Trade shows are the proven way to showcase your products or services to a large audience of your customers who are ready to buy. Miss the show, and they’ll turn to your exhibiting competitors instead. It’s easy to see why thousands of organizations exhibit at 13,000 U.S. trade shows every year–it’s because they know that trade show exhibiting is a solid investment that brings huge returns. Business expert Inc.com agrees, trade shows are worth the expense!
With nearly 40% of U.S. businesses planning to increase their trade show investment in the coming year, you need to know what’s involved financially. Below are the expenses you can expect.
The cost of trade show space varies, depending on the size and location of the booth and the location of the show. Figure a range between $200-$300 per square foot for your spot on the show floor. The cost can be higher or lower depending on the show itself, and its location. For example, the cost of space at a show in New York City would usually be higher than the cost of space at a show in Iowa, and the cost can be higher if it’s a main event, while other times it can be lower if it’s a smaller, less recognized show.
TIP: Book your space as early as possible to get the best location, even if you’re not ready to plan your exhibit. Great spots go quickly.
The cost to build a custom trade show booth depends on its size, complexity, lighting, technology, furniture, fabrication materials and special features, like hanging signs or multiple levels. From a small inline booth to a large island display, the cost of building a trade show booth in 2023 ranges from $100 to $250 per square foot.
TIP: Exhibit design and price estimates are usually complimentary; think twice if your booth builder charges for these services.
If you exhibit fewer than three times a year, change your messaging frequently, or are new to the world of trade show exhibits, a custom booth rental may be the best option for you. Initial costs are lower than purchasing, and you won’t be paying for storage of your assets. Plus, you can change it up as often as you like!
If you’re dealing with a turnkey exhibit vendor like Metro Exhibits, your project manager will handle the details, but you will be charged separately for show services, including electrical for your booth, rigging (for hanging signs or other special elements), internet and other options, like catering, security and floral.
Shipping from warehouse to show venue can get pricey if you try to manage it yourself. Cost is based on the distance to travel, along with the weight and space your exhibit takes up. Trade show exhibit project managers work with trusted freight companies to get the best price for their exhibitors. As their customer, you can often benefit from economies of scale as they ship multiple booths in one truckload whenever possible.
If you are sending your product to the exhibit house to be shipped out with your booth, keep in mind it’s likely to add weight and require extra handling, which will add cost. However, this may reduce your material handling charges at show site.
TIP: Working with an exhibit house (like Metro Exhibits) that has warehouses around the country minimizes shipping costs by building and/or storing your booth in a facility that is close to the show.
Drayage is what the show organizer charges to move your exhibit materials from the loading dock to your booth space and back again. According to EXHIBITOR magazine, drayage can cost between $1.50 and $4.00 per pound. If your items arrive at the show in separate shipments, you’ll be charged a minimum to transport each one.
TIP: Order your branded giveaways through our MetroPlus division, and they will be shipped with your booth, saving an additional drayage cost.
We pre-set every booth in our warehouse, then disassemble and ship to the show. Experienced workers rebuild the booth onsite and take it down at show end. Onsite labor costs vary widely depending on the city in which the show is being held, specialization, and whether union labor is required, as well as when the booth is installed/dismantled (straight time, overtime or double time). Rates range from $125 to $475 per hour. The time and number of workers required will vary depending on the size and complexity of your exhibit.
Smart planning and follow-through are keys to maximizing your trade show booth ROI (Return on Investment). Follow these time-tested steps and you can’t go wrong:
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