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The Basics of Formulating a Trade Show Budget

One of the most unpredictable parts of attending a trade show is the projected cost. While trade show veterans have experienced enough to establish an accurate budget, rookie exhibitors are often blindsided by unexpected fees. Creating a trade show budget takes time and focus; to ensure all bases are covered, it is best to work off a skeleton model of important categories. Use these points as a trade show budget checklist:

  • Shipping/Drayage
    Shipping and drayage costs add up very easily, partly due to the multiple factors that affect the price fluctuation. When calculating projected shipping and drayage costs, take into account the shipping distance, weight, and packaging of your booth and its assets. The further the distance, the greater the cost. The heavier the weight, the greater the cost. But why does the packaging matter? Many shows require a flat fee per package; consolidate as much of the booth as possible when shipping in order to minimize the number of pallets/packages.
  • Labor
    When it comes to labor, there are a few different options available to your company. The show contractor provides labor, but if there are less expensive option, or if your company has a labor crew that they trust, you can choose to forego show-provided labor (don’t forget to submit your Exhibitor-Appointed Contractor forms!). Meticulously plan your labor scheduling; labor is typically charged per man, per hour, and time begins when the labor crew arrives.
  • Travel/Hotel
    If your show is not local, be sure to include travel costs for all of your company’s attendees. This includes plane tickets, ground transportation, meal costs, hotel rooms, and all other expenses related to your travel and stay.
  • Miscellaneous
    Other fees to include in your exhibitor budget come from giveaways, additional show fees (review the show manual), or missed deadlines. Be sure to mark all deadlines pre-show to avoid unexpected fees.


By formulating an effective, accurate, and working budget, you will not only have no surprises or disorganization, but you will be able to identify basic trade show costs for the future!

Trade Show Budget Checklist