5 Money Saving Tips for a Trade Show Exhibit on a Start-Up Budget

Posted on May 16, 2014 by Jesse Szynal | 57 comments

 

Let’s say you’re a start-up, and you spent most of your trade show budget just getting onto the floor.  Consider some shows can cost a small firm $3k-$7k for a 10 x 10 space depending on the industry.  Fashion shows like the renowned Project Men’s in Las Vegas fetched about $5500  for this space in August of 2013.

Here’s some cost-saving tips to consider at your next outing.

  1. Pay for the minimum space you need and look for opportunities for free upgrades.  How would you get upgraded?  Large trade shows have exhibitors signing up and canceling within days of the show.  Armed with this knowledge,  you can start calling your account manager about 1-2 weeks out and checking on the floor plan.  If they have cancellations, there will be empty booths potentially next to yours.  Trade show management would rather give you the space to use rather than have their exhibition floor look sparse.  We originally signed up for a middle aisle 6′ x 10′ booth and ended up with a corner 30′ x 10.’  While we only utilized 20′ feet, that size space could garner between $12 – 18k:  Our cost, $4k.  Downside, your booth number could be off in the printed materials at the show.  Upside?  Your start-up might get more attention looking like a powerhouse in a larger booth.
  2. Visuals don’t have to be expensive.  We used some of the professional photography we already owned and negotiated a better deal with an exhibit company to create an 8′ x 8′ free standing graphic and podium as shown for about $1300.  With the included lighting, this caught the eye of many interested buyers and was thousands below the cost of some custom built displays.  Something to note: even though you are buying a 10′ x 10′ space, you might actually get 9’8″ on the back wall due to the structures of the back walls etc.  This is important when ordering your signage as you would most likely not be able to fit a 10′ x 10′ backdrop into a 10′ x 10′ booth in many cases.  Also, it was important for us to have  display that could be re-used, reprinted, and travelled well.  This 8′ x 8′ from Ace Exhibits works quite well and the podium has storage for samples or giveaways with easy access.

     

    Budget Trade show Tips

    Backdrop Designed by AceExhibits.com

  3. Product can make a great visual.  Collected Threads was able to decorate a 20′ x 10′ space with one undershirt in 3 different colors.  How did we pull this off?  We spread the product out in the 2 versions of the box we have printed, front and back of the 3 packs, and we had the product rolled up in piles on the table in the center of the booth.  In addition, black bags with our stickers were used to fill shelf space and to carry off samples.  What’s great about these are the bags and stickers can be used at future events to defray the cost of giveaways.  Top off the booth with a few hanging shirts to show the product in action and most visitors assumed we were displaying more than 12 SKUs at the show.
  4. Dress up your booth with press releases and related photography on the cheap with the acrylic page holders.  Staples carries these in their stores and they won’t break the bank.  You will be surprised how much attention your past press will get you (think social validation) as well as photography that didn’t make it onto your packaging.

     

    Save money at your next trade show

    Low cost sign holders and bags

  5. Make friends with the union service manager!  This is no small feat as these workers can be quite busy during show setup and breakdown.  While it sounds like a strange recommendation, these folks have the power to do you favors that would otherwise cost some pretty high wages.  Charges for onsite electricians, carpenters and carpet installers are pricey but know the right people and they will take care of you without any paperwork.  Trust us.

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Another great money saving tip is to run your booth lighting from battery power. Electric rental fees are insanely high these days, so it’s an easy way to save some good money. If you are technically inclined, you can build a system yourself with some good LED lights and a car or motorcycle battery. Pro Panels has put together a great write-up on building your own system (http://www.propanels.com/lighting/battery/). If you want to go with a ready-made system, the best I’ve found is from Silicon Lightworks: http://siliconlightworks.com/sk2s-light-kit

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