Saturday, February 23, 2013

How to Plan a Tradeshow - Creating a Budget

Now that you've selected which tradeshow you are exhibiting at, you need to make, and track diligently, a budget. There many things you need to budget for, which are listed below. Price shopping is also a must-do so that you are sure you are getting the best price possible. I always create my budget before I make the commitment to exhibit at a show. I pick out the show that I think would be beneficial and then I figure out how much it will cost me, the potential sales that I will make, and the leads I'll get. I also have a cool equation that calculates how many leads we "should" come back with depending on how many staff we send. I don't do that all of the time because we don't usually overstaff, and when we do it ends up being very beneficial for us. That is something you will have to keep a mental note of so that you don't over or under staff the booth.

There are tons and tons of tradeshow budget templates in excel format if you search "tradeshow budget template" on google. I have one that I created myself and is editable for each tradeshow that I go to, and tracks costs on a per person basis. All of the shows that my company attends is a little bit different and don't always have the same categories. Many require travel, which when planning a show 6 months out, will have very different costs at that time vs. when the travel is actually booked.

I budgeted out the travel back in November for a tradeshow that is coming up in March and back then, flights were close to $400 round trip. When I booked my flight last week, the cost was only $250ish roundtrip, so I ended up not spending the full amount and that extra $150 can be allocated elsewhere, like shipping where I underestimated. This might be a no brainer but always be aware that travel costs can rise for no reason, and at the last minute. I ALWAYS have a category for "Unforseen/Misc" expenses that I keep a reasonable amount allocated for, just in case some costs are higher than anticipated. This category helps keep shows within budget.

At my company it is stressed to us that under no circumstances can we exceed our budget. Our budget gets approved by our COO and our CEO, and they do keep track of the budgets. Last year I did very well with my planning and didn't go over my budget for any shows. This year I'm a bit worried because we are attending to more shows, and new shows. I have a budget for each one that were estimates done at the beginning of the year. Now that I am in planning mode and booking our space, travel, lodging, etc. I am realizing that our budgets are not high enough to cover everything. I've had to get creative about staggering staffing and figuring out our promotional items in order to stay within budget. Poor planning on my part for those new shows, but next year the budgets should be right on!

Anyway, to get back to the spreadsheet, here is a list of categories that you need to do a budget for, track the actual costs of, and calculate the variance to make sure you are staying within the budget:

Exhibit Costs
Booth Space
Exhibitor Badges (usually included with the booth space)
Electricity for booth
Internet, cable, or telephone service
Furniture for the booth (some shows do not include a table and chairs with the booth cost. It may be cheaper and better quality for you to purchase your own table and chairs that can be shipped or transported easily)
Carpeting (padding is always an extra cost and not included with the carpeting price)
Accessories for booth such as flowers, TV, audio, garbage can (yes you have to pay for that too), cleaning services, computer equipment rental (I suggest bringing your own), etc.
Insurance for booth (this one isn't always required)
Labor costs for setting up and tearing down the booth (sometimes you are required to use the company that is contracted by the show/location)
Booth graphics design
Booth graphics production
Storage costs if you preship

Shipping Costs
Shipping costs for booth and promotion items to and from the show (do you have to use the show carrier? If not, price shop this one)

Promotional Costs
Advertising (on show website, in program, etc.)
Hospitality Events
Direct Mailers/Mass Emails
Pre-show and Post-show advertising
Promotional Items (I use a company called BNoticed)
Business Cards (you should already have these!)
Mailing Rental (definitely do this, it helps with the preshow advertising and allows you to create a hot, warm, cold prospect list)
Presentation Production (slideshow played on a tv or computer, live presentation given by staff)
Dinners with Prospects/Current Clients
Candy/Snacks/Water/Coffee at booth

Lead Gathering
Lead Forms - Production and Printing
Card Reader Rental (I suggest purchasing a card scanner instead of renting the card reader)
Card Scanner (optional - I got this one and it works great. Definitely takes a lot of time and effort out of maintaining a database. It reads the typed text on business cards when it scans. You can sort the contacts by name, company, etc. You can create custom categories and edit the information that is scanned in. It also shows you if you have duplicate names and lets you "verify" the contacts so you can easily see which business cards you have reviewed for accuracy. If you handwrite anything on the business card, the scanner won't pick that up, but you can type it in when you are reviewing the information later)

Personnel Costs
Attire (make sure you have a dress code and get matching shirts for your booth staff. I use BNoticed for shirts too, but for embroidery the best quantity to order is 12, which can be a lot if you only need a couple of shirts)


  1. Hi Sara, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris