Effective ways event managers can cut exhibit costs

It’s on everyone’s mind. How can we cut exhibit costs?

Budgets allocated to the attendance of conventions and trade shows have consistently diminished over the past few years. In addition, costs for booth space keeps going up. The result of this being a constant exodus of brands that initially question the value of these shows, and eventually decide to exit all together.

“If we exit, will we ever be able to return?”

Space at these shows is limited and competition is tough – If you don’t secure your space for a year, you might never get it back – so you must attend, and event managers are tasked to cut costs everywhere they can.

Here are a few recommendations to help with the challenge:

  1. Prioritize location over size
  2. Invest in technology
  3. Use sustainable solutions for your booth structure
  4. Filter through staff and reduce the headcount
  5. Double down on partnerships

Prioritize location over size

While going big and having a large booth is indisputably great to physically impress and showcase market dominance, it’s rarely effective from an ROI perspective.

Large booths are expensive. Large booths are complex to operate. Large booths don’t drive more sales. And worse, if you get used to it and give it up just once, you’ll never get it back. This means that the exhibitions you attend got you on the hook for it.

One thing we keep on recommending to our clients is to prioritize engagement performance at a booth over anything else. This is a key factor that we help them measure and that yields more visibility, higher engagement rates and sales leads.

Location, location, location. It’s everything.

Focus on getting the best location first, always. Then only – if really necessary – scale up. Think 3, 4 or even 5 years ahead. Will you need that much space then? And will your message still be clear for visitors?

Invest in technology, cut cost on rentals

We live in an awesome time. Technology made things possible that event managers from 10 years ago could only dream of. Yet so few exhibitors are looking at investing seriously in technology that can serve them for years to come.

Multi-purpose computer systems, display solutions, software to support the show runners, etc.
All these little things that are often specifically used once for a show are capable to serve your for years and significantly drive up your conversion ratio.

It is always worth considering the cost of rental vs. the cost of purchase. This is true not just for large corporations with hundreds of events per annum, but it also makes sense for medium size businesses.

Some companies could cut exhibit costs by sometimes millions of dollars each year just having an investment strategy.

Use sustainable solutions for your booth structure

Related to the section above is the actual physical structure of your booth. Our recommendation is always go for a design in which most of everything can be reused.

The amount of material trashed after each show is insane. While some exhibit houses do a better job than others at recycling things – we can’t dismiss the fact that too much still ends up in the trash.

How much of your booth needs to be re-purchased for each show? Is it 20%, 40%, or 60%? It doesn’t matter if you do 10 or 200 events. Bringing-in a sustainable approach will compound in savings over time.

Filter through staff and reduce the headcount

Shows are fun. And many people enjoy being there. But are they needed? Are they useful? And are they adding any value at all?

Example: We’ve all been there. It’s a 50×50 booth, and the Company almost sends 100 people to the show. (Not everyone is on the booth, but still – it’s on the budget).

This means 100 flights, 100 hotel rooms for six days upwards, without counting the allotment for breakfast, lunch and dinner and customer dinners with nearly open taps.

Being proactive and relentlessly reducing the headcount has one immediate benefit: cut exhibit costs.

Here are also some other unforeseen advantages:

  • Efficiency, less people in the way, more focus on what’s important, less time wasted doing people management.
  • Size, less folks on site = we don’t need such a large booth
    • While admittedly, many companies feel good about filling their “too large” booths with staff
  • Value, only those who are truly valuable are there.
  • Presentation, everyone is busy working, nobody is on the booth looking up or down at their phone. Make a positive impression and reduce your booth bounce rate.

Reducing headcount to reduce cut exhibit costs is for many companies the toughest one. It’s also where most budget waste happens.

Double down on partnerships

Finally, this is something true for B2C and that also works well in B2B.

They idea is to work with others! Partnerships are the single and greatest way to occupy more floor without paying for it. It is true for all industries and ecosystems, where one cannot exist without another.

For example: NAB – where we’ve provided our analytics services recently.
Cameras, Lenses, Cables, Tripods, Rigging – All these products are the specialty of different companies.

If you need to cut exhibit costs, working with other brands is the best way to reach the same amount of people with less financial stress on your budget. This is a great way to also reduce your booth size.

Tip: if you work with partners, offer them to share your Event Analytics data for the combined exposure. They’ll definitely appreciate the offer and decide to work with you instead of your competition.


Illustration by NeONBRAND