staffers will help to cut some travel expenses and save money, however, don’t get caught in thinking that you can’t save money on travel in other ways.

Don’t cut costs when it comes to your trade show team and the quality members that you have to build the best connections possible. Instead, cut their travel expenses.
No, this doesn’t mean finding a cheap hotel and making your staff pay for their own food. It means planning ahead so that you can ensure you’re getting the best deals and spending your travel budget wisely. Booking flights and hotels far enough in advance will get you the best deals. It will also ensure that your staff is in the nearest hotel possible to the event, cutting down on Uber or taxi expenses. If your staff isn’t within walking distance from the trade show, you’ll have the additional expense of getting them to and from the event every day. If you cannot find a hotel close enough, consider renting a van your team can take each day. Set a time for everyone to meet in the morning so your entire team can travel to and from the show together each day, instead of leaving each person to find their own transportation. Another way to cut costs is by finding group rates. Delegate one person to book for the entire group so you can take advantage of these deals!

And while you want your staff to be comfortable and reward them for their hard work, it is advised to set clear spending limits. Communicating guidelines for spending on dining, tipping, daily travel, etc. will make sure your team is on the same page, meaning no surprises and the ability to budget accurately!

If you are thinking about downsizing to a smaller booth…
Floor space for your booth can add up quickly! It is completely understandable to feel that a smaller floor plan may be a good way to cut some costs for the time being. However, if you are hoping to downgrade from an island exhibit (or equivalent) to a smaller inline booth, hear us out! There are still ways to create a big presence when downsizing on floor space.

While a large floor plan might not be in the works for you this year, there are still plenty of cost-friendly ways to make your presence known on the show floor.
To make it easy to downsize, a modular trade show display is the perfect option. This allows you the flexibility to upsize or downsize when needed, all with the same exhibit components rather than investing in multiple exhibits altogether.

One great way to have a big look at a great price point is with a hanging structure. Hanging exhibit components incorporate your graphics and brand to stand tall in a sea of booths. If you are going to cut down on size this year, don’t cut down on your presence! This is a great solution to having an eye-catching exhibit that draws your ideal customers to help you meet your trade show goals, even if you are on more of a budget this year.

With a bright future ahead for trade shows, we are here to make your exhibiting experience as seamless as possible. As things might have shifted in your business, consider the options when it comes to your overall marketing goals. Rather than cutting out trade shows altogether, consider finding fewer trade shows that give you more bang for your buck and cutting down on your travel expenses. Rather than leaving some of your seasoned trade show staff back at the office, stay on the ball when it comes to planning their travel to keep costs per staff member down. Rather than moving into a smaller floor space and taking a step back in your trade show presence, consider incorporating innovative structures that will make any exhibit stand out, no matter the size.