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How to Budget for Trade Show Booth and Graphics

Budget for trade show displays

These are the things to consider when you are budgeting for trade show booth and graphic displays.

Question:  We’re budgeting for a trade show coming up in November, and we’d like to know what percentage of our trade show budget should be spent on the trade show booth and graphics, exclusive of collateral materials.

This is a good question, and one which I think is answered best by those who study the cost of the various items that comprise a company’s trade show budget on the average. There is a PDF available that provides some average costs for attending a trade show on the average, so you can take a look at this PDF here and get an idea of what you’ll be spending on items such as travel, hotel, meals and entertainment, shipping, booth space, convention services, and your booth cost.

The Percentage Breakdown of the Costs

The pie graph below is a pretty good indicator (taken from the above PDF) of various costs involved, but it is an approximation only, and we can’t be held responsible for variations in your budget.

Pie Chart of Trade Show Budgeting

Note that if you combine the space (28%) with the design (19%), the total outlay for booth and graphics should be in the range of 47% of your overall cost, or about half. So, if you’ve budgeted $20,000 for the trade show, you’ll be able to estimate that the booth space and the trade show display booth should not exceed about $10,000.

Considering the Size of the Trade Show Booth

Because average booth space, according to this PDF, is around $24 per square foot, if you multiply this cost times three, your outlay for the booth should be 24 x 3 x booth square footage = $10,000. To calculate what size booth you’ll be able to afford, simply multiply 24 x 3 = 72 and divide that into your budgetary figure for your booth to come up with around 135 square feet or less to stay within your budget.

Obviously, the larger the booth, in most instances, the more impact it will make. However, you also have to calculate the potential clientele that will be passing by your booth. If it is a small show, and you have the potential of reaching 1000 visitors, and you know that you will end up with 10 sales over the next six months at a net profit of $25K per sale, you can also calculate how many people you’ll need to staff your booth for the duration of the show.

This will also help you calculate the cost of the other items mentioned such as travel, meals and entertainment, and hotel costs. Add shipping costs and convention services, and  you should have your overall budget calculation. If you can spend $20K and net $250K on this show, it is obviously well worth your expenditure to attend this show. If you also calculate the long term value of each client (LTV), the return will be even more tantalizing. You may even consider upping your budget if the above numbers are accurate in your experience.

A Little Advice If It’s Your First Time

Trade Show Displays and GraphicsIf this is your first trade show with your company, you may want to be a little more conservative and budget for a 10 foot by 10 foot booth to “test the waters.” If you’re budgeting for a 100 square foot booth, your calculation would look like this – 100sf x $24 x 3 = $7200 for the booth. Knowing this is approximately half of your cost, you can budget about $15,000 for the show fairly safely.

Remember though, these are hypothetical numbers, so if you rent a limousine to shuttle you from the airport to the hotel, and then to the convention center, hire models to attend to your booth (this will cost you both a lot of money and sales, in my opinion, because while they will have visual appeal, your long term reps have the knowledge to “sell” potential clients your product or service, which is, after all, why you’re at the show!), stay in the most posh hotel in the city, and otherwise pretend you’re a big man in town (unless, of course, you are, then have fun!), you’re going to rack up your costs about double what we’d consider a reasonable budget for most companies.

For smartly budgeted trade show displays printed in personalized designs, visit this page.


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Barry K. Brown

Barry Brown has been in the Sign, Banner, Decal and Display Business for over 20 years. It isn't what he thought he'd do with his life, but he says he knows too much now to do anything else!

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