When planning for a trade show, we all want the best of everything. The super-sized booth with space for all our products. Signage that makes you standout from the crowd. Lights, interactive media, display screens and all the bells and whistles that announce to the world that your booth is the fairest of them all.

But all too often, dreams collide with reality once a trade show budget has been set and approved.  Even if you don’t have unlimited funds to spend on your trade show booth, there are some effective ways to make the most of your budget and create a trade show experience that impresses, without breaking the bank.

1) THE RULE OF THIRDS – When planning your trade show budget, keep in mind that show space will be your single largest expense, usually taking about 1/3 of your budget. As you consider spaces for your show, keeping this in mind can help you to determine the best space that will fit your overall budget. If you have an eye on a space that counts for more than 1/3 of your budget, you may need to scale back.

2) KING OF THE ROAD – One area that can affect your budget are the costs associated with setting up your booth, and then moving it to the next show. Look at dates and locations on the calendar and see if you can keep your booth on the truck between shows. If you’re planning to attend two different shows in the same city, try to hold over properties in storage.  Look to see if the show moves in or out on a weekday or weekend. If you can arrange for your show to load in on a weekday, you can save money on labor by avoiding weekend overtime rates.

3) SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE – When you have a budget allocation that you can’t increase and demands on exhibit space and services increase, something has to give.  The challenge is to maintain the same number and impact of your shows without changing the effectiveness of your exhibit. For example, heavy ID towers may impress from a distance, but a hanging sign can often be seen from just as far away, and for less cost.

4) PRIORITIZE PEOPLE – If you have to decide between more space and more people, always go for more people. A larger booth may draw crowds, but in order to make contacts and close deals, you need effective, well-trained brand ambassadors and product presenters to educate the attendees on your product.

5) BECOME A SPONSOR – If physical presence at a show is stretching your budget, consider trading space for sponsorship. Sponsoring an event, providing banners, or giving away swag is a great way to put your brand in front of every single attendee.

Get creative within your means, and you won’t need a bigger booth. With the right marketing strategy, attendees will flock to your booth. You can take that to the bank!

Mary Kemmer – Operations Manager, CTSM