It happened. You came up with the perfect theme. Your
graphics looked great. You even got tons of leads. You could not be
happier….until all the extra bills start coming in. What happened?
More importantly what can YOU do to make sure it does not happen
Here are some simple tips to keep in mind to avoid being surprised
by your trade show
Before the show:
Have an approved budget ahead of time and stick
to it as much as possible. It
will be tempting to say yes to cool ideas that come at the last
minute, but make sure they are not beyond what you were planning
to spend in the first place. Look for early bird pricing on your
orders to get the best pricing available and budget according to
Get your budget approved before you even start planning or
ordering anything. You
don’t want to spend time researching rigging alternatives, or
money paying for entertainment deposits, only to find out that
your boss will not approve those line items in the budget, or
that they are well outside the scope of what you can afford.
Keep an eye on currency changes on international shows. Right
now the dollar is strong, which helps U.S. exhibitors, but that
can change significantly between when you book a show and when
you have to pay for it. Plan for possible currency shifts in
your budget and make sure to communicate any risk to management
Plan as far in advance as you can. We
recommend at least 3 – 6 months in advance. Make sure that
includes reserving hotel rooms before the block fills up, and
buying those airline tickets while they are still reasonable.
Closely review the dates that purchases need to be completed
before prices increase.This will help you avoid late
charges or rush fees. Having a project calendar laid out months
in advance with the key dates and reminders a week or two in
advance can be the saving grace to missing a deadline,
especially if your approver travels frequently.
Look out for shows that move location. You may think
that because you’re exhibiting at the same show the costs should
be the same the next year. But if the show has moved to a new
city or new convention center, the prices for the same show may
be considerably higher. This can be especially true for shows
moving to cities where union regulations are more stringent
which can translate into higher labor costs.
Plan the timing of your show labor, electrical and rigging.
Ensure your plan avoids crews standing around waiting for their
turn. Don’t schedule labor after normal hours or over holidays,
as prices are drastically higher or paid at time and a half.
Set expectations with management. Be
clear with members of your management team that last minute
changes will have drastic effect on your overall budget. Keep
them informed of deadlines and any significant cost changes so
they are abreast of the budget situation.
Outline travel budgets and guidelines. Set expectations
with the team attending regarding what their individual budgets
are for meals, airline tickets etc. If possible, plan for some
team dinners ahead of time by making reservations at restaurants
that are less likely to blow your budget. Communicate what
expenses will be covered, or not, ahead of time. Will you pay
for one alcoholic beverage per person, more or none?
Logistical Issues – Shipping, Drayage & Tech Costs
Double check dimensions and weights before
and drayage can add up and costs can go up significantly as you
increase the dimensional weight of the crate you are shipping to
a show. Check the increase in price before you decide to bring
one more think that will require you to go up in crate size or
Last minute add-ons add up. Tech
costs can go up significantly if you add WiFi or touch screens
at the last minute. Make sure you know the full costs of adding
any of these from set up, dismantle, troubleshooting and more.
After the show:
Prevent forced freight and the costs associated
with it. According
online: “ …the time at which all carriers must have the
freight loaded after the show. Any freight remaining on the show
floor after that designated time will be forced, or moved to
another location.” Make sure you have all your material handling
agreements and labels properly filled out and everything
appropriately packed before you leave the show. If you don’t
your exhibit may be moved off the premises and not shipped to
you on time and you may be charged penalty fees, material
handling, shipping and storage.
Double check drayage weights before you leave the exhibit. You
may not think much about going to a bigger case or pallet or
adding the literature you shipped separately to the crate but it
may put you at a different shipping rate if you are not careful.
Make sure you know if you are close to the next fee bracket.
Poorly packing your booth. If
you don’t pack your exhibit assets properly they are more likely
to get damaged and require repair or replacement. While that may
not bust your budget for that particular show, it will hurt your
budget for future shows when those boxes get unpacked and you
discover that some of the assets need to be replaced. Use sturdy
cases and ensure you follow instructions if possible.
Check all of their receipts from the show/vendors
before the end of the show.
Occasionally items may be billed incorrectly, and some shows or
vendors have the policy that there are no credits or refunds
once the show is over. It is also more likely you will remember
what was budgeted and expected at that time than several months
later when you are on to your next project.
Don’t forget to return anything you have rented
for the show on time. Most
items can be shipped directly from the trade
show to the vendor
(make sure those assets are labelled correctly). Also, your
exhibit vendor can help sort out your rented and purchased
components and make sure they all go back to the appropriate
spot. If you have rented technology, usually the vendor will
come and pick up the assets. However, sometimes you will have
the option to pack and ship those assets yourself. When you
exercise that option be sure to do so in a timely manner to
avoid late return fees.