Estimate the Cost of Attending a Trade Show

When you estimate the cost of attending a trade show, you must consider components that include, but are not limited to: event registration, floor space, shipping, furniture, labor, and travel for your employees.

Two Big Factors That Determine Cost

The two biggest factors that influence cost are: the size and scope of your booth (if you have one) and the number of people attending the event. When these values change, your costs will go up or down dramatically, so pay attention to these numbers.

We like to break down cost in the following buckets:

  • Direct event/booth costs
    • Registration for booth space (varies based on the size of the booth)
    • Costs from building a booth, renting, or shipping an existing booth
    • Electricity and internet
    • Furniture and flooring
    • Everything else (for things like giveaways)
  • Travel
    • Hotels – the cost of an average room night
    • Flights – these will vary depending on whether that flight is international or domestic
    • Per Diem – expenses such as taxis and meals that are covered by the company

Perfection Isn’t the Goal

Don’t get too bogged down making these estimates perfect for each field, for each event, as long as your assumptions are reasonable, your estimates will generally be more accurate than you might believe – even if individual fields are over or under.

Fact: Co-workers are cruel and will make fun of your scribbled notes and use of an old calculator. Use our worksheet instead.

In our spreadsheet we’ve provided sample values for you with placeholder values based on industry averages. Every company is different, so your mileage will vary, but having a starting point is helpful for figuring out what cost estimates you really need (and which ones you don’t).

Company Policies Impact Cost

Finally, one additional consideration is your company policies and your needs – for example, some companies will place executive travel under a cost bucket called “General and Administrative” . If you are in charge of the marketing or sales budget, you may not have to budget or plan for it.

As painful as this all sounds, estimating the cost of attending a trade show is a key component to understanding whether or not you should attend and what your expected ROI should be. Creating a consistent framework around this allows you to fairly evaluate the cost-benefit of different shows.

Next, learn how to estimate trade show ROI >

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


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