Trade shows can be incredibly worthwhile for companies… buuuuut there’s one itty bitty caveat. Exhibiting at trade shows can get expensive. If your trade show ROI is strong, it’s worth it. But if not? It can be deflating. Your ROI analysis might make you wonder if you need to cut out some shows or take drastic measures to reduce expenditures. Here are some ideas for the former (but don’t worry, they don’t have to be drastic to be meaningful).  



Rent until you’re ready to buy. 


If you’ve thought of renting trade show booth components in the past, you might’ve talked yourself out of it, thinking it would make your company appear outdated or cheap. Rental booths can actually be ideal to use until you’re ready to buy your own. Not only can they save you significant costs, but they also allow you to test what works and find out what gets you optimal ROI before committing to something of your very own.  


Look for free shipping from the big boxes.


When you buy furniture and other items for your booth from big box stores, you can often elect to get free shipping. Order enough in advance and send it directly to the show location. This can save you a lot of money in freight, and remove some of your most difficult logistic configurations.


Negotiate discounts.


In our modern society, negotiations aren’t the norm like they used to be. We don’t barter with cows or beaded bracelets anymore, and we assume most prices are set in stone. But, this isn’t always the case with trade show expenses. When it comes to show add-ons, vendor options, and other things we pay for, there’s often wiggle room. So before you commit to paying a certain price for something, ask for a discount. Negotiate. It never hurts to try, and you might just save some costs as a result. 


Go more digital, less physical. 


This one is simple: The more you print, the more it costs. So, try to move everything over to a digital format as much as possible. Do you need to give a physical brochure to every attendee, or can you use a QR code to direct them to a landing page? Consider every material you bring with you, and how you can digitize as much as possible to cut some costs without sacrificing visitor experience. 


Say no to rigging. 


Most trade show structures and overhead banners need lighting to draw visitors’ eyes to them. Oftentimes, exhibitors use rigging to suspend light fixtures in order to illuminate them. But this isn’t always necessary. In fact, you can usually get creative with the light fixtures, even integrating them into the exhibit pieces themselves. This can shave some expenses off your trade show budget and still achieve the same desired effect. 




Bring Your Own Supplies. We always say that trade shows have mini-bar pricing, even though we wish that wasn’t the case. You know how hotels charge $10 for a snack that would be $2 anywhere else? It’s like that. If you forget run-of-the-mill supplies, you’ll end up buying them on the trade show floor – and spending a fortune. Instead, be uber prepared. Make list after list and buy everything you possibly can prior to heading to the show. You’ll save money, and you’ll skip the stress of trying to track down basic items last-minute. 


Pre-order show services. 


Oh wait, there’s more mini-bar pricing to wade through. Unfortunately, many show organizers spike the prices of show services (e.g. cleaning, electrical, etc.) on the show floor. If you order these services a few weeks to a month out, you can often save quite a bit. Just make sure you have solid estimates on what you’ll need so you don’t underestimate and pay the price later. 


Get creative with travel.


Trade shows usually recommend that exhibitors patronize a certain hotel near the show hall. Many times, these hotels offer discounts to exhibitors. But other times? There are more cost-effective options available if you take the time to do your research. Check out Airbnb and VRBO to see if you can find just what you need for a fraction of the cost. Or, start frequenting a certain hotel chain to rack up points (and rewards) at each show you attend. Finally, review your airline habits. Could you switch to a lower-cost airline, or go coach instead of business class? Typically, the answer is yes. 


Efficient trade show planning can help you cut costs and improve your trade show ROI. Looking for more tips? Contact us anytime!