The Hidden Costs of Trade Show Exhibits

People at a trade show exhibition

Trade shows are among the best ways for businesses to find new clients, build brand awareness, sell more products and services, and network with potential partners and industry players. But, there’s a bit of a challenging (and sometimes expensive) learning curve for first-time exhibitors.

One of the biggest factors that first-time exhibitors fail to consider is the overall expense of exhibiting, as well as the little factors that are often overlooked in the budgeting process. 

If you’re planning to attend a trade show for the first time, here are some of the hidden costs of operating trade show exhibits.

Cost #1: Trade Show Liability Insurance

Insurance calculatorIf you spend any time at all on the trade show circuit, you’ll soon find that many venues will require you to have trade show insurance. This can be purchased as a short-term policy, as an addition to your existing business liability insurance, or as a longer-term policy that will cover you for multiple shows annually. 

In addition to general liability, trade show insurance can cover damage to the venue rental space, medical expenses beyond your existing coverage, and costs incurred by event cancellation or disruption.

 Cost #2: Booth Repairs

As a first-time exhibitor, you’ll most likely have a brand-new exhibit, but if you’re planning on going to multiple trade shows this year, you’ll want to factor booth repairs into your budget.

Having a well-designed and attractive trade show exhibit is your key to success, so you’ll want to keep your booth in top condition. Naturally, moving your exhibit to different venues and using it at the show is going to cause wear and tear that will eventually require some repair expenses. Always inspect your booth before and after a show, and be advised that some repair costs may not be covered under warranty, so be familiar with what repairs are included under yours.

Cost #3: Shipping & Drayage Fees

Calculating the cost of shipping

Next, shipping and drayage fees are two hidden costs that inexperienced exhibitors are most often blindsided by. What you need to know is that shipping and drayage are two different concepts. 

Shipping refers only to the actual transportation of trade show exhibits from location A to location B. On the other hand, drayage refers to material handling. When your exhibit arrives at the venue, there will be a staff member in charge of unloading the booth, relocating your booth to the venue itself and setting it up for you. If your booth arrives early, your drayage fee will also include any storage/warehousing costs. 

Drayage fees are usually fixed and non-negotiable, and vary widely from venue to venue, so it’s important to know ahead of time what the fee at each venue is.

Cost #4 General Venue Services

Another cost that will vary between venues is general services. This refers to fees associated with your rental space, including lighting installations, electrical hookups, and venue staff labor. Again, check ahead before agreeing to exhibit.

Cost #5: Staff Fees

Unless you’re going to run the show all by yourself, you’re going to have a team on-site that is responsible for running the booth. Also remember that your staff will also require food and housing, so be sure to make room in your budget for these factors.

Cost #6: Food & Travel

Just like your staff, you’ll also need to make room in your budget for travel expenses. This is always a big expense with lots of room for unforeseen costs. Anyone who’s ever taken a family vacation knows how it is. As with all big adventures, careful planning is the best way to ensure a smooth, hassle-free, and economical journey. 

Plan out your route beforehand. Be sure to check on gas prices, hotel costs, and affordable restaurants near the venue. It might also be a good idea to set a limit on how much each staff member can spend on food each day.

How to Avoid Hidden Trade Show Exhibit Costs

Paying fees with a laptop

As mentioned above, careful research and planning is the best way to avoid getting caught off guard by unexpected fees. Keep in mind that some venues will allow you to set up your own booth, but they might limit your use of dollies, carts, and other moving equipment.

Hiring an experienced trade show exhibit company can also ensure a smoother planning process. A professional can help you set realistic expectations, create practical budgets, assist with shipping and storage, and even design/build an eye-catching trade show exhibit for you. 

Plan Ahead With Help From GraphiColor

You don’t have to plan your first trade show experience on your own. Our award-winning team at GraphiColor can help you understand trade show costs. We provide trade show display rental services, and can even design and build custom trade show exhibits for you. If you have questions about trade show exhibiting, or you would like us to help you build a booth, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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