9 Easy Ways to Reduce Trade Show Expenses and Boost Results

Doing all the planning needed for a trade show is complex. The process takes some time, because there are lots of details.

Take a look at some of these details you need to manage:

Large custom Xpressions popup display

Large custom Xpressions popup display

  • There’s a theme to create,
  • a trade show booth to design,
  • a builder or supplier to hire,
  • shipping to organize,
  • trade show expense budgets to plan,
  • people to train and schedule,
  • product literature to write, design and publish,
  • pre-show marketing to plan, organize, and carry out
  • hotel rooms to book,
  • flights to arrange,
  • VIPs to cater to,
  • a hospitality suite to put together

All these things (and more) go into every show on your calendar.

It takes lots of skill and careful planning. Every line item has a cost attached, and these costs add up quickly.

Many exhibitors are most surprised by unplanned costs, or those that ballooned much higher than planned.


Here are some ways to avoid or minimize your trade show expenses:

Budgets: 1) Make one.

Many exhibitors look at all of the trade show expenses.

They never make a budget. They’re forever taken by surprise when costs get out of hand.

The best practice is to work out a budget that includes everything you can think of. Then add a little extra “pad” to it, and then stick to the plan.

Last minute changes are your biggest enemies. These add rush fees and increased shipping costs.

Plan as far ahead as possible. Be sure to get all the early response discounts you can from the show.

2) Get buy-in and approval from on high.

Regardless of how good your ideas seem, there will be a point at which upper management says “no.”

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Get approval from those who control the purse strings, before you commit to clever (but expensive) concepts.

Explain that delays in approvals cause rush charges and increased shipping expenses.

Planning: 1) Start as soon as you can.

Your planning for next year’s show should probably start before this year’s show is in the history books.

Twelve months in advance is ideal. Most companies only manage to work about six months ahead.

Every expenditure that gets delayed will increase costs. This includes hotel rooms, airline tickets, and printing your graphics — delays always result in higher costs.

2) Think like a coupon clipper.

Coupon users look for every chance they can find to save a few cents on whatever they purchase.

There are discounts available for booking your booth space early, as well as just about every other on-site expense.

And be sure to pay attention to the deadlines your suppliers provide, so you can  avoid late fees or rush charges.

3) Be a labor organizer.

Union rules can change a lot from one convention center to another.

As your shows change locations, you may face higher costs or other complications related to show labor.

Be sure to review the show booklet with all its rules and deadlines.

If possible, schedule your booth set-up and tear down during regular work hours, avoiding overtime charges.

4) Check your receipts.

Mistakes happen, even with digital receipts. So check what you’re being charged by the show or by its vendors.

In many cases, if you don’t catch the mistake while you’re on-site, you have no recourse against the added costs.

So, while everything’s still fresh in your mind, go over all your receipts and make sure the figures are in line with what you had agreed to.

Crates & Boxes: 1) Size matters.

When the size of your crates goes up, so do the shipping and drayage costs, even when there’s no actual increase in the crate’s weight.

It’s called “dimensional weight.” Shippers charge for how much space you take up in their trucks. Even if the large box doesn’t weigh very much, this can add unexpected costs.

Drayage fees are slightly different. There is usually a minimum charge – weight combination, like $200 minimum for every package up to 200 lbs.

So adding a few small packages instead of one combined package might prove very expensive, because they will charge the minimum charge for each package.

Check the rules and check the sizes and weights of your total shipment before the show, so you know understand how this show works, then pack to minimize costs.

2) Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Don’t be in too big a rush to catch your flight home.

If your booth isn’t off the show floor by the pre-determined deadline, your exhibit becomes what’s known as “forced freight.”

Blade 4-sided digital media display

Blade 4-sided digital media display

The exhibit hall will move your equipment off the show floor. If it wasn’t disassembled, they will do that for you.

Then they will charge you for the labor. They will charge your for storage. There will be late penalties.

They often will decide to ship it, via their most expensive shipping partner. It will probably ship to your return address – regardless of your plans.

Complete all your material handling contracts and label all your crates clearly before you leave the hall, so you can avoid these added costs.

2.5) Those darn forms at the show are plain confusing. (On purpose, if you ask me!)

Be sure the show understands your desires. If you fill out the show material handling forms incorrectly, they may turn away your scheduled carrier, and then once again, “force” your display.

This will add an attempted pickup charge from the scheduled carrier to the other costs and penalties!

There’s no magic to creating a successful—and cost-effective—trade show program.

It takes proper planning, some diligence and a touch of creativity. Plan well, communicate with your team, and get everything in writing.

Put everything onto your calendar. This will help meet deadlines and avoid unneeded costs and penalties.

After that, think about whether your trade show exhibit itself is doing its best.

Is it time to update your booth design or get new graphics? Whether you need a completely new trade show booth design, a few new graphics, or a new digital display, we can help you make a memorable impression on the show floor.

For more ideas, check out our tips on cutting trade show costs or check out or article on saving money and still having great trade show displays.

For more information, call us at (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected].