Ah, the business of budgets.
Many of you wrapping up the Spring trade show season may well be tasked with thinking about your budget for Autumn events.
Maybe some events beyond then too.
Typically this exercise may include being asked to trim some of your allocated budget.
Alternatively, you may be tasked to live within a total spend for the year.
This means there will be no additional funds available to you in the second half fo your year even if you were expecting some to come your way.
So, how do you achieve the new budget objectives you have been given?
The biggest budget saver is always exhibiting at a show on an appropriately sized stand.
This doesn’t mean a stand larger than your competitor, this means one that works for you, your product and your company. A large stand that isn’t used well will just run-up costs, and frankly, it will look uninviting and intimidating to visitors.
If you feel that your stand (or stands) is bigger than you need, talk to the organiser of the show as soon as this realisation dawns. The further you are away in time from the event, the more time your organiser has to do something that will work for your mutual benefit and that means for the organiser, having the time to re-let the space that you now don’t require.
Your stand team and their role in deciding how big a space you need
For the next area of saving, you’ll want to look at the total show hours per day. Cut off the first 30 minutes and the last hour of the open periods. Those are the slowest times of the show day where your staff will probably be nursing their hangovers or planning dinner meetings with clients for later. On average, each staff member can handle 3 decent length visitor conversations per hour.
This basic formula can help you determine your ideal staff size for a show:
Staff size = Lead Goal + Clients To Talk To \ divided by the Number Of Show Days and Net Show Hours
You’ll need to assign one staff member for every 4sqm of space occupied. This ratio will allow enough team members to comfortably speak with your visitors.
The rule of thumb that I use for breaking down how I’ll use our stand space is as follows:
- 60% staff/products
- 20% meeting rooms (this is completely dependent on your industry if you need one)
- 14% storeroom
- 6% exhibit
Your formula may be very different depending on what your company does but once you have a formula that suits what you do, it’s a very good idea to use this as your base yardstick when budgeting for all shows.
Switch more funding to the shows that produce the best results
If you exhibit in multiple events, you can consider trimming spend in shows that produce the least impressive results.
In order to do this successfully, you need to have accurate sales data from previous events. If you are able to access these details, you can rank shows in the order of those that produce the best returns down to the least effective.
In some cases, there may be a case to drop some events from your roster altogether and this will obviously free-up money that can be allocated elsewhere. At the very least, you can assess whether downsizing stand space on one or more events or downsizing your spend in some, will provide you with funds that can be better used elsewhere on more productive shows.
Don’t miss deadlines
Missing deadlines for in-hall services can cost your stretched budget dearly so ensure that you know what the deadlines are for each of your events and submit your orders before they apply. Paying late charges is something that can be avoided; you just need to get things organised in advance.
Storage and re-use can save you money
Storage and refurbishment of stand panels and graphics is an area of cost-saving often overlooked by exhibitors. Ask your contractor for a quote for both and see if there are savings that can be made next time you want to use those items.
Hire a modular stand rather than go custom build
If budgets are tight but you still want to make a big impact, then consider hiring a modular stand instead of commissioning a custom build solution. There are lots of companies that can help. Enter “modular exhibition stand hire” into your search engine of choice.
Money for the whole job
Once you have your ideal stand size, you’ll need to make sure you have enough money to actually host the show. Your budget should be comprised of the following elements:
- 30% raw exhibit/stand space
- 20% show services – labour, rigging, storage, etc…
- 10% exhibit design
- 5% promotions/giveaways (You have to pay all of that money to ship those items to the show AKA money! Bring less than what you think you’ll need because printing branded items you can’t give away, extra leaflets that go in the bin etc… is literally money down the drain.)
- 20% Stand staff and travel
- 10% Miscellaneous expenses – pre-show advertising, catering, etc..
- 5% Emergency fund
If you’re trying to quickly figure out how much a new show would cost you in total (using a shell scheme/pipe and drape system), find the cost of the stand space and multiply by 3. This would be a rough cost for the show, but I always like to overestimate, so I’ll add on another further 5-10% (depending on how expensive the host city is) to ensure that I’ll come in on budget.
Make travel pay
Another budget saver that many people/companies don’t think of are travel rewards.
Airlines such as Delta Airlines and British Airways have frequent flier programmes that allow both the company and the individual to earn points redeemable for either goods, upgrades or airline tickets. You can also sign up for hotel rewards with the hotel chains (Hilton, Marriott, etc…) or even with sites like hotels.com to earn free nights and upgrades. This is travel that you’re already going to do, so you might as well earn a little something more from it.
Vendors and contractors can help you reduce costs
We’re all human and we can make errors, so make sure that you audit all invoices from all vendors and contractors. If you don’t understand what a charge is for then ask. Often times a misplaced zero can mean the difference between coming in on budget or over budget.
And the best budget advice; if you don’t ask, you won’t get. In this case, ask your vendors for their expert opinion, don’t forget they do this work day in, day out, all year long. Do they see anywhere where you can save money? Maybe a slightly lower grade material that no one will notice? Another shipping option that you weren’t aware of?
These little savings will add up. And, ask for discounts! You’ll find that almost everything can be negotiated from advertising to the staff shirts. Vendors are also more likely to negotiate on a volume or multi-show deal.
Budgets are probably the least fun and least glamorous part of the trade show life, but it’s the backbone of the whole programme. Without an appropriate budget, you’ll struggle down the road to put together a successful event. Budget carefully and your future self (and boss) will thank you.