Are you ready for your first Trade Show?


Your first time at anything is always intimidating; people who disagree are simply lying or pretty scare to admit it…

The truth is that preparing for a trade show can be a very challenging experience. There is a lot of financial, marketing and logistics involve.trade show first timer

Trade Shows offer a massive range of benefits for your business but often demand an equally great amount of focus, work and commitment. If you’ve never exhibited at a trade show before, the entire process of preparing samples, choosing how to décor your booth and readying your sales team can seem unbelievably difficult.

The best couple of tips I can give you is for you to be the main sales force at the show, also be very cost effective, don’t spend unnecessary money but just the right amount, for this the best way to go is to purchase your own portable exhibit items and accessories. So your first stop must be USAexhibitor.com or ExhibitionDisplay.net and check their full line of products.

Tip: buy your own portable trade show booth, portable exhibits or portable display.

There are a lot of hidden costs involving a Trade Show most of them involve union labor and extra services:

Material handling – Whether your show is in a convention center or a hotel ballroom, you will almost certainly not be allowed to bring in your own supplies. Don’t expect to back your car up to the loading dock to get your booth there. Due to union labor restrictions, you’ll have to pay material handling fees for your shipment. Overtime is extra, and many shows require set-up on evenings or weekends. “Special handling” is extra too–if you send shipments via FedEx or UPS, you’ll have to pay this. If you carry a box to the exhibit trade show portable exhibitshall door, you’ll have to pay it too, because they’ll have to call someone to carry it in for you. Material handling charges are by the pound, in 100-pound increments (called CWT). If you have a small booth and a few boxes of giveaways, budget for about 200 pounds of freight. Remember that the charges will be in both directions–to the show, and home again. Budget $300 each way for a small, basic booth (and be thrilled if your actual are lower).

Shipping – You don’t have to use the show carrier. You can pick a carrier , and request actual quotes for future shipping from their websites. I use the same carrier for all of my shows, so I can use a blanket purchase order; if your company requires purchase requisitions/orders for every expense, this will help you cut down the paperwork. Like material handling, shipping is by the pound. Be sure to budget for driver waiting time for large shows; you’ll be charged by the hour for the driver’s time while he queues up at the loading dock. Budget varies widely depending on locations of your shows. Get actual estimates from a shipping company, and ask them about any extra fees/time for clearing customs for international shows.

Furniture – If your booth doesn’t include a table, chairs and wastebasket, you’ll need to rent those. You’ll need to choose the color for your table draping (included), or bring your own tablecloth (I recommend this–you can get one with your logo for a relatively small investment). Costs are per day, anywhere from $25/day for a trash can to a couple hundred for a table. Budget $350/day for a basic table, two chairs and trash can, but note that fees vary widely depending on the exhibit service company. Sofas and fancy furniture cost more.

Cleaning – Want that trash can you rented emptied? That’s extra, as is daily vacuuming of your booth carpet. Add a couple hundred dollars for these services, charged by day, for the length of your show.

Carpet – If your show is in a hotel ballroom, you can probably skip the carpet (but read the fine print to be sure). If it’s in a convention center, you’ll have to rent carpet. And padding. I cannot stress this enough: pay for the best possible carpet padding you can rent. It’s the only thing standing between concrete floors and your increasingly tired feet for 8-to-10-hour stretches. If you have good carpet padding, people will come talk to you just to stand on it. Budget $250/day for carpet.

Electricity – Power is not usually included in your booth rental fee. Don’t assume you’ll be near an outlet; even if you are, you can’t just plug in your booth light (union rules again). Budget $125/day for one power outlet.

Those are the basics. Be sure to fill out the “method of payment” form from the exhibit services company; this form recaps all the services you are ordering, and provides your credit card information to the vendor. Note that electricity, AV, internet and floral vendors are usually separate companies/forms.

Internet – If you require web access for your booth, you’ll pay dearly for it. My last major convention in DC charged $1,000 for in-booth internet. If you can live without it, do. Cost varies widely by venue; haven’t seen one yet that offers free wi-fi.

Lead retrieval – Electronic lead retrieval (badge scanners) are a good investment for large shows. They will save you a lot of time after the show on data entry, and make follow-up much easier. Budget $1000/show to rent one. (And be sure to install any software before the show.)

AV rentals – If you need monitors, TVs, microphones or other AV equipment, you’ll need to rent them separately. Cost varies widely based on what you need.

Flowers – If you want to dress up your booth, you can rent flower arrangements by the day. Budget $100/day to rent a couple basic mums. (And be sure no one walks off with them–I had to stop a show attendee once from absconding with my potted plant.)

Labor – If building your booth requires tools, you’ll have to pay for union labor. Cost varies widely depending on your setup; you won’t need this if you have a basic, small pop-up booth.

The idea is not to sound intimidating at all but to make you think in advance, Trade Shows regardless your business can give you a great head start, however you don’t need to spend all your money in your first one, always ask for the exhibitor’s manual and read it carefully, and if you have any doubts always ask the organizers.

Good Luck, and always…always have fun.

Guillermo Ciudad Real

CEO of Exhibition Display, LLC

Guillermo has more than 20 years of experience in Trade Shows (National and International)