There are many reasons companies participate in trade shows. With so many attendees looking for the latest and greatest products and services under one roof, trade shows are one of the most effective means of generating sales and increasing brand awareness available to you in your marketing toolbox. But, if you’re not careful the cost of your exhibit can quickly spiral into a bottomless money pit! When you have to work within a budget (and who doesn’t?), it begins with planning and ends with the bottom line.  Here are 10 tips to help you cut costs on your next trade show exhibit.

1. Early Bird Discount – Exhibit Services Forms

This is THE easiest way to save money. As soon as you download the exhibitor kit, take note of the discount date in the show Quick Facts.  The show contractors want you to get the forms in early. The more info they have in advance, the better they can plan the schedule for the show.

Don’t wait until the last minute to send in the forms. You can use the online option for any major show contractor and make adjustments later. By filing early, you can cut down your costs on labor, drayage, electrical, furnishings, and more. You can save up to 30% on average!

2. Booth Space Contracts

Another huge cost savings starts right from the start, your booth space contract.  Many shows offer an early discount rate to book your space.  Take advantage of this. Not only will you get a better location on the show floor, but you can also save thousands, depending on the space footprint.

3. Inspect Your Exhibit – Set It Up in Advance

If this is a new build, you need to know how long and how many hands are required to set it up.  This will save you invaluable time on the show floor.  This exercise will also ensure you have all the components (graphics, hardware) included in your shipment.  The last thing you want is to have to shop for parts during setup or overnight graphics to the show site.

4. Hanging Sign – Send to Advance Warehouse?

If you have a hanging sign, ship it to the Advance Warehouse and have it arrive by the deadline published in the show Quick Facts.  Most shows schedule hanging signs to go up before exhibitors step one foot on the show floor.  It’s easier for the labor team to hang the sign without having to maneuver around crates and people.  Also, in Las Vegas, for example, you will save hundreds of dollars by shipping your sign to the Advance Warehouse.  If you don’t, you will be charged show-site rates vs. the early bird rates, even if you submitted the form on time.

5. Special Handling vs. Standard Drayage Rates

A Special Handling Rate is best defined as “your crates are stacked on the truck” or “there are loose components”. These items require more handling from labor at show site, and you will be charged a higher drayage rate.

On the other hand, if you have a large exhibit that just won’t fit in one truck unstacked, you need to determine if sending a second truck is more cost effective than the drayage penalty enforced by the show contractor.  This will depend on the distance from your warehouse to the convention center.  Sending two trucks across the country will be much more expensive than paying the special handling rate.

6. Purchase or Rent Furnishings and Other Equipment

If your exhibit calls for a monitor screen or stools, for example, you may want to consider purchasing vs. renting them at each show.  Flat screens have become incredibly affordable, and there are many furniture companies that specialize in just trade shows.  If you intend to use these items for at least 2-3 shows, you are better off purchasing. They will last for years.

7. Travel

Plan travel well in advance for your booth staff.  You can benefit from discount air fares, hotel stays and even car rentals.  A good rule of thumb is to make arrangements 4-6 weeks in advance.

8. Giveaways – Order for the Year

To save money on your trade show giveaways, buy them for the whole year instead of for each show. You can get more promotional items for the same price when you order in large quantities. This also works for your printed materials.

9. Registrations

Many shows have a discount rate for registering your booth staff well in advance.  In fact, most shows have a deadline, and if you miss it, you will have to pay a fee or pay a higher fee at show-site.  It’s also a good idea to find out how many registrations you are allowed.  Once you surpass this number, registration fees skyrocket.

10. Check and Double-Check Your Invoices

It’s inevitable that people make mistakes. It’s human. That is why you need to check all of your paperwork, and that includes your space invoice.  Make sure your rate/sq. ft. is what you contracted for.

Keep all of your on-site I & D (Installation and Dismantle) paperwork, and have your setup manager keep track of all labor hours and services rendered during this time.  On-site, compare the notes to the labor tickets and don’t sign unless they match.  You can easily handle these disputes at the service desk before you are invoiced.  Post-show, compare the labor tickets to your invoice.  You may have been charged for furnishings you did not order, incorrect drayage fees or too many labor hours.  While it’s not intentional, your booth may have been assigned tickets from another exhibitor, or someone keyed in the wrong number.  It’s surprising how many people don’t check the final invoice.  This is an easy step that can save you a lot of money.


Since there are so many elements to trade show management, there are many areas that affect your bottom line. Proper planning is key! This is a big industry with lots of details, and the more attention you give to them (big and small), the greater your potential savings.

Your TPG Team

Don’t let the costs of exhibiting stress you out. Let us handle it for you or help you understand the process. We’ve been there, done that and have over 30 years of experience and expertise to help you plan your exhibit successfully. Let’s get the ball rolling.