Unlike other blogs about budgeting for trade shows & exhibitions you might notice this one doesn’t promise you ‘Ten Top Tips to Save Money’ or ‘Tactics for Cutting Costs From Your Show Budget’.  If anything, over the next few lines we’re actually going to encourage you to spend more money, but more importantly to spend it well.  So if you’re not serious about investing a realistic (not extravagant) amount of money in your trade show campaign, then this probably isn’t the blog for you.


6355818699_a9bed226f8_zTrade shows demand money, resource and time – plentiful amounts of all three. For those exhibitors who spend all their budget on booking the best possible space on the show floor but have nothing left for an engaging stand design, pre-show marketing campaigns and effective staff training, their investment is unlikely to deliver any high potential prospects. However, trade shows can also become money pits, with wasted spend on unnecessary elements which don’t add any value for the visitors who are in the strongest position to buy.

So, how do you deliver the most bang for you buck at trade shows?

1.BE REALISTIC FROM THE START – many exhibitors fall into the trap of booking a stand only then to think about what other investment they’ll need and struggle to retro fit a finite resource to an ever expanding list. If you know what your total budget is from the start, you’ll be able to more strategically plan how you’re going to maximise your whole campaign and ensure your internal stakeholders are aware early on exactly how much it will cost.

On average, trade show space in the UK will cost around £300 per sq m for Space only and £350-400 per sq m for Shell Schemes.

2. PLAN A CAMPAIGN NOT A STAND – we have seen so many exhibitors spend all theirDSCF2687 budget on a stand without giving any thought to other engagement tactics.  Your stand is purely what attracts a random passer by to engage in a conversation with you. Effective pre-show marketing is what gets your stand on the ‘must-see’ list of businesses you really want to work with, whilst your stand squad will be the crucial ingredient that converts a passer by to a prospect.

As a rough guide, exhibitors should look to invest double the amount of the shell costs for their total budget, and three times the floor space costs for space only. For example: 

Investing in a 3m x 3m shell at £375 per square meter = 9 x £375 = £3,375. Therefore, a total budget expectation for delivering at this scale could be around £6,750 as a minimum, with a 20% contingency on top where possible.

3. BREAK IT DOWN TO BITE-SIZED PIECES – as with so many areas of  trade show planning, breaking your budget down into bite sized pieces will help you keep track of what and where you’re spending.  Equally important is to read the Exhibitor Manual in detail and understand what’s included in your package (e.g. power, lighting, broadband etc). to make sure you don’t have to find additional budget to support those.

The table below gives a rough estimate of how you might break down your budget across the different elements: 

Element % Of Budget

Buying Floor Space




Stand Design, Build, Transportation, Logistics (if international also need to build in customs fees and costs)




Additional Services e.g power, lighting etc. (may be include as part of package for shell schemes)




Staff, Training & Travel – (not including salaries except if using agency staff)




Promotional – (pre-show marketing, trade press etc)




Miscellaneous – (something always crops up)











4. DON’T BURN MONEY – trade shows are often the targets of unfair criticism as big money pits that don’t deliver any organisational value. As unfair as that may be, spending money on needless items makes it difficult to argue their case as catalysts for filling your sales pipeline. When you’re making decisions on what to spend your money on, remember the SMART objectives you set early on and decide whether that investment really contributes to delivering those aims.  If it doesn’t, don’t do it!

Here are our Top 5 Money Burners at Trade Shows: background-bonfire-burn-207353

i) Last Minute Service Orders – not planning early enough –  buying services such as power, storage or furniture once you’re on site is always going to be much more expensive than those early bird offers.

ii) Unnecessary Tech – admittedly the latest virtual reality or AI initiative can add engagement if it’s relevant to your proposition and solving your customer’s problem. If you’re including it just because you think it’s hot, it’s a waste of money!

iii) Consumables – if you’re sampling food & drink & need forks and cups or will be using any kind of cleaning materials or kit, they can cost a fortune from the venue hospitality team. Plan a shopping trip before the show and throw a box in your car or the van bringing your stand to cut down on expensive alternatives on site.

iv) Rigging– whilst you might think you company flag fluttering from the rafters will look cool, research shows visitors rarely look up so you could be wasting money. Floor graphics are more likely to stand out as visitors see a change in floor colour and look down to ensure there isn’t a step or trip hazard.

v) Breaking The Rules – with enough time and collaboration, most show Operations teams will work with you to ensure you can build the exact stand you want. But ignore, or break the rules and the best case scenario is that you could end up with penalties or charges on-site. The worst case being that Health & Safety don’t even let you build your stand – the most costly error you could make!

5. TRACK IT trade show budgets can have a nasty habit of running away with you if you’re not careful and too often exhibitors have to justify doubling their budgets, perpetuating the myth that trade shows are just valueless money pits. Keeping a concise tracker will also help when planning your next show as a record of what and how you invested your cash. If you’d like a copy of the Budget Tracker we use with clients drop us an email at proextra@12th-man-solutions.co.uk with your details.

Executing trade shows effectively costs money but when done well, recruiting just 3-4 high value customers can more than pay back any initial investment.  Too often however, exhibitors think of a trade show budget purely in terms of the space and stand without considering what else they will need to invest in to fully maximise the opportunity. A smaller space and less elaborate stand could work just as hard (if not harder) than a big one, if it frees up budget to spend on the other elements that drive the right visitors towards productive conversations with the squad on the stand.

If you’re not sure how much or where to invest your trade show budget to generate a stronger ROI why not drop us a line or give us a call to chat it through. You can find our contact details here.

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