Trade Show Budgeting & Trade-Offs

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If you have read our guide to evaluating trade show opportunities, estimating the cost of a trade show, and estimating trade show ROI, you should now have, in your possession, a complete list of shows that may produce meaningful results for your organization and an estimate of the value that those shows will produce. With a few simple steps, you will be in control of trade show budgeting and be in a position to facilitate trade-offs.

“Go” or “No Go”

In our example worksheet, we use a toggle called “Go” or “No Go” that feeds into a separate spreadsheet that compiles a budget on your behalf based on the values that you used in your assumptions. Using a method like this is useful for planning your show schedule up to a full year in advance.

When you don’t budget

Unfortunately, in our experience, many companies don’t take the time to budget ahead of shows – this invariably results in one or more of the following scenarios:

  • Late Registration/Botched Execution – without a clear plan in place, it creates extra stress on your teams who must scramble to register your company for shows. This results in more expense (you miss early-bird rates), less than stellar placement on the show floor, and almost always things get forgotten (furniture isn’t ordered, etc.).
  • Missed Opportunities – without a plan or budget, there are fewer opportunities to be strategic.
  • Budget Drama – Avoiding the budgeting conversation might make for bigger surprises down the road. This may result in cutting budget from other channels or using cost-saving shortcuts that may undermine effectiveness (yes, we have seen companies try to stretch a 10×10 booth to cover a 10×20 space).

Forcing Trade-Offs

With a proper trade show budgeting plan, you can force your company to create any necessary trade-offs before you go over budget. That may mean altering how much you spend at each show, or trimming down the shows you plan on attending. Having a clear list with expected ROI and the priorities of business development in one place facilitates this process. We recommend hosting a meeting with all the stakeholders in one room (virtual or otherwise), for this discussion.

Unfortunately, we can’t help you with the organizational inertia that might prevent you from getting an approved budget and a set list of shows for the year. Some organizations simply don’t want to behave in organized ways and/or would prefer to avoid budget talk until it’s too late. If you do find yourself in this situation, we advocate creating your list anyway and publishing it in such a way that your plans are clear even if you can’t get explicit buy-off.

Next, learn what to do after the show with post-show best practices >

This article is part of our ebook “Building a Better Trade Show”. Download our free ebook today.

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We hope you also enjoy our ebook, Building A Better Trade Show. It’s our step-by-step guide to finding new opportunities, creating a budget, and planning for success.

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