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Determining Your Real Exhibit Costs

By: Andy Marken

In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Some people have put together formulas on the cost-per-person per show. Others try to trace actual sales to contacts made at the show. Others use a mixture plus a strong dose of gut-feel. The latter is probably most typical.

Rather than looking at your trade show efforts as an expense, view them in terms of investments just as you do media advertising, sales literature, direct mail, and publicity. Many people address trade shows with "what's the smallest amount of space we can use this time?" instead of "what is the most effective method of presenting our message?"

Almost anyone (except heavy equipment or mainframe manufacturers) would be able to get by with a 10x10 (sometimes 8x10) booth. But would it be the right platform for your products, your company, and your message?

Once you have determined the amount of floor space required, determine how to use the space to its fullest. The variations are numerous and they ultimately affect the cost.

To determine your exhibit budget, what kind of selling will you be doing in the booth? Will you be handing out only literature? Will you be carrying on demonstrations? Will you be conducting semi-private meetings? Will you be spending considerable time with a few groups at the show?

What kind of graphics do you have planned? Signage? A-V presentation? What mood do you want to establish?

Once you have the floor plan, selling message, product requirements, and graphic needs spelled out; you can begin to compile your budget.

Depending upon your preference, you can work with your agency, exhibit designer/contractor or directly with an exhibit builder.

As a rule of thumb, you will probably get two years of show life out of your booth. This is assuming you participate in four to six shows a year, have the exhibit well-crated and shipped the best way possible and provide adequate instructions for setup and dismantling.

For a booth of moderate quality (not outstanding, but tasteful) expect to spend $2,000-$4,000 a linear foot (booth, graphics, special effects, etc.). Good crating will cost 25-30% of your booth cost. Since booths and crates take a terrific beating in transit and during setup, skimping here can be false savings.

To avoid overtime charges and yet get the product you want, expect to spend three-plus months from initiation to completion.

The above planning and budgeting considerations are based on original booth. However, options are available:
  • Prefabricated knock-down displays

  • Prefabricated panel exhibits

    Prefabricated free-standing exhibits

    Rental units from the show exhibit company

    Used/refurbished displays
While these will skew the budgeting, the same thought process has to be used to determine if you can or want to use one of these alternatives.

Whichever way you go, consider the image you are projecting and the image of your competition at the show. Couple this with the task you want to perform at the show and you can arrive at a realistic budget.

© Copyright 2001, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications

Other Articles by Andy Marken

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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