As discussed last week, we are now delving into more detailed info regarding budget – complete with a budget worksheet to help you in your Tradeshow endeavors. Last year I gave myself a budget of $10,000 for the show after talking to many previous exhibitors. It felt like a conservative number and average number to get going. In the end I came in at just under 10k. This year I’m going about things differently. I’m weighing in what pieces will be a long term investment vs. annual investment and then budgeting accordingly.

I’m going to pull the main expenses from last week’s post and dive into suggested ways of setting your budget based off of these elements.

Booth Fee This is, for me, the place to start with my budget. Whether you are sharing a booth or going with an 8×10 (first years) or maybe you feel daring and want to splurge on a corner booth or 10×12 – your booth size will help map out the rest of your pricing expenditures. The reason I use this as a gauge is because as your business and product offering grow, so will your booth size. By starting small, you should also be realistic in understanding that you don’t want to go overboard in other areas especially as a first year exhibitor. Put your DIY skills to work so the final bill isn’t sticker shock that you will be paying off in three-years time. In the budget worksheet I’m allotting 35% of my total expenses to my booth fee. The running total this year is roughly $2,600. I’m going with another 8×10′ booth but am upgrading to a corner booth which is a +$400 charge up from last year. This puts my estimated budget at $7,500. While this is an annual expense, it usually is one of the biggest expenses.

Booth Expense Booth walls, lighting and more have been designated 15% – $1125 – the reason this gets less than travel is because a lot of these expenses can either be cut after your first year because of the reusable nature of this Tradeshow expense, but also because you can continue to allot the same amount year after year and “improve on the booth” – like remodeling. Hopefully you can build a base booth and then make tweaks from year to year that will help keep this expense not one of your most expensive ones. This will need to include walls, lighting, electrical, flooring and installation hardware to start with.

Booth Furnishings While this may be the most exciting part of Tradeshow prep, it is also the easiest to break the budget on. Who doesn’t love decorating?! Again, like the booth expense above, this category can be built on year after year. So ultimately it gets a smaller budget – 6% or roughly $450. It should include shelving or product display, and seating. Desks, tables, consoles etc. are optional that you can use if you feel it necessary. This is a good place to rent equipment as well – specifically the big ticket items of you don’t want to spend a fortune shipping it out.

Shipping When shipping you will need to consider a few things – will you need a lift gate on the truck, will you require a forklift, will the pickup be at a residential location, will it be on ground level for easy access (it better be), do you live rural or close to a major city (or in one) so that you have access to a shipping terminal, have you calculated the weight of your booth correctly, and are you shipping one way or round trip? All of these things will add or subtract to your freight quote. Since I am very rural, need a forklift, have a residential pickup, and no close access to a shipping terminal I need to budget more for shipping. I’m putting in 9% or roughly $675 for shipping. Last year’s booth was estimated at $585 one way at 500 lbs. I shipped wood walls, it came out being 715 lbs. and a total of $900ish. For me it is more economical to ship and reuse, and store on site.

Travel Whether you live near or far from convention land there are ways to save on travel if you are smart. For me, I’ve allotted 20% of my budget to travel. I get my flights for free with cardmember miles and just need to pay for food and lodging. 20% = $1500 in my budget which hopefully will cover hotel/apt. and food. If you can stay with friends, more power to you! NYC is not cheap!

Unions The one advantage to being a small booth exhibitor is that you sort of get “forgotten” about – which means you can save here if you have a low-budget booth. I don’t want to get the union police all up in my hair so if you are looking to save in this department then email me and I’ll share some Tradeshow budget secrets with you that I learned last year! On another note, I highly recommend getting a PAR-CAN lamp (mega wattage) for your booth. This has to be done by union workers and is $320 if ordered by the April deadline. On-site ordering will cost you an extra $100 for the light PLUS an hourly installation fee. Don’t skimp out on a Parcan. I was in the low lighting area and still so glad I did it! Budget? 5% = $375.

Promotional Material As stated last week, your “throw-away” promo pieces should be budgeted every year, which includes promo material. I’ve allotted 8% or roughly $600 for this category. It will go fast once you price in postage so this should be an area where you not only showcase your creative genius but also utilize your paper resources to make the most out of the stuff you have on hand. Promo pieces to include in the budget should be direct-mail pre-show promos (and postage), press kits for the media that introduce your business to them, post-show mailers, catalogs, line sheets, giveaways, business cards and product samples.

Signage Even with the advent of home printers and vinyl lettering your business name needs to reflect quality and professionalism. You can either add this to your booth expense budget if you are doing pre-printed or MannyStone foam walls, or take care of this on your end. Just make sure it rocks. Since I had awesome signage made from Oslo Press last year, I’ll be reusing that and allotting less this year (2%) for just the small stuff – vinyl, totaling a budgeted amount of $150.

With all that said, start breaking down your budget and keep track in the attached budget Tradeshow worksheet. Keep it where it is visible so you don’t lose sight of the end goal (which hopefully is to make money)!