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Avoid Tradeshow Budget Busters

By: Ceilidh McClurg

Ceilidh McClurg is the Manager of Tradeshow Services for The Matridigm Corporation, a full-service marketing communications company that has been serving international clients for 12 years. She can be reached at, by calling (403) 215-5770 or visiting Robb Diedrich is the National Account Executive with Stealth Services, an air and ground logistics service company with 19 years of experience in the tradeshow industry. He can be reached at, by calling 1-888-999-7855, or visiting The Matridigm Corporation and Stealth Services work in partnership to offer complete turnkey tradeshow services for clients in both the United States and Canada.

The tradeshow is over, your team collected hundreds of sales leads and now all you have to do is check the totals against your budget. But after you’ve gathered all the receipts and spent hours punching the numbers you get a nasty surprise – you’ve blown your budget. How did it happen? You thought you had been so careful.

The truth is, you probably were budget conscious but were unaware of the danger of the budget busters. Budget busters are little known creatures that hide behind legitimate costs and only attack if you are unprepared.  The best way to avoid the attack of the budget busters is to plan ahead.

Follow these tips from seasoned survivors: 
  1. The dreaded drayage:  Ensure you send all collateral materials to the show in advance, or even more cost effectively, with your booth to prevent unexpected costs. Union regulations at tradeshow sites state that packages over a certain weight (or those that can not be carried by one person) must be transported to the booth during shows hours by union personnel with a minimum hourly charge. This can add hundreds of dollars in additional costs. Just ask the woman who paid almost $300 to have her business cards walked a couple of hundred yards to her booth.

  2. Travel tribulations:  Last minute travel arrangements add last minute costs at a premium. Be sure you know at least a month in advance exactly who will be attending the tradeshow and book the flights and accommodations early. On one recent trip, a last minute staff addition, cost the company of $2000 over and above the regular flights booked in advance.

  3. Over the top with overtime:  If possible, schedule on-site contractors for regular business hours. Outrageous overtime charges apply for installation and dismantling crews on weekends and evenings.

  4. Be the early bird:  Most show service suppliers will offer discounts, up to 30%, for booking your services before the early-bird deadline, saving you hundreds of dollars.

  5. Wasted wait-time: Whenever possible, ship your booth in advance to the advanced receiving warehouse, explains Robb Diedrich of Stealth Services, a logistics company specializing in the tradeshow industry.  If you do not ship in advance, your shipping company will likely have to wait in a line-up to unload your shipment on set-up day while hundreds of other exhibitors are also waiting. As the clock ticks your bill rises. When you receive your exhibitor’s manual it will state when the show will begin accepting advance shipments.

  6. But weight, there’s more: When you ask a shipping company the cost of a shipment, be sure to give both the physical weight and the dimensions of the box and ask for your “chargeable weight.”  Dimensional weight is based on a formula of: length x width x height/194. (This equation could vary based on service level.) Although your package may physically weigh 2500 pounds, it may “dim out” at a higher dimensional weight. Your chargeable rate is the higher of the two. Knowing that you will be charged in this manner will ensure you have budgeted appropriately, says Diedrich.
If you plan ahead you won’t have to cover your behind.

© Copyright 2000, Ceilidh McClurg

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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